A newly-defined pediatric sleep disorder
has been identified: Restless sleep disorder (RSD)


ROCHESTER, MNAugust 17, 2020—A group of international sleep researchers have developed consensus diagnostic criteria detailing a new sleep disorder in children called Restless Sleep Disorder or RSD. With this new discovery, the researchers intend to improve clinical practice and promote further research.

For years, experts have identified ‘restless sleep’ as part of other sleep conditions that can cause sleep disruption or nocturnal awakenings like obstructive sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome. However, recent research in children has shown that restless sleep can also be a primary disorder, not always associated with another condition.

Adequate sleep is important for growth, memory, mental and physical health, social interactions, safe alertness during the day and many other functions. Dr. Lourdes DelRosso, one of the authors of the journal article announcing and highlighting RSD states, “We, as sleep physicians, recommend and have guidelines on how much sleep should someone get. But we do not only need an adequate amount of sleep. We also need good quality of sleep. This is the main significance of RSD. It identifies children with poor sleep quality, frequent movements during sleep and daytime symptoms as a consequence of this poor sleep. RLS [restless legs syndrome] for instance, manifests at bedtime with symptoms of leg discomfort, but children with RSD go to sleep well, without any problems, but once asleep, they move more than children without RSD and these movements interfere with their sleep quality and contribute to daytime symptoms.” According to Dr. DelRosso, current treatment for RSD is iron supplementation—both oral or IV—as the researchers have identified that iron supplementation improves sleep quality in children with RSD.

RSD has been studied in comparison with other sleep disorders showing individual and particular characteristics. Initially, research on children with RSD was started due to the need to better understand how these children slept. Dr. Judith Owens, an author on the journal article, as well as the current President of the International Pediatric Sleep Association (IPSA) explains, “Parents were concerned that children did not get enough sleep at night because they were “moving all night,” “trashing the bed,” or “sleeping like a helicopter”—various terms used by parents to characterize the sleep patterns of their children. Parents also noticed undereye dark circles, next-day fatigue, inability to concentrate and sleepiness. We identified that there was no other explanation for the symptoms.”

Using sleep studies and other advanced technology, the team of sleep researchers were able to understand that children with RSD were moving a lot more than their counterparts. The movements occurred through the night, and were associated with other findings of sleep disruption. Prior to this team discovery, the International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group assigned nine experts in sleep medicine to develop a pediatric consensus. The taskforce was chaired by Drs. Dan Picchietti and Lourdes DelRosso. Later, the taskforce invited another expert for a consensus of ten sleep physicians form various parts of the world. The current “consensus criteria for the diagnosis” was completed in June 2020. It published in Sleep Medicine journal on August 17, 2020.

Dr. John Winkelman, Chairperson of IRLSSG explains, “More studies continue to be done on children with RSD to help understand the syndrome better. Studies on sleep instability will also be published soon. IRLSSG is excited to continue funding collaborative research in these areas of sleep.”


About World Sleep Society
World Sleep Society is an international association with a mission to advance sleep health worldwide. World Sleep Society hosts a biennial scientific congress on sleep medicine aiming to globally connect sleep professionals and researchers to advance current knowledge on sleep ( It’s an exciting time in sleep medicine and research. Follow the excitement on Twitter @_WorldSleep and

International RLS Study Group is a nonprofit organization of professionals committed to advancing basic and clinical research of restless legs syndrome (RLS). We work together to provide scientific and medical information to professionals and the public. Details and membership information is available on

About IPSA
The International Pediatric Sleep Association operates exclusively for scientific and educational purposes, and more specifically, to promote basic and applied research in all areas of sleep in infants, children and adolescents through teaching programs on pediatric sleep, and the coordination of these programs among individual members and societies and within scientific meetings (