Restless Legs Syndrome and How to Help Yourself Sleep Better

Restless Legs Syndrome keeps you up at night and keeps your body moving. You may have woken up and found that your legs had kicked or you may feel itchy or uncomfortable. You may find that you feel the need to adjust or kick your legs to keep them from tingling or itching. If this is the case, you may have Restless Legs Syndrome. This condition is not dangerous but could be a sign of a pre-existing condition. If left untreated, RLS can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.

RLS can contribute to daytime sleepiness and sleep disorders (like insomnia). About 90% of people with Restless Legs Syndrome have at least one sleep disorder. Keep reading for more tips on how to overcome this disorder and get better sleep.

What Is Restless Legs Syndrome?

RLS (Willis Ekbom Disease) is a neurological disorder where someone has uncontrollable leg movements triggered by an unpleasant feeling to move them.

The ‘uncomfortable feeling’ is typically described as itching, creeping, or throbbing. People who suffer from RLS have to keep their limps in motion to prevent that feeling. Hence, restless. These people have little control over when the movement/sensations happen and why.

It is very difficult to get the quality of sleep you need while also moving through the night. Symptoms typically begin when your body is resting or laying for an extended period of time. RLS can affect people of all genders, races, and sexualities.

RLS Triggers

No one knows for sure what causes Restless Legs Syndrome. RLS tends to have onset at age 45 or lower and could have a genetic component to it. Regardless, it can still greatly affect those who suffer from it.

Cases of Restless Legs Syndrome that have identifiable causes are known as secondary RLS. It develops as a result of conditions such as iron deficiency and peripheral neuropathy. Pregnancy is another possible cause, though it tends to resolve itself.

Avoiding behaviors or activities that trigger your symptoms can is most helpful. Here are a few of the most common triggers:

  • Nicotine. When you stop smoking, it could actually calm your restless legs. Talk to your doctor to find support for quitting if you need it.
  • Alcohol. Many people with RLS say that drinking can lead to more symptoms. While alcohol can make you sleepy, it also can trigger sleep apnea.
  • Stress and anxiety. These are two major triggers for restless legs. Instead, try to engage in stress reduction activities, like yoga.
  • Caffeine. Too much caffeine can trigger restlessness in anyone. Especially if consumed before bedtime, it can trigger those RLS symptoms. Try to caffeine out as much as possible, even in chocolate, teas, and other sources.
  • Vigorous exercise. Moderate exercise during the day can help alleviate symptoms, but vigorous can have the opposite effect.
  • Medications. A few medications are known to make RLS worse. Such as antihistamines (such as Benadryl) and antidepressants. Let your doctor know if you are having any issues.

How To Help Yourself

RLS treatment is different for everyone. It may take some time to find the right combination of what works best for you. In the meantime, here are a few tips on how you can keep your symptoms in check:

  • Stretch more. Stretching and flexing your legs can help your resist the urge to move. Calf stretches and certain yoga poses can provide relief for RLS symptoms.
  • Take a walk. Sometimes just getting your legs moving can really help you improve your symptoms. Because symptoms may recur if you stop moving, exercising regularly is most helpful.
  • Meditate. Finding relaxation and tranquility is particularly important in treating RLS. Having a clear mind, especially before bed, can be immensely helpful.
  • Different temperatures. Taking a cold shower or hot bath may alleviate discomfort. Apply heat or cold depending on your body’s reaction.
  • Massage your legs. This is one very common coping technique for RLS applying pressure to your legs is very helpful.
  • Distract yourself. Try to do puzzles or memory games or even reading a book when you feel discomfort. Remember, mind over matter.

Treatment Options

People who suffer from RLS need to find relief. Iron and nutritional deficiencies may be triggers, as well as hypothyroidism and low blood sugar while sleeping. If you wake up to notice your blankets are scattered on the ground when you wake up, Restless Legs Syndrome may be the problem. A sleep study could make the diagnosis, but it can be pricey. Most people video themselves or talk to a partner. There are many treatment methods available, including:

● Take a ferritin blood test. Take iron supplements until your ferritin levels are normal and consult with your doctor.

● Avoid caffeine. Changing your diet to include more sugar-free, high-protein foods is most sufficient.

● Vitamin C, tryptophan, and folic acids can also help.

There are a variety of medications that exist to treat RLS. Like with everything, talk to your doctor before you engage with any new medications. If you consult with a doctor and they cannot identify a reason for your RLS symptoms, it might be time to consult with a therapist.

A Word From Mental Treat

Restless Legs Syndrome is not nearly as bad as it sounds, but you still cannot ignore it. Sometimes it is just a question of an iron supplement, and sometimes you may need some help from a therapist to learn stress management.

On Mental Treat, we have a variety of mental health specialists who can help. Please click here to access our platform and find the right fit for you through our intelligent filters. You do not need to suffer alone, there are many options for help.

Looking for more information on sleep? Check out our other articles.

We hope this article was informative as you continue your journey to better sleep. As always, take care and be well.

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