Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a nervous system disorder that gives you every now and then the feeling, that you irresistibly need to move your legs. Sounds familiar? Restless legs syndrome is actually quite common. Pregnant women may be more vulnerable to this, and usually, symptoms get worse at night.
If you have ever wondered why you can’t sleep, restless legs may be one of the causes that leave you tossing and turning in bed.
This kind of constant urge to move your legs can cause a lot of problems, including depression, sleep disorders, insomnia, and anxiety. If disrupted sleep and anxiety are long-term issues, you may start to feel daytime fatigue that affects your memory, concentration, and productivity levels. In severe cases, restless legs may even negatively affect your personal life, relationships, and everyday routine.
If you have restless legs syndrome, it is common that you can´t have enough sleep, so your sleep becomes hectic. If you don´t seek help, this will sooner or later start to impact your daily life at home, work, and school. Therefore, restless legs should not be ignored and need to be addressed, so that tossing and insomnia will not end up with bigger health issues.
Restless legs syndrome – who are most affected?
The exact cause of restless legs syndrome is unknown.
The constant urge to move your feet from one position to another is a common symptom of restless legs syndrome. At some point, anyone can experience such restlessness. Restless legs syndrome may hit anyone of us, especially when there are stressful times.
The incidence of restless leg syndrome increases with an age and is more common in women during pregnancy. Restless legs syndrome usually affects middle-aged or older people, although similar symptoms and leg movements can also develop in early childhood.
Symptoms of restless legs syndrome are varied. It can be a tingling sensation or a general discomfort, that makes you constantly look for a new position for your body and legs. Or, it can be itching pain, or numbness that will not let you fall asleep. Such sensations often occur in the evening or at night, and sometimes also during the day, for example, while driving a car or travelling by bus or by plane, where you need to sit in the same position for a long time and stretching your legs is not possible.
What’s behind the restless legs’ syndrome
Although restlessness and constant tossing and turning in bed might be a cause for concern, it´s important to notice, that restless legs syndrome is not a disease. Rather, it’s a signal your body sends to your brain. Restless legs syndrome is often left undiagnosed and even researchers haven’t quite figured out yet why some people are more vulnerable to this syndrome.
In some cases, it can be related to how your body handles dopamine, a chemical that is involved in controlling your body movements.
It can also be a side-effect of an underlying health condition, for example, if you have iron deficiency, diabetes, Parkinson’s, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, or chronic issues with your kidneys or thyroid.
Likewise, the underlying cause can lie in certain over-the-counter or prescription drugs, like antidepressants, antihistamines, lithium, metoclopramide, or calcium channel blockers.
There is a strong link between restless legs and pregnancy. About 1 in 5 pregnant women will experience this syndrome at some level, especially at the end of their pregnancy, while the discomfort may not concern only their feet but the whole body and arms.
Research has shown, that restless legs syndrome can be inherited even with our genes. Restless legs can also be triggered by stressful times, excessive caffeine and alcohol consumption, irregular sleep schedule, poor nutrition, and lack of regular exercise.
Restless legs syndrome – treatment
For some people, restless legs cause such a mess in their lives, that they start to avoid their partner and prefer to sleep in their guestroom or sofa. But this is not going to solve the problem, right? If restless legs syndrome is ignored, you may end up with depression and anxiety. This in turn affects your overall well-being, and in the end, can cause a lot more serious health problems.
Unfortunately, there are no pills that can cure restless legs. But there are some treatments, that can alleviate symptoms and thus, also relieve restlessness. The first thing is to review your coffee and alcohol consumption. Also, it is important to pay attention to your sleeping routine. Make sure you go to bed and wake up exact time 7 days a week.
If you have experienced anxiety or insomnia because of restless legs, then you should seek help for these conditions. With proper treatment, also restlessness will decrease. See your GP or neurologist, who will help you find out, which method is best for you.
For relieving restless legs, you can also make adjustments by yourself. Here are 7 tips how you can help yourself with restless legs syndrome:
1. Move your legs to bring relief
When feeling uncomfortable, we tend to keep our body, including our arms and legs, in tension. Actually, you should do the opposite. Discomfort should not be tolerated, so feel free to move your legs, to find more comfortable position, and to help your feet to calm down.
If you wake up in the middle of the night or can´t fall asleep, then get out of the bed, stretch and walk a little in your room, meditate, or read a book, until you are ready to get back to sleep again.
2. Review your lifestyle and sleeping habits
Our everyday lives, habits, and lifestyle affect us more than we think. If you´re a coffee addict, try to limit your caffeine intake to a few cups a day. Drink coffee preferably in the morning. Do not exceed suggested alcohol units. Keep 3 days a week alcohol-free and make sure your food intake is balanced. Avoid snacks and drinking water or other liquids late at night.
3. Set up a routine
An irregular sleep schedule can have a negative impact, unbalancing your body, even if you are in perfect health. To achieve the most optimal sleep-wake rhythm, make sure you sleep 7-9 hours every night, and go to bed and wake up exactly the same time every day.
Stick to your bedtime and wake-up times 7 days a week, including at the weekends. Going to bed and waking up at the same time is also good for your inner clock and overall health. This will also give you more energy boost in the workday mornings.
4. Enjoy a foot bath
A nice warm foot bath at the end of the day or just before bedtime will effectively relieve the heaviness in your feet and help them to relax. Try adding salt or herbs to the bath water. A few drops of essential oil, such as eucalyptus, can help your feet to wind down for the night.
A relaxing foot bath is also good for preventing leg cramps.
5. Meditate, go jogging or take a brisk walk
Pick your favorite physical activity and try to exercise at least 30 minutes a day. The best time to work out is in the morning or afternoon. If you find it difficult to keep up with the routine all by yourself, invite your mate or a friend and take walks together. Fresh air also helps to clear your mind.
Avoid sweating and gym before bedtime. To wind down in the evening, try meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises.
6. Talk to your doctor
Having issues with sleep is nothing to be ashamed of. A doctor or a sleep specialist can definitely help you to figure out, how to alleviate your symptoms. If necessary, medications are prescribed, so that you can start feeling better again.
Seeing a doctor is especially important if you have suffered from restless legs already for a long time and this condition has started to affect your daily productivity.
7. Try a weighted blanket
Weighted blankets have been used for a long time to treat children with special needs, because of their scientifically proven ability to help us relax. The magic behind weighted blankets lies in deep touch pressure, that according to research effectively alleviates stress and anxiety. And when you feel more relaxed, it`s quite possible the strong urge to unintentionally and constantly move your legs will also start to disappear.
People using weighted blanket have noticed they fall asleep better, wake up fewer times at night, and feel more refreshed in the mornings. With tiny adjustments and a weighted blanket, you soon start to notice that your body and mind are functioning better, both nighttime and while being awake.
Be better at being awake with Dreamsville
Our sleeping products are designed to support your sleep so that you can be a better person for your loved ones and for the planet.
From our e-shop you will find calming teas, bedlinen, blankets and pillows, and weighted blankets, that will provide you with the best sleep.
Dreamsville weighted blankets are treated with Polygiene Stays Fresh technology, that will help to keep your blanket fresh and bacteria-free. With Polygiene, the blanket stays fresh longer and needs less laundry. All weighted blankets come with Oeko-Tex® Eco certificate and are also suitable for people suffering from allergies.
Choose the right blanket based on your weight. It is recommended to use a weighted blanket that weighs about 10% of your body weight. Weighted blankets for adults usually weigh about 7-9 kg. Children’s weighted blankets weigh less and are specially designed for small ones.