Sleep DisordersSleep ScienceTips & Tricks

Restless Leg Syndrome – What Is It And Do I Have It?

It’s one of those ailments you may have never heard of but it’s one that most of you may suffer from at some point or another. But what is Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)? It’s also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease and it’s a neurological disorder that affects millions of people each year.

People who suffer from RLS often have aches, pains and/or sensations in your legs when you’re lying or sitting down in bed. RLS can even make your legs feel like exercising even though the rest of your body and brain is ready to sleep. This tends to happen more often at night when you’re lying down. RLS can cause you struggle to fall asleep or even maintaining sleep during the night. My partner struggles with this from time to time, they rub their feet together like a cricket. It definitely affects the quality of life as they’re constantly tired throughout the day.

Who can get restless leg syndrome?

RLS occurs more in women than men. It can happen at any age but it tends to affect more adults than it does youths according to the National Institutes of Health.

The symptoms can vary in severity and length of time for each individual. Some experience mild symptoms intermittently while others can have more difficult episodes. No matter the levels of pain, there are some home remedies you can try to help manage your situation.

A Change of Lifestyle

It’s not completely clear what causes RLS but researchers know there’s a connection between your lifestyle and the frequency of the symptoms.

Smoking

Smoking, naturally, is pretty bad for your sleep patterns. Smoking is a stimulant and it can keep your brain awake. I know people smoke to ‘de-stress’, I used to but since I quit I started having better nights sleep than I’d had for years! If possible, try cutting down or quitting entirely, not only is it great for your health, your body will thank you for the great night’s sleep.

Diet

Eating a healthy and balanced diet is always a benefit, don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Try and limit the amounts of caffeine you consume and your alcohol intake, especially before bedtime. Try and avoid any foods that you may keep you up at night, I’m sure you remember parents telling you that cheese before bed gives you nightmares!

Medication

The medication you take for other illnesses can make it challenging for your muscles to relax, to the point it can cause insomnia. Be sure to check the medications you take and speak to your doctor if you have any other concerns.

Exercise

One of the biggest and most effective remedies is exercise. It’s one of the best forms of preventative action according to Willis-Ekbom Disease Foundation. People with RLS who tend to exercise between 30 minutes to an hour a day report less fatigue, fewer symptoms and better sleeping habits.

Now, don’t panic, the exercise doesn’t have to be intense, we don’t want injuries. Just something as simple as going for long walks or jogging or any forms of fitness for that matter will help your legs and it’ll improve your chances of sleeping properly.

Yoga is particularly good, it’s been shown to have benefits for people with restless leg syndrome according to research published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Women with restless leg syndrome who practice yoga experienced less stress and less severe symptoms. They also reported better sleep habits and greater moods.

Sleep Hygiene

Restless leg syndrome can keep you awake, so it’s important to try and eliminate as many of the issues as physically possible. Frequently changing your bedsheets will help give you a fresher nights sleep and hopefully cause no irritations to the skin.

Getting a bedtime routine is one of the best things you can do. This means you should start regulating your sleeping pattern, trying to go to bed at the same time each night and wake around the same time in the morning.

Getting a routine definitely helps you sleep better. If you’re still unsure what is helping or hindering your sleep the most, try writing a sleep journal to document how you feel after trying certain techniques. You should also document what time you go to bed and rise.

Reduce Pain

The symptoms of restless leg syndrome can range from mildly irritating to downright painful. We recommend taking a hot bath or massaging your muscles to try and get them to relax. You could also try alternating hot and cold compresses on your legs to reduce pain in your joints and muscles.

Reduce Stress

This sounds like the easiest and most obvious of them all. But it’s actually one of the hardest things for most of us to do. Stress plays a huge role in irritating and aggravating RLS. Any treatments that help reduce stress can help mellow your symptoms. Meditation and yoga are proven relaxation techniques that are known to help you reduce your stress level.

Consult Your Doctor

If you’re still in doubt or have any questions regarding restless leg syndrome, contact your local doctor for advice. There are many home therapies and changes to your lifestyle that you can make. Be sure to work closely with your doctor before taking any supplements or making any medical changes.

We hope you found this information useful. If you want any more information on restless leg syndrome, please consult your doctor. 💤

Adam Green

Adam Green

Co-Founder @ CTO
Adam is the CTO and all-round techie here at Happiest / Sleepiest.

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