Restless Legs Syndrome: 8 Ways To Deal With It

Restless Legs Syndrome: 8 Ways To Deal With It

Restless legs syndrome is an unpleasant condition when you really want to sleep, and at the same, your legs become so restless that it becomes impossible to fall asleep. What is this syndrome, and how can you cope with restless legs? Let’s figure it out in this article.

What Is Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)?

With restless legs syndrome, a person suffers from a variety of discomfort in the legs. These sensations include itching, burning, tingling, goosebumps, bloating, or squeezing. RLS most commonly affects the shins, but it can also spread to the thighs and even the arms. In most cases, RLS affects both limbs, but it can also be unilateral.

The unpleasant sensations reach their peak in the period from 10 pm to 2 am. In general, 2% to 10% of the population suffers from RLS. More often, these are women and people of the age. In the age category 65+, 10-30% of the population suffers from RLS.

But Ekbom’s syndrome can also develop in children. In addition, during the period of bearing a child, every fourth woman suffers from RLS. And most often, the disease overtakes expectant mothers in the third trimester and disappears after childbirth.

How To Deal With Restless Leg Syndrome?

Doctors recommend the following ways to combat the symptoms of restless legs syndrome.

1.   Monitor Level of Iron

Low blood iron levels can be one of the possible causes of RLS. We need iron for the production of receptors for the neurotransmitter dopamine. If there are few such receptors, dopaminergic neurons work with impairments.

In addition, iron is involved in the process of myelination – the formation of a myelin “insulating” sheath around the processes of neurons. Therefore, its lack affects the conduction of the nerve impulse. By the way, iron deficiency is the cause of a quarter of RLS cases in pregnant women.

In case of iron deficiency (the concentration of its compound ferritin in the serum is less than 50 μg/l), the doctor may prescribe the intake of drugs with ferritin. A lower score in the ferritin test shows that there is an iron deficiency in the body.

2.   Avoiding Caffeine & Alcohol

Any caffeine-containing beverages (coffee, tea, cola, or chocolate) provide an energy boost and worsen RLS for several hours after drinking them. For some people, this effect can last up to 12 hours. The same is the case with alcoholism. Alcohol abuse can aggravate the symptoms of RLS and can make it worse.

Thus, experts recommend eliminating alcohol from life because both RLS and alcohol addiction affects the nervous system. If you do not abandon it, you may experience even more serious consequences. Now the question arises that how you can get rid of this addiction.

The answer is quite simple; you can find several treatment facilities in the city you live. For example, those living in California can find several rehab centers in Los Angeles and other big cities that can help them. Besides, you can even choose a treatment center that best suits your needs.

3.   Check Your Medication

A group of scientists from India and Germany, in their August 2016 article, list medications that have side effects such as restless legs syndrome or that can exacerbate existing RLS. These are some antidepressants, antipsychotics, beta-blockers, dopamine antagonists, anti-nausea drugs, antihistamines, anticonvulsants, L-thyroxine, lithium. If you are taking any of the above and still suffer from RLS, you should talk to your doctor about a replacement.

4.   Stretching Before Bed

Stretch lightly for 5-10 minutes before lying down. You can do it after a warm bath when the muscles and ligaments are warmed up. It is not necessary to do sudden movements – only static exercises.

The main goal is to stretch your calves and thigh muscles. You can do this with lunges, keeping the back leg straight; tilting to the front leg with a straight hind leg set aside; folds with socks pulled over themselves, etc. You should do stretching on both legs.

5.   Physical Activity During The Day

Not only stretching before bed but getting enough physical activity throughout the day can help reduce RLS. We are talking about moderate regular physical activity, which should end no later than 3-4 hours before bedtime. Research shows that any kind of exercise reduces leg mobility in people with RLS and leads to deeper and longer sleep.

6.   Deal With Stress

Stress increases the manifestation of RLS. If the day has turned out to be difficult, you should definitely take the time to relieve stress. It can be breathing exercises or meditation. Before going to bed, you can dim the lights, turn off the TV with disturbing blue lights and panic news, and listen to relaxing and soothing music.

7.   Foot Massage

As mentioned above, restless legs syndrome most often affects the calves. To reduce the manifestations of RLS, you can massage the calves before going to bed and add a foot massage to them. If possible, ask someone close to you to massage your shoulders and neck as well – this also relieves tension and helps reduce stress.

8.   Change In Sleep And Wakefulness

Doctors recommend that people with RLS should try going to bed later and waking up later to maintain adequate sleep. This will allow them to make up for the time lost in the evening and in the morning during a good sleep.

In this case, the new regime (or the previous one) should be strictly adhered to – this facilitates the process of falling asleep. In no case should you reduce the duration of sleep below the prescribed norms with RLS, that is, sleep less than 7-9 hours. Sleep deprivation makes restless legs syndrome even worse.

Take Away

In the vast majority of cases, people can deal with restless legs syndrome without medication, only through the above methods. However, in 10-15% of cases, there may be a need for drug treatment. However, you should keep in mind that such therapy can only be symptomatic; it will not relieve the syndrome itself and will therefore be lifelong.

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