Restless Leg Syndrome: What Causes It, and How to Relieve It
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a disorder of the nervous system which causes the urge to move the legs more than normal. This urge usually occurs at night, making this a sleep disorder, as well.
What causes RLS?
In many cases, doctors don't know the cause. In others, causes of restless leg syndrome include:
chronic disease such as Parkinson's, kidney failure or diabetes
Medications, such as anti-nausea or anti-depressants
Other factors, such as sleep deprivation or alcohol use, can trigger or worsen the symptoms.
What are the symptoms?
There are a variety of symptoms associated with restless leg syndrome, including:
Because the main symptom is restless legs at night, sufferers often deal with insomnia as well, which can make them drowsy, irritable and agressive during the day.
It usually starts slowly, and worsens with time. Occasionally, RLS can affect the arms, too.
Restless legs treatment
Restless legs relief isn't hard to find. There are plenty of remedies available, that work individually or in combination with other treatments.
Heat, Cold and Massage
Many people with mild symptoms find relief by alternating cold and heat on the muscles of their legs. You can also try soaking in a warm bath or whirlpool to ease the pain and achiness. Massaging your lower legs can also bring relief.
Stress and muscle tension can trigger symptoms. A brisk 30-minute walk early in the day, or some meditation or yoga before bed can help relax your mind, ease your tension, and soothe your symptoms.
A lack of certain vitamins or minerals, such as iron, folic acid, magnesium or vitamin B, may cause or trigger symptoms of RLS. Healthy eating, with a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, can ensure that you're getting plenty of all the essential nutrients.
It's possible to get too much of a good thing, however. If you intend to supplement your vitamins and minerals, you should check with your doctor first. Get blood work done to find out exactly what you're deficient in and work with your doctor to find out how best to supplement.
Consider Food Sensitivities
Some people find that cutting out certain foods, such as MSG or foods containing gluten, helps ease their symptoms. This doesn't indicate that the food itself causes the RLS, but it may indicate the sensitivity to the food is creating an autoimmune response that is triggering symptoms. If food sensitivities are common in your family, or you suspect that it may be an issue, it's worth talking to your doctor or cutting the potentially offending food out of your diet to see what happens.
Cut the Stimulants
Caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine can all trigger RLS symptoms. You may find that by cutting them out, you find quick relief of your symptoms. If you smoke, you may need to slowly cut back in order to quit, but it's worth trying to see if you can eliminate, or at least cut down on, your symptoms.
Natural Herbal Treatments
Passionflower, valerian, and kava are all sleep-inducing and muscle-relaxing herbs. Gingko, garlic, and reishi mushrooms are also recommended as being helpful in easing symptoms. You can often find herbal remedies like these in teas or capsule form. There are many other natural treatments available, too, that can ease or eliminate symptoms. While it's important to do some research to check for the possibility of cross-reactions, many times these natural treatments can be used in conjunction with each other, and with other treatments. Natural treatment for restless leg syndrome is often the last thing people try, but once they do, they are often very pleasantly surprised by how effective it can be.
Adjust Your Sleep Routine
RLS can make sleep difficult. This makes it critical that you do as much as you can to cultivate good sleep. A few tips:
Take a warm (but not hot) bath 30-60 minutes before bed. The drop in temperature after you get out will help you drift off.
Sleep in a cool bedroom. A cool room makes it easier to fall asleep. Lower the a/c, add fans, take blankets off the bed, or consider sleeping nude to lower your body's temperature.
Use a white noise machine or app to cover sounds that might wake you or keep you awake.
Use room-darkening drapes or a sleep mask to keep outside light from keeping you awake or waking you up.
If you snore, consider using nasal strips or other snore relief products.