How To Stop Restless Legs Immediately
Once again, it is time for bed but instead of falling asleep, youre tossing and turning, trying to get your legs comfortable and relaxed. Your partner sighs, obviously aware of your near-constant wiggling. You wonder if either of you will ever get another good nights rest.
This is a story I hear regularly in my vascular clinic, although many people see multiple specialists before winding up in my office. Restless legs are not always a result of circulation issues, but for many people, it is the main cause of their symptoms. Deciphering those symptoms will help you determine how to stop restless legs, now.
Tips To Ease Restless Leg Syndrome For A Good Nights Sleep
If you toss and turn at night because of aching, creeping, prickling or crawling sensations in your legs when you lie down, you could have restless leg syndrome. According to WebMD, between five and 15 percent of adults suffer from this condition. Although it doesnt always signal a deeper health problem, it can cause you to lose out on much-needed sleep, leading to exhaustion and daytime sleepiness. In turn, this can lead to problems with mood, concentration, job performance and even depression.
Restless legs syndrome is also referred to as Willis-Ekbom Disease, causing unpleasant or uncomfortable sensations in the legs coupled with an irresistible urge to move them, points out the National Institutes of Health. Symptoms typically show up in the late afternoon or evening hours, culminating at night while resting, sitting or lying in bed. Symptoms can make it hard to fall asleep initially and fall back asleep later in the night. RLS is essentially classified as a sleep disorder, movement disorder, and neurological sensory disorder in one.
The National Sleep Foundation says RLS is a serious but treatable condition that can be made better through lifestyle changes, iron supplements, hot baths and more. Always talk to your health care provider or home care provider before trying any treatment.
How Often Do Symptoms Occur
The frequency of symptoms can vary from person to person. Moderate cases of RLS typically see symptoms occur about once or twice a week, while severe cases may cause symptoms to appear more than two times a week.
Sometimes RLS symptoms may go away for weeks or months at a time before reappearing. This typically happens in the early stages of developing this condition.
What Are Common Signs And Symptoms Of Restless Legs
People with RLS feel the irresistible urge to move, which is accompanied by uncomfortable sensations in their lower limbs that are unlike normal sensations experienced by people without the disorder. The sensations in their legs are often difficult to define but may be described as aching throbbing, pulling, itching, crawling, or creeping. These sensations less commonly affect the arms, and rarely the chest or head. Although the sensations can occur on just one side of the body, they most often affect both sides. They can also alternate between sides. The sensations range in severity from uncomfortable to irritating to painful.
Because moving the legs relieves the discomfort, people with RLS often keep their legs in motion to minimize or prevent the sensations. They may pace the floor, constantly move their legs while sitting, and toss and turn in bed.
A classic feature of RLS is that the symptoms are worse at night with a distinct symptom-free period in the early morning, allowing for more refreshing sleep at that time. Some people with RLS have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. They may also note a worsening of symptoms if their sleep is further reduced by events or activity.
People with RLS can sometimes experience remissionsspontaneous improvement over a period of weeks or months before symptoms reappearusually during the early stages of the disorder. In general, however, symptoms become more severe over time.
The Timing Of Rls Onset May Be A Factor
It appears that the time you first experience RLS may affect the likelihood youll have pain symptoms.3
- People who experience RLS in childhood through adolescence usually have less pain .
- People who experience RLS only as adults may experience more issues with pain related to neurological problems or medications.
Of course, exceptions exist in either case. Whats consistent is the ongoing link between RLS and pain.
Recommended Reading: 38 Cfr Sleep Disorders
How Are Rls And Plmd Treated
Patients with RLS or PLMD are treated with a combination of learning new behavioral skills, vitamin supplements and other medication.
- Good sleep habits: It is important for children and adolescents to get enough sleep and have a regular sleep schedule. Sleep psychologists can help families establish better sleep routines.
- Iron supplementation: If a childs ferritin level is below 50 mcg/L, your child’s doctor will recommend additional iron intake through foods high in iron or medication. Multivitamins have enough iron to maintain proper iron stores, but do not have sufficient iron to replace low iron stores for children with RLS or PLMD.
- Medications: RLS and PLMD have been treated with clonidine , clonazepam , gabapentin and zolpidem . Dopaminergics are the medications of choice for RLS in adults, but are not used as frequently in children.
- Monitoring and safety: Any medication treatment for RLS or PLMD requires close monitoring for safety and efficacy. As part of routine care, remember to maintain the safe storage of all medications in childproof containers.
- There is evidence that suggests that treating RLS or PLMD can reduce or eliminate symptoms of ADHD in some children or adolescents. Stimulant medications used for ADHD do not worsen RLS or PLMD.
Lifestyle Changes And Home Remedies
If you have mild RLS, lifestyle changes may be the only treatment you need.
You can try to prevent RLS symptoms by:
- Avoiding caffeine, tobacco, and nicotine, which are common triggers of RLS symptoms
- Making sure you’re getting enough iron in your diet or by taking supplements
- Reviewing your medications with your doctor and possibly changing medications that may be triggering RLS
- Exercising regularly
- Engaging your mind with distracting activities when you have to remain seated
Other activities can help alleviate RLS symptoms, including:
- Taking a hot or cold bath
- Using heat or ice packs
- Walking or stretching
- Massaging your legs
- Doing mentally challenging tasks
To help you fall and stay asleep, it’s also important to adopt good sleep habits, including:
- Keeping your sleeping area cool, quiet, and dark
- Engaging in a mentally challenging or distracting activity before bed, such as a crossword puzzle
- Removing devices from your sleeping area that can disrupt sleep, such as TVs, computers, and phones
- Sticking to a sleep routine
- Using breathing exercises or other techniques to relax at night
You May Like: Garmin Forerunner Sleep Tracker
Other Conditions Associated With Restless Legs Syndrome
The following medical conditions are also associated with RLS, although the relationships are not clear. In some cases, these conditions may contribute to RLS. Others may have a common cause, or they may coexist due to other risk factors:
- Osteoarthritis . About three-quarters of patients with RLS also have osteoarthritis, a common condition affecting older adults.
- Varicose veins. Varicose veins occur in about 1 in 7 patients with RLS.
- Diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes may have higher rates of secondary RLS. Nerve pain related to their diabetes cannot fully explain the higher rate of RLS.
- Hypertension .
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease .
- Chronic alcoholism.
- Sleep apnea and snoring.
- Chronic headaches.
- Brain or spinal injuries.
- Many muscle and nerve disorders. Of particular interest is hereditary ataxia, a group of genetic diseases that affects the central nervous system and causes loss of motor control. Researchers believe that hereditary ataxia may supply clues to the genetic causes of RLS.
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder .
- Psychiatric disorders, such as depression.
What Is The Treatment For Restless Legs Syndrome During Pregnancy
Medication isnt generally recommended during pregnancy or while you are breastfeeding. But there are other things you can try. You may not be able to stop the symptoms completely, but you may be able to reduce them.
As well as reducing your caffeine intake and not drinking alcohol, you can try:
- stopping smoking
- doing moderate, regular exercise
- walking and stretching your legs
- relaxation exercises
- using heat pads on the legs, or having a hot bath
- using distraction techniques, such as reading
- massaging the legs.
You May Like: How Does The Fitbit Alta Track Sleep
Triggers That Make Restless Legs Worse
Does it seem like your restless legs get worse after you take a certain medication or are under stress? Become aware of your restless legs triggers to relax.
It never fails just as you crawl into bed, your restless legs start acting up again. Symptoms which include pain and tingly, creepy-crawly sensations usually strike at night or when youre relaxing, so sleep problems are one of the chief complaints in people with restless legs syndrome, or RLS.
Although RLS is a neurological problem, certain environmental and external factors have been known to exacerbate symptoms. Avoiding these common restless legs triggers may help calm your jittery limbs so you can get the rest you need.
What Causes Restless Legs Syndrome
In most cases, the cause of RLS is unknown . However, RLS has a genetic component and can be found in families where the onset of symptoms is before age 40. Specific gene variants have been associated with RLS. Evidence indicates that low levels of iron in the brain also may be responsible for RLS.
Considerable evidence also suggests that RLS is related to a dysfunction in one of the sections of the brain that control movement that use the brain chemical dopamine. Dopamine is needed to produce smooth, purposeful muscle activity and movement. Disruption of these pathways frequently results in involuntary movements. Individuals with Parkinsons disease, another disorder of the basal ganglias dopamine pathways, have increased chance of developing RLS.
RLS also appears to be related to or accompany the following factors or underlying conditions:
- end-stage renal disease and hemodialysis
- iron deficiency
- certain medications that may aggravate RLS symptoms, such as antinausea drugs , antipsychotic drugs , antidepressants that increase serotonin , and some cold and allergy medications that contain older antihistamines
- use of alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine
- pregnancy, especially in the last trimester in most cases, symptoms usually disappear within 4 weeks after delivery
- neuropathy .
Sleep deprivation and other sleep conditions like sleep apnea also may aggravate or trigger symptoms in some people. Reducing or completely eliminating these factors may relieve symptoms.
Also Check: Is Sleep Apnea Covered Under Ada
Living With Restless Leg Syndrome
Keep your doctor posted on how youre feeling. He or she can suggest different relaxation techniques and can change your medicine if its not helping. You may want to join a support group to talk to other people who are suffering from RLS. Also, because RLS tends to run in families, you may want to talk to your relatives about your RLS and see if they have similar symptoms.
Periodic Limb Movements In Sleep
Up to 80% of people with restless legs syndrome also have periodic limb movements in sleep .
If you have PLMS, your leg will jerk or twitch uncontrollably, usually at night while you’re asleep. The movements are brief and repetitive, and usually occur every 10 to 60 seconds.
PLMS can be severe enough to wake up both you and your partner. The involuntary leg movements can also occur when you’re awake and resting.
Read Also: Va Rating For Sleep Apnea With Cpap
Sleep Aids And Muscle Relaxants
These medications dont completely eliminate symptoms, but they can help you relax and sleep better.
Drugs in this group include:
These medications help lessen sensory disturbances:
Side effects may include dizziness and fatigue.
It may take several attempts before you find the right medication. Your doctor will adjust the medication and dosage as your symptoms change.
Surgery For Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are enlarged blood vessels, often in the legs, that overfill with blood. This increased amount of blood can lead to superficial venous insufficiency , which means your body cant properly circulate blood. As a result, the blood pools in your legs.
In a 2008 study, 35 people with SVI and RLS had a procedure called endovenous laser ablation to treat their varicose veins. Of the 35 people, 84 percent of them had their RLS symptoms significantly improved or completely eliminated by the surgery .
Again, more research is needed on this surgery as a treatment for RLS.
If youre interested in any of these less-researched treatments, ask your doctor about them. Of course, you can try hot and cold treatments on your own, but your doctor can tell you more about the other treatments and whether they might be able to help you.
Don’t Miss: High Oxygen Variation During Sleep
What Is The Prognosis For People With Restless Legs Syndrome
RLS is generally a lifelong condition for which there is no cure. However, current therapies can control the disorder, minimize symptoms, and increase periods of restful sleep. Symptoms may gradually worsen with age, although the decline may be somewhat faster for individuals who also suffer from an associated medical condition. A diagnosis of RLS does not indicate the onset of another neurological disease, such as Parkinsons disease. In addition, some individuals have remissionsperiods in which symptoms decrease or disappear for days, weeks, months, or yearsalthough symptoms often eventually reappear. If RLS symptoms are mild, do not produce significant daytime discomfort, or do not affect an individuals ability to fall asleep, the condition does not have to be treated.
Treatment Of Rls In Pd
Regardless of the above discussion, it is clear that many people with PD have difficulty falling asleep because of annoying sensations in the legs accompanied by a sometimes unbearable sense of restlessness in the legs. For these people, taking dopamine agonists before bed can be helpful. Caution is in order, of course, because in some patients with PD, especially older or more advanced patients, these medications can cause confusion and hallucinations and are thus not well-tolerated. A long-acting levodopa formulation or medications such as gabapentin, gabapentin enacarbil and pregabalin can also be effective. Trying to address sleep issues such as RLS in patients who have sleep complaints can be an important aspect of maximizing therapy for PD.
Tips and Takeaways
Do you have a question or issue that you would like Dr. Gilbert to explore? Suggest a Topic
Dr. Rebecca Gilbert
APDA Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer
What Can Be Done About Restless Leg Syndrome
Simple gestures and a healthy lifestyle are usually enough to alleviate the signs of this disease.
The first step is to identify the elements that can cause or worsen restless legs syndrome, and in particular medication . If this is the case, it will be necessary to try to modify the treatments by changing the drugs, for example.
For good sleep hygiene, it is recommended to go to bed and get up at regular times, limit activities in the bedroom and avoid disruptive activities.
You can also move your legs, try taking a warm bath before going to bed, massage your legs and stretch your lower limbs.
Moderate exercise can also be part of preventive treatment at night.
Reduction of obesity has also been associated with an improvement in the syndrome.
It is also advisable to limit the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and tea.
Abnormalities Of Iron Metabolism
Iron deficiency, even at a level too mild to cause anemia, has been linked to RLS in some people. Some research suggests that RLS in some people may be due to a problem with getting iron into cells that regulate dopamine in the brain. Some studies have reported RLS in a quarter to a third of people with low iron levels.
Recommended Reading: How To Store Insomnia Cookies
What Are The Symptoms Of Restless Legs Syndrome
Symptoms of restless legs syndrome include:
- Leg discomfort: These uncomfortable limb sensations are often described by adults as creeping, itching, pulling, crawling, tugging, throbbing, burning, or gnawing. These sensations usually occur at bedtime but can occur at other times of limb inactivity.
- Urge to move legs : To relieve limb discomfort, you have an uncontrollable urge to move your limbs especially when resting, such as when sitting or lying down.
- Sleep disruption: Additional time is often needed to fall asleep because of the urge to move your limbs to relieve the discomfort. Sometimes staying asleep may also be difficult.
- Bedtime behavior problems: Because of the discomfort, you may need to get out of bed to stretch your limbs to relieve the discomfort.
- Daytime sleepiness: Problems with falling asleep and staying asleep may result in daytime sleepiness.
- Behavior and work performance problems: Again, due to sleep disruption, problems may emerge in daytime behavior and work performance.
Tip : Improve Your Sleep
The symptoms of restless legs syndrome can make it hard to get to sleep. When youre sleep deprived, you not only feel terrible, but youre more vulnerable to stress. Stress and fatigue can worsen RLS, making it a vicious cycle, so doing what it takes to get enough sleep is crucial.
Try sleeping with a pillow between your legs. It may prevent nerves in your legs from compressing and result in fewer nighttime RLS symptoms.
Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Support your bodys natural sleep rhythms by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day .
Optimize your bedroom for sleep. Make sure the room is dark , quiet, and cool.
Wind down with a relaxing bedtime routine. Try curling up in bed with a book, listening to calming music, or taking a hot bath .
Power down electronics 1-2 hours before bed. The blue light from screens suppresses sleep-promoting hormones and stimulates your brain.
Keep a sleep diary of RLS symptoms
Logging changes in your diet, lifestyle, sleep habits, and routine might help you make helpful connections between your daily activities and the quality of your sleep at night..
Also Check: Sleep App For Gear S2