Sleep Hygiene For Restless Legs Syndrome
Sleep hygiene is important, as tiredness makes symptoms worse.
- Sleeping in a cool, quiet bedroom.
- Going to bed at the same time every night, and getting up at the same time every morning.
- Reduce the amount of light you are exposed to for an hour before bed.
- Avoid stimulating drinks, such as caffeine or sugar.
- Avoiding or reducing alcohol consumption and tobacco.
Exercise and physical activity can help RLS, but it can also aggravate it. Most patients find moderate exercise helpful, but too much can make symptoms worse. Working out late in the evening may also be unhelpful.
Diet Recommendations For People With Restless Leg Syndrome
There arent any specific dietary guidelines for people with RLS. But its a good idea to review your diet to make sure youre getting enough essential vitamins and nutrients. Try to cut high-calorie processed foods with little or no nutritional value.
Some people with symptoms of RLS are deficient in particular vitamins and minerals. If thats the case, you can make some changes to your diet or take dietary supplements. It all depends on what your test results show.
If youre deficient in iron, try adding more of these iron-rich foods to your diet:
- dark green leafy vegetables
Those strange sensations in your legs can be uncomfortable or painful. And those symptoms can make it almost impossible to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Sleep deprivation and fatigue are dangerous to your health and well-being.
In addition to working with your doctor to find relief, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of restful sleep:
I Cant Sleep Is This Restless Legs Syndrome
Its the middle of the night, youre exhausted, but your legs wont stop moving. Weve all felt something like this after a long day of hiking or after forgetting to apply sunscreen to your legs. But for some, this is a nightly routine leading to exhaustion and mental fatigue. If you are frequently feeling the uncontrollable urge to move your legs while you rest, you may be experiencing restless legs syndrome .
To help answer questions about this often mysterious condition, we spoke with Joyce Lee-Iannotti, MD, a neurologist and sleep specialist at Banner Health in Phoenix, Arizona.
Restless Legs Syndrome Treatment
Thereâs no cure for restless legs syndrome itself, but treatments can help control it so you can get a good nightâs sleep.
If another condition is causing your restless legs, such as an iron deficiency, your doctor will treat it.
Treatment for RLS itself will target your symptoms. If your RLS is mild or moderate, some small changes to your everyday life might help: getting regular exercise following a sleep schedule and avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco.
Other ways to treat RLS without drugs include:
- Leg massages
Symptoms And Signs Of Plmd And Rls
Periodic limb movement disorder is characterized by repetitive twitching or kicking of the lower or upper extremities during sleep. Patients usually complain of interrupted nocturnal sleep or excessive daytime sleepiness. They are typically unaware of the movements and brief arousals that follow and have no abnormal sensations in the extremities.
Restless legs syndrome is a sensorimotor disorder characterized by an irresistible urge to move the legs, arms, or, less commonly, other body parts, usually accompanied by paresthesias and sometimes pain in the upper or lower extremities symptoms are more prominent when patients are inactive or recline and peak in severity around bedtime. To relieve symptoms, patients move the affected extremity by stretching, kicking, or walking. As a result, they have difficulty falling asleep, repeated nocturnal awakenings, or both. Symptoms may be worsened by stress. Episodes may occur occasionally, causing few problems, or several times a week.
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Treatment If The Condition Gets Worse
Over time, treatment of RLS with a dopamine medicine may not work as well as it did at first. This is called augmentation.
You might notice that your symptoms:
- Begin earlier in the day.
- Become more intense.
- Spread to another part of your body.
If you are taking a dopamine medicine for RLS and your symptoms change, tell your doctor. Do not stop taking your medicine without talking to your doctor first. You can work with your doctor to decide what treatment is the best one for you.
If you continue to have symptoms even though you are receiving treatment with drugs and are exercising regularly, eating right, and not smoking, drinking alcohol, or using caffeine, your symptoms may need to be reevaluated. Many other conditions can cause the sensations found in restless legs syndrome, including several vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Your doctor may recommend different drugs or a combination of drugs. Follow up with your doctor if your symptoms do not improve.
Periodic Limb Movement Disorder And Restless Legs Syndrome
, MD, University of Pennsylvania, Division of Sleep Medicine
PLMD and RLS are more common during middle and older age > 80% of patients with RLS also have PLMD.
The mechanism is unclear but may involve abnormalities in dopamine neurotransmission in the central nervous system . PLMD and RLS can occur
With use of stimulants, certain antidepressants, or dopamine antagonists
In primary RLS, heredity may be involved more than one third of patients with primary RLS have a family history of it. Risk factors may include a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and obesity.
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Common Signs And Symptoms Of Rls
Leg discomfort combined with strong urge to move. Uncomfortable sensations deep within the legs, accompanied by a strong, often irresistible urge to move them.
Rest triggers the symptoms. The uncomfortable leg sensations start or become worse when youre sitting, lying down, or trying to relax.
Symptoms get worse at night. RLS typically flares up at night. In more severe cases, the symptoms may begin earlier in the day, but they become much more intense at bedtime.
Symptoms improve when you walk or move your legs. The relief continues as long as you keep moving.
Leg twitching or kicking while sleeping. Many people with RLS also have periodic limb movement disorder , which involves repetitive cramping or jerking of the legs during sleep.
The symptoms of RLS can range from mildly annoying to severely disabling. You may experience the symptoms only once in a while, such as times of high stress, or they may plague you every night. In severe cases of RLS, you may experience symptoms in your arms as well as your legs.
Periodic Limb Movements In Sleep And Correlates Of Restless Legs Syndrome
Periodic Limb Movements in Sleep consist of stereotypical, intermittent, and repetitive movements of the limbs that occur during sleep4949 Lee-Chiong JRT. Sleep Medicine Essentials and Review. New York: Oxford University Press 2008.. Up to 90% of the sufferers of RLS have such movements4949 Lee-Chiong JRT. Sleep Medicine Essentials and Review. New York: Oxford University Press 2008., which are considered to be a supportive criterion for diagnosis22 Ekbom J Jr., Ulfberg KJ. Restless Legs Syndrome. J Intern Med. 2009 266:419-31.. The concomitance between RLS and periodic limb movements in sleep is so great that it suggests a causal link between the two conditions, and our assumption is that both are engendered by the same mechanism: increased esthesia of the superficial and deep somatosensory receptors in the legs1010 Pereira JC, Hallinan MP. Willis-Ekbom disease Pathophysiology: The Imbalance Between Dopamine and Thyroid Hormone Theory. J Sleep Disorders Ther. 2013 2:139..
How To Get Rid Of Restless Leg Syndrome
There is no known cure for Restless Leg Syndrome. You can only treat it to control it. If your RLS is mild, some changes to your lifestyle can ease the symptoms. Eliminating alcohol and caffeine is a good starting point. Sometimes, it is the anxiety brought on by caffeine that can lead to RLS. In addition, alcohol might be a reason you arent sleeping well which might also contribute to RLS.
Getting into an exercise routine can also alleviate RLS. Improved circulation in your legs can reduce that itchy feeling deep under your skin that can drive you crazy.
If these suggested changes to your lifestyle dont work, its time to get a little more proactive in reducing RLS. Try a hot bath before bed followed by a leg massage with some essential oils. Lavender and chamomile oils mixed with a carrier oil and rubbed into the leg muscles can help to calm that itchy feeling you get from RLS.
Putting heating pads on your legs when you go to sleep can also help. Try alternating heating pads with ice packs for symptoms that are a little more than mild.
If none of those methods work, then its time to bring out the big guns. Dopaminergic drugs are usually prescribed to treat against RLS. Since it is a neurological disorder, the dopaminergic drugs act on the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain.
Childhood Restless Legs Syndrome
Some children are able to describe their symptoms in their own words so that definite-RLS can be diagnosed. However, the majority of children are unable to adequately express themselves, leading to probable and possible-RLS diagnoses. The advantage of this classification is that we can justify to parents the use of practical measures, that relieve RLS symptoms and improve the sleep of the affected child. Such measures applied to probable or possible-RLS apply exclusively to the presence of sleep disturbance.
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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.
Avoid Extended Periods Of Inactivity
Sitting still for too long can make the symptoms of RLS worse, so try to break up periods of sitting with movement or stretches.
- Find or create a work setting where you can be active. If you work at an office, look into a desk that lets you stand and type, or walk while talking on the phone.
- Tell friends, family, and coworkers why you have to move around more than others. Theyll likely try to accommodate you and want to help you create a healthy environment.
- Schedule activities that may require long periods of sittingsuch as car journeys, flights, or waiting for appointmentsin the morning rather than late in the day.
- Choose an aisle seat at movies and on planes so that you can get up and move.
- Give yourself stretch breaks at work and during long car rides.
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Home Care Tips For Restless Legs Syndrome
The following approaches can reduce symptoms in patients with mild or moderate RLS and may be used in combination with medication in RLS patients who have severe symptoms.
- Sleep hygiene: Good sleep hygiene means maintaining a bedroom environment and a daily routine that supports high-quality sleep. Avoiding alcohol and caffeine is especially important for RLS patients because these substances can worsen symptoms.
- Exercise: Because physical inactivity often triggers RLS symptoms, exercise may be helpful. A research study found that RLS patients showed af 39% reduction in symptom severity after six weeks of engaging in an exercise program compared to an 8% symptom reduction in patients who did not exercise.
- Pneumatic pressure therapy: Pneumatic compression devices increase blood flow to the legs by filling with air to squeeze the legs. Researchers found that the device improved RLS symptoms, quality-of-life, and fatigue after one month of daily use compared to a control group.
- Massage and hot baths: Using massage and hot baths to stimulate the legs is widely recommended in RLS literature however, there is limited scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of these methods at this time.
Learn more about treating RLS here.
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Restless Legs Syndrome Causes
Doctors donât know what causes most cases of restless legs syndrome, but your genes might play a role. Nearly half of the people with RLS also have a family member with the condition.
It might also be tied to:
- Chronic diseases. Certain long-term medical conditions include RLS symptoms, including iron deficiency, Parkinsonâs disease, kidney failure or renal disease, diabetes, and peripheral neuropathy.
- Medications. Some drugs might make symptoms worse, including anti-nausea meds, antipsychotics, some antidepressants, and cold and allergy medications that have antihistamines.
- Pregnancy. Some women have RLS during pregnancy, especially in the last trimester. Symptoms usually go away within a month after delivery.
- Lifestyle. A lack of sleep or another sleep disorder like apnea can trigger symptoms or make them worse. So can alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine use.
Avoid These Before Bed
When it comes to what not to consume, Dr. Berkowski lists the four things you should avoid to help ease your RLS symptoms:
These products are all known to trigger RLS symptoms, Dr. Berkowski says.
Additionally, if you have wheat or dairy allergies but still consume those products, that could also be a source of trouble. What and dairy allergies can cause inflammation which, in turn, cause issues with iron absorption, says Dr. Berkowski, so its something to keep in mind.
Who Gets Restless Legs Syndrome
Restless legs syndrome affects about 10% of the U.S. population. It affects both men and women and may begin at any age, even in infants and young children. Most people who are affected severely — 2% to 3% — are middle-aged or older.
RLS is often unrecognized or misdiagnosed. In many people, the condition is not diagnosed until 10-20 years after symptoms begin. Once correctly diagnosed, RLS can often be treated successfully.
Final Thoughts On Restless Leg Syndrome
According to the Sleep Foundation, one in ten people suffer from RLS. When 10% of the population is missing sleep because of RLS, something has to be done. The actual symptoms of RLS are not going to harm the long-term health of the people who suffer from it, but sleep deprivation will.
That is a lot of missed sleep, and the complications that come from missing sleep are numerous. Dont buy into the notion that you are delusional because you suspect you have RLS.
If you are not able to sleep because of your legs, you really should try some of the treatments you can do at home. If nothing works, you should get to your doctor as soon as possible. As I mentioned earlier, you wont have any health complications by waiting to go the doctor, but the sooner you get your condition sorted out, the sooner you can get some sleep.
How Do You Know If You Have Restless Leg Syndrome
There is no tried and true medical test that can be given to determine if you have RLS. The diagnosis is typically made using a process of elimination. Blood tests will be given to rule out other disorders. After the tests, doctors will try to uncover if you have RLS in your family medical history or if you are on certain drugs that may cause symptoms.
Once they narrow down the possibilities, if RLS is the last one left standing, it becomes clear that is your disorder. You may be sent to a sleep clinic to do a sleep study to determine if you actually have RLS or if it is another type of sleep disorder.
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What Does It Feel Like
A person with RLS has a strange and unpleasant sensation in the legs, and sometimes the arms, and a strong urge to move them. People have described these feelings as:
The only way to relieve the discomfort is by moving the legs. The sensations tend to occur when the individual is resting or inactive, and not only during the night. Symptoms often worsen in the evening and at night, and may be relieved for a short while in the morning.
Is Restless Leg Syndrome Real
There are some people whi are convinced that Restless Leg Syndrome is a fake disorder invented by the pharmaceutical companies to sell more drugs.
They like to point to the fact that there is no actual test that can be done to prove or disprove that you have it.
Ask anybody who suffers from Restless Leg Syndrom if it is real, and they will give you the rundown of what they go through every night. From uncontrollable urges to move due to the discomfort felt in the legs to terrible pins and needles. They will tell you that it is very real and not just an invention by greedy drug companies.
Restless Leg Syndrome is yet another neurological disorder in a long list that is not fully understood by doctors. But, that doesnt mean that people are being conned into believing they have symptoms when they really dont.
Not only that, but its been a condition experienced for centuries. In the 1600s, a doctor named Sir Thomas Willis wrote about Restless Leg Syndrome. More recently, in 1945, it was studied in more detail and given its current name of RLS.
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