7 Ways to Improve Sleep With Restless Legs Syndrome

7 Ways to Improve Sleep With Restless Legs Syndrome

By Victoria Candland Published at February 23, 2015 Views 14,610 Comments 4

Restless legs syndrome (RLS), affects one in ten adult Americans. The condition affects both men and women and can develop at any age, although symptoms tend to be more severe and frequent with age. People with RLS experience overwhelming and sometimes unpleasant urges to move their legs while resting.

Symptoms can also manifest themselves in the arms, face, torso and genitals, but these are not as common. Restless feelings occur during inactivity and can be temporarily alleviated by pressure or movement. Inconvenient for all, the symptoms are most severe during the evening and nighttime hours, which disrupts a person’s quality of sleep and can hinder normal functioning during the day.

To combat these symptoms, here are effective strategies to help you get a refreshing night’s sleep despite RLS:

1. Diet Changes

Experts agree that caffeine and alcohol consumption can exacerbate RLS symptoms. Limit your caffeine and alcohol as much as you can. If you still need your coffee to function, drink it earlier in the day. Some patients with RLS have also reported feeling symptoms worsen when they eat a lot of refined carbohydrates. It may be good to eat one less doughnut or baguette sandwich.

2. Take Iron Supplements

Many with RLS also have anemia or very low amounts of iron. Those with low levels of ferritin, the body’s main storage of iron, can have severe RLS. Talk to your doctor and see if taking iron supplements is right for you. You can also find natural iron in foods like beef, beans, poultry, seafood, and dark green leafy vegetables like spinach.

3. Take Medication

There are a few drugs that have been approved to treat RLS: Horizant, Mirapex, and Requip. These medications are also used to treat Parkinson’s and epilepsy. Other types of drugs that can diminish RLS symptoms include dopaminergic agonists, dopaminergic agents, benzodiazepines, and opiates. These medications need a prescription, so talk to your doctor about the possibility of taking them. Many of these medications can cause adverse side effects like daytime drowsiness.

4. Get a Physical Exam

RLS can be caused by other medical conditions such as varicose veins, kidney failure, anemia, pregnancy or peripheral neuropathy. It can also be a side effect from a medication you’re taking for conditions like high blood pressure, allergies, depression, colds, and heart conditions. Because of the potential for an underlying and separate cause, it’s best to get a physical exam to see if you have another condition that is causing your RLS. This way the instigating condition can be treated.

5. Exercise Regularly

Getting your daily or even bi-weekly dose of exercise may quickly diminish symptoms. Cardio activities like running, swimming, walking, or biking are great for moving your legs. Studies have shown that people who exercise regularly feel a significant decrease in symptoms.

6. Keep Moving

The Mayo Clinic advises not to suppress the urge to move, as that can make the symptoms worse. During the evening hours, give your body what it wants. Save some tasks requiring movement for the hours before bedtime, such as dishes, laundry and even exercising.

7. Relax

As contrary as it sounds to the other advice, you also need to give your legs time to relax. This can be done through massage, acupressure, a hot bath, meditation, yoga, or alternating hot and cold packs on your legs.

To learn more about getting better sleep:

5 Sleep Mistakes You Are Making
5 Bedtime Snacks That Can Help You Sleep Better
Sustain Your Energy, Stave Off Fatigue

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