Last Updated on July 10, 2020
After a long and arduous day at work and some quality time spent with your family at night, it’s finally time for you to lay down in bed and recharge batteries for the next day.
You are trying to fall asleep, and suddenly you start feeling a sudden leg pain and a strong urge to move your legs. Does this usually happen to you? If so, you might be dealing with a long-term disorder called restless leg syndrome (RLS).
In this article, we will explain to you in detail what it is, what its causes are, and how to treat restless leg syndrome at home.
• Restless Leg Syndrome
Also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, this chronic neurosensory disorder is characterized by a strong and voluntary urge to move one’s legs due to an uncomfortable and often slightly painful feeling – patients describe it as an aching, tingling, crawling sensation.
On some rare occasions, it can also affect the arms. These symptoms start or worsen when the patient is resting and improve or disappear (temporarily) with activity.
Considering that these sensations often appear late at night when people are resting in bed and trying to fall asleep, RLS can disrupt sleep and cause a series of problems related to poor sleep quality.
Sleepiness during the daytime, low energy, and irritability are some of the most frequent complications. In the long term, they can lead to anxiety and depression.
Diagnosing RLS is not an easy task since there is no specific test for it. If a patient has symptoms of RLS, doctors usually rule out other possible causes first.
According to the International Classification of Sleep Disorders, those main symptoms have to be associated with a sleep disorder to fully support an RLS diagnosis. Globally, it affects about 10% of the population at least once in their lifetime.
• Causes Of Restless Leg Syndrome
There’s still a lot we don’t know about this disease. Its root cause, for example, remains a mystery as different researchers present different theories.
Some believe that it is a result of abnormal use of iron by the brain, others claim that it is associated with other health conditions such as ADHD, diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, end-stage kidney disease, and sleep apnea.
Poor circulation is also a hypothesis, and alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine are also believed to worsen the condition of restless leg syndrome patients (or even cause it). Genetics also plays a critical role since more than 60% of the cases are inherited.
7 Ways To Reduce And Manage Restless Leg Symptoms: 1. Take Vitamin And Iron Supplements
Since iron deficiency is believed to be the leading cause of restless leg syndrome, researchers studied the impact of iron supplements in patients. According to two different studies, iron supplements are extremely useful in reducing and managing RLS symptoms.
Recommended daily iron intake for adults is about 9 mg a day for men and 15 mg a day for women.
Magnesium and vitamins B, C, D, and E, may also help relieve the symptoms in a few specific cases, so make sure you are also getting your recommended daily intake of those.
2. Consider Using A Weighted Blanket
If you have never heard about weighted blankets, you are definitely missing out. These are blankets made with soft materials and filled with discs, poly pellets, or polypropylene plastic beads.
When you put it over you, its weight applies a kind of physical pressure that has a relaxing effect.
Although there is no scientific evidence to prove that the compression provided by weighted blankets can alleviate RLS symptoms, its calming effect may override the feeling of restless legs. Try it. Even if it doesn’t improve your condition, you will love it anyway.
3. A Healthy Diet And Regular Physical Exercise
These two always go hand in hand and are indispensable. A diet full of healthy food will make you feel better and have more energy to face your days.
In turn, exercising regularly will improve your mood and reduce stress levels. People who have regular workout schedules also tend to have fewer sleep problems – and that’s very important for people with restless leg syndrome.
Oh, and don’t forget to stretch! Some studies have shown that stretching exercises can significantly reduce RLS symptoms. Especially in hemodialysis patients.
4. Massage Therapy
This is one of the most common restless leg syndrome treatments. A leg massage can help ease the symptoms, as is shown by a case study published back in 2007.
According to that study, several patients noticed a decrease in the intensity of their RLS symptoms after receiving regular massage treatments.
One of the reasons that may explain these benefits is that massages stimulate the release of dopamine and improve blood circulation.
5. Good Sleep Habits
Since RLS can drastically impair your quality of sleep, it is essential to enjoy as much as possible the amount of rest you can get.
To this purpose, it is crucial to implement a few healthy habits: having a regular sleep schedule, avoid using the smartphone while in bed (blue light may interfere with your circadian rhythm), and sleep in a dark and quiet environment.
6. Try A Foot Bath
A special foot bath right before bed is an excellent natural remedy to reduce RLS symptoms.
Fill a bucket, a foot tub, or your own tub with warm water and add two cups of magnesium sulfate (also known as an Epsom salt). Put your feet inside the water and relax for a bit.
7. Heat Or Cold Pads
Heat and cold pads are other well-known home remedies for restless legs syndrome. They are commonly used to relieve swelling and inflammation, but you can also use them to mislead your brain.
Before going to bed, take a heated pad with you and place it against your skin. Your brain will focus on the heating sensation created by the pad, thus ignoring the aching or itching sensation caused by RLS.