Can’t sleep because of restless legs? Let’s figure this out.
The crawling, tingling, and sometimes itchy sensation in your limbs that make you move your legs impulsively even if it means disrupting your sleep is often associated with Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS). RLS is a neurological disease that affects children, and about 5-15% of adults with women being more likely to develop severe symptoms than men.
It has also been categorized as a major sleep-movement disorder, as most RLS patients struggle to sleep comfortably. However, it’s not a death sentence as RLS sufferers can minimize the plaguing symptoms, sleep comfortably, and live a normal life by using some home remedies and making simple lifestyle changes.
How To Sleep Comfortably With Restless Legs Syndrome
RLS symptoms often occur when patients are resting and especially at night. As a result, it often robs its victims of a good night’s sleep and makes their day less fun.
The sudden and persistent throbbing, burning, tingling, or itching can be disturbing, and sleeping comfortably with these sensations may be difficult. You may find yourself waking up abruptly in the middle of the night to shake off the sensations and stop leg twitching at night. It’s nearly an irresistible urge, and patients often struggle to go back to sleep after such sessions.
If your RLS gets worse at night, here are some recommended remedies to help you reduce RLS symptoms and sleep more comfortably.
1. Take a Hot Bath
Taking a hot bath in the evening before bedtime is recommended for minimizing the discomforting symptoms associated with RLS. A warm shower relaxes your body by releasing muscle tension and enhancing blood flow, thereby making RLS symptoms milder.
You’ll most likely feel sleepy after a hot shower because of the sudden fall in body temperature. The cooling effect does the magic and sets you up for a good night’s slumber with fewer interruptions. A clinical review recommends taking a hot bath 1-2 hours before bedtime if you experience severe RLS symptoms at night.
2. Use Weighted Blanket
Weighted blankets are ideal for people seeking to improve sleep quality despite all odds. They’re filled with discs, beads, or pellets and padded and neatly quilted to prevent the seams from coming loose and revealing its contents. Weighted blankets usually weigh between 5-30 pounds, and sleeping with one feels like receiving a bear hug all night.
The soothing pressure of weighted blankets has been shown to have therapeutic effects on RLS patients. The pressure stimulates sleep hormones and makes you forget the throbbing, creeping, crawling, and other sensations. It also calms the anxious nerves and helps keep your legs in place even if you feel the constant need to stretch legs.
3. Stretch Before Bed
Stretching before going to bed is an effective way to naturally improve sleep quality. Stretching your body and muscles helps eliminate cramps, which is a common RLS symptom.
With lots of movement during the day, your muscles may get restless at night and disrupt your sleep. You can train them to be still and get the opposite effect by simply stretching before bedtime.
Stretching also makes you pay more attention to your body and takes your mind off so many issues. It’s easier to sleep when you don’t have a lot of heavy thoughts on your mind.
4. Sleep on a Heating Pad
RLS often succumbs to pressure, and sleeping on a heating pad is a great and subtle way to apply pressure on your restless legs. A heating pad soothes your muscles because of the temperature difference. A heating pad is also great for eliminating body aches and leg cramps, which are common RLS symptoms.
While heating pads are great for treating aching legs at night, it’s advisable to take necessary precautions to avoid burning and overheating. It’s best to get a heating pad with an automatic shut off feature to prevent injuries and burns from overheating. It may be difficult to control overheating with any other type of heating pad.
5. Rub or Lightly Massage Your Legs
Massage is a highly recommended complementary and alternative medicine treatment for RLS because of its therapeutic effects on recipients. Massages are incorporated in the treatment options for a wide range of illnesses such as anxiety, fatigue, depression, and repetitive stress injuries.
Rubbing and massaging one’s legs provides significant relief against RLS symptoms. It’s a better alternative than giving in to the urge to move your legs as you don’t have to get out of bed to massage your legs.
Thus, if the symptoms become intense while you’re in bed, you should consider rubbing or lightly massaging your legs to get rid of the pain and other sensations and ease yourself back into a lovely sleep.
6. Avoid Stimulants
Stimulants like nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol may help you sleep comfortably but shorten sleep time and affect sleep quality. Thus, it’s advisable to completely stay away from them if you suffer from RLS. Apart from triggering the symptoms, you may wake up frequently at night if you consume them before bedtime.
If you must consume any of these stimulants, it’s recommended to do so during the day and not close to bedtime. This way, the effects may wear off by the time you sleep, and you will sleep comfortably without throbbing legs at night. However, you should also take them sparingly and not make it a daily routine.
7. Exercise Regularly
You may be tempted to minimize your activities since it gets busy for you at night anyways. Still, you should consider exercising regularly to reduce the leg tingles at night. Daily workout is useful for treating RLS and helps reduce RLS symptoms significantly.
Non-strenuous exercises are preferable for treating RLS as you don’t need to trigger your body and stretch your joints beyond their limits. Swimming, yoga, aerobics, lower body stretches, and cycling are great exercises for controlling RLS, and you should aim to exercise for 30-60 minutes daily. Also, the exercises are best done between 1-3 hours before bedtime to kick in the relaxing mood.
8. Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Healthy sleep habits are effective for treating RLS, and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule can significantly reduce RLS symptoms to help you sleep comfortably at night.
Sleeping late or taking naps during the day can mess up with your sleeping pattern and cause more discomfort for RLS sufferers. It may be challenging to go to bed and wake up at the same time daily, but it quickly becomes a habit if you consistently make efforts to do so. To fast-track things, use a sleep diary to track your sleeping time, know what makes you sleep off easily, and find out what delays sleeping time.
9. Try Medication
If you exhaust all the above options and your RLS symptoms appear to worsen and continue to rob you of a good night’s sleep, it’s probably time to try some medication.
Doctors and neurologists have prescribed several medications for treating RLS. Recommended drugs include Dopaminergic drugs, Gabapentin, Benzodiazepines, iron supplements, and Opioids. They help relax your muscles and alleviate other discomforting sensations associated with RLS.
However, some of these drugs have unpleasant side effects, and people react differently to them. What works for one patient may not work for you. Thus, it’s advisable to stick with your doctor’s recommendation when treating your RLS with medication.
What Triggers Restless Legs Syndrome?
Restless Legs Syndrome is often triggered by a combination of several factors as there is no single cause for the disease. Neurologists posit that genetics and environmental factors mostly trigger RLS symptoms.
RLS in some victims may be an offshoot of other health problems like Parkinson’s disease, kidney failure, rheumatoid arthritis, iron deficiency, or diabetes. Pregnancy is also a well-known trigger for restless legs in women.
Research shows common genetic traits in the family members for hereditary RLS symptoms, and the symptoms usually manifest before they turn 40.
Another known trigger of this disease is abnormal dopamine levels, a neurotransmitter that regulates the transmission of nerve impulses in the body.
The exact cause of RLS, however, remains a mystery.
What Aggravates RLS?
Considering the population of people suffering from RLS, it can be rightly described as a bearable disease. However, symptoms can go from mild to irritating as a result of certain aggravating factors.
Stimulants, sleeping pills, allergy drugs, over-the-counter cold medications, and antinausea medications can take your RLS symptoms from mild to uncomfortable within a short period. As a result, it’s advisable to take these drugs and substances sparingly if you suffer from RLS or altogether avoid them if you can.
People with iron deficiency or low ferritin levels often find their symptoms becoming worse as well. Thus, a decrease in some essential nutrients can worsen RLS symptoms resulting in pulling sensation in legs at night.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does melatonin make RLS worse?
A dose of melatonin has been rumored to provide relief from RLS symptoms, but how true is this? Sadly, melatonin has an adverse effect on RLS patients. It hinders dopamine secretion in the body and may significantly worsen RLS symptoms.
A 2011 study recorded increased leg sensations and discomfort in RLS patients that took melatonin. Thus, this sleep-inducing drug may not be soothing for everyone and especially RLS patients.
How do I stop restless legs at night?
If you experience tingling in legs at night, there are a few quick ways you can fix things and get more sleep. You can get up and walk for some time, change your room or sleeping position, and massage or gently rub your legs.
Ultimately, ensuring that your room is cozy enough can help avoid such nighttime RLS attacks. Cold or warm packs should also be by your bed stand or within reach, as you can use either to reduce the sensations.
Do bananas help with restless legs syndrome?
Bananas are often recommended as a sleep-inducing meal, but does it help with restless legs syndrome?
Yes. Bananas are rich in potassium, which is a great nutrient that relaxes the muscles and nerves. Also, ripe bananas contain magnesium, which is equally a tremendous sleep-inducing nutrient.
Both combined, potassium and magnesium can provide some relief for restless legs syndrome. Therefore, it’s safe to feast on bananas for a comfortable night rest.
Does CBD oil help with restless legs syndrome?
CBD oil is a common alternative treatment option for people seeking instant relief from body pains and tensed muscles. It’s equally used in treating neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.
Also, CBD is an effective remedy for RLS because of its nerve soothing and pain-relieving benefits. It can be ingested orally or applied topically on the legs to kickstart the treatment.
What foods help restless legs syndrome?
Nutrition plays a vital role in managing diseases and health conditions. For RLS patients, what you consume may aggravate your RLS symptoms.
Foods rich in magnesium, potassium, iron, and folate are great for managing RLS symptoms. Specific examples include meat, iron-filled cereals, liver, dark green leafy vegetables, brown rice, black beans, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, avocado, cashews, bananas, almonds, and the good old peanuts.