What is Restless Legs?
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a disorder of the part of the nervous system that causes an urge to move the legs. Because it usually interferes with sleep, it also is considered a sleep disorder. Needless to say, it is not pleasant!
People with restless legs syndrome have uncomfortable sensations in their legs (and sometimes arms or other parts of the body) and an irresistible urge to move their legs to relieve the sensations. The condition causes an uncomfortable, "itchy," "pins and needles," or "creepy crawly" feeling in the legs. The sensations are usually worse at rest, especially when lying or sitting.
The severity of RLS symptoms ranges from mild to intolerable. Symptoms can come and go and severity can also vary. The symptoms are generally worse in the evening and at night. For some people, symptoms may cause severe nightly sleep disruption that can significantly impair their quality of life.
Causes of Restless Legs Syndrome
In most cases, doctors do not know the cause of restless legs syndrome; however, they suspect that genes play a role. Nearly half of people with RLS also have a family member with the condition. Other factors associated with the development or worsening of restless legs syndrome include:
What Can Help With RLS?
Good sleep routine. Throwing off your sleep pattern can make your RLS symptoms worse. Try going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning. To get deep sleep, it may help to go to bed a little later and get up later. Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and comfortable. Keep the TV and computer out of the bedroom.
Change your temperature. Try a cool shower or a soak in a warm bath before bedtime. Experiment with either a heating pad or an ice pack on your legs. Sometimes just a change in temperature helps.
Massage. Rubbing your muscles, especially your calves, may help ease your pain and symptoms. Try massage right before bed to see if it helps you get a more restful night's sleep. I make an amazing oil massage blend that could really help with this! Also a 10ml essential oil roller that you can take with you, for on the go relief!
Exercise. Regular, mild exercise during the day may help. Take a short walk or try some simple stretching exercises before bed. Be careful you don't exercise too hard, even if it's early in the day. Too much or too vigorous exercise can make your RLS symptoms worse.
Stress relief. Stress can cause your RLS to flare and make symptoms worse. Find ways that help you relax and calm your anxiety. You might want to try deep breathing, yoga, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or tai chi.
Janice Robinson, CCHC