Tips to Ease Restless Leg Syndrome For a Good Night’s Sleep
If you toss and turn at night because of aching, creeping, prickling or crawling sensations in your legs when you lie down, you could have restless leg syndrome. According to WebMD, between five and 15 percent of adults suffer from this condition. Although it doesn’t always signal a deeper health problem, it can cause you to lose out on much-needed sleep, leading to exhaustion and daytime sleepiness. In turn, this can lead to problems with mood, concentration, job performance and even depression.
Restless legs syndrome is also referred to as Willis-Ekbom Disease, causing unpleasant or uncomfortable sensations in the legs coupled with an irresistible urge to move them, points out the National Institutes of Health. Symptoms typically show up in the late afternoon or evening hours, culminating at night while resting, sitting or lying in bed. Symptoms can make it hard to fall asleep initially and fall back asleep later in the night. RLS is essentially classified as a sleep disorder, movement disorder, and neurological sensory disorder in one.
The National Sleep Foundation says RLS is a serious but treatable condition that can be made better through lifestyle changes, iron supplements, hot baths and more. Always talk to your health care provider or home care provider before trying any treatment.
First, take stock of your situation and determine what you could be doing to unknowingly aggravate your symptoms. Do you have an iron or vitamin deficiency? Augment a healthy diet with iron, vitamin B12 or folate, after checking with your doctor. What medications are you currently taking? Drugs that treat high blood pressure, nausea, colds, depression and even allergies can aggravate RLS. If you are taking herbal supplements, those could be a contributing factor as well. Is your diet healthy and balanced? Check with your doctor or nutritionist to go over your current diet and determine how you can best change it to alleviate RLS symptoms. If your loved one is receiving home care, we have dietitians on staff who can evaluate diet and teach meal planning.
Stretching and Movement Tips
Keeping your body physically active is a great way to lessen RLS symptoms. When you are immobile for too long (such as when lying down to sleep), this is when those creepy sensations can start up. Try these stretching and movement tips:
- Go walking for lunch. Take your sandwich and head to the park down the street.
- Jog in place to give your circulation a boost.
- If you sit down a lot for work, get up and walk around for five minutes every hour.
- Right when you get out of bed in the morning and right before you hit the sack at night, take some time to stretch your legs.
- If on a road trip, stop every hour or so for a stretch.
- If flying in a plane, request an aisle seat. When it is safe to do so, walk up and down the aisles a couple times every so often.
Adjusting your lifestyle just a little bit can certainly help with RLS symptoms. Most lifestyle changes involve getting active and nixing the bad habits you’re used to. With a little practice, it will seem like second nature.
- Cut out caffeine and alcohol.
- If you’re on a conference call or just watching TV, massage your legs and stretch them.
- Take a hot bath to relax your muscles.
- Apply ice packs to your legs.
- Don’t eat a big meal right before bed.
- Practice meditation or yoga to reduce symptoms.
- Take daily walks.
There are many suggested treatments out there, from at-home treatments like heating pads, to FDA-approved foot wraps that apply pressure to the foot and deliver a vibration to the back of the legs. You can also engage in exercise, such as aerobic and leg-stretching exercises of moderate intensity. In more extreme cases, anti-seizure medications can be prescribed for moderate to severe RLS. Gabapentin enacarbil is effective as a dopaminergic treatment that has been proven to be effective in relieving RLS symptoms. Speaking of dopaminergic agents, which basically increase the dopamine effect, these are widely used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Studies have shown they can reduce symptoms of RLS when consumed at nighttime.
The cause of RLS is still unknown, but it’s likely that changes in the brain’s signaling pathways contribute to the disease. Some researchers have found a genetic link but nothing has been conclusively proven. You can learn more about the research being done on RLS at the Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation, plus find support groups near you.
Contact Pathways Home, Health and Hospice
Many of our home care patients suffer from restless leg syndrome. Our care givers can give them suggestions on how to feel better. If you’d like to know more tips or learn about our home care services, contact us at 888-755-7855.