Iowa Sleep Blog

Tips and Tricks for Dealing with Restless Leg Syndrome

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a disorder that targets the lower half of your body, and triggers unpleasant sensations of throbbing, creeping, pulling and the urge to move them around. These symptoms usually occur at night when you are relaxed and trying to fall asleep. The tingly, creeping or pulling sensations keeps almost 10 percent of the U.S. population up at night, making sleeping difficult.

RLS was first identified and described in 1945 by Professor Karl Axel Ekbom and was originally referred to as “Ekbom disease” before being renamed to Restless Leg Syndrome. The most common medical condition associated with 20 percent of all RLS cases is iron deficiency.

While there are no real tests for RLS, here are a few easy remedies to try if you experience the symptoms above:

Move around: Sticking to a regular exercise routine can help. Even walking around the block each evening after dinner can help get you muscles moving and help calm them down for bed. You could also take a hot bath followed by a slow and easy stretching routine before turning in to help soothe and relax your muscles. You can find some easy stretches from the Mayo Clinic here.

Check your diet: A diet that lacks proper vitamins and minerals such as iron, folate or magnesium could be contributing to your RLS. Make sure you are eating a well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, grains and protein and drinking plenty of water. If you take regular medications, check with your pharmacist to see if they contain any stimulants. If they do, ask to learn more about nonstimulating alternatives. Last, make sure you are consuming caffeine in moderation and refraining from that second cup of coffee or soda in the late afternoon.

Be Comfortable: The temperature you keep your home or bedroom at could be effecting your RLS. Experts have found that people suffering from Restless Legs Syndrome also had cold feet. Slip on some cozy socks or adjust your thermostat a few degrees to find a comfortable temperature to fall asleep.

Acupuncture or Massage: Getting a massage or undergoing an acupuncture treatment close to bed time can help ease muscles and the mind to make it easier to fall asleep. An acupuncturist can detect the points where you are feeling pain and target their treatments to that specific area.

Try a TENS unit: A transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulation (TENS) unit is a battery powered hand-held device that delivers a high-voltage but low-current signal at a specific frequency and duration through sticky foam electrode pads that attaches to the skin. The units are regulated by the FDA and require a prescription to purchase one. There are usually no side-effects from the treatments and the user is always in complete control of the machine and the frequency of the currents. Talk to your health care provider if you want to try a TENS unit.

By using a few of these tips and tricks, we hope you can ease your restless legs and receive a restful night’s sleep.