Do you suffer from restless leg syndrome (RLS) or Willis-Ekbom disease?
Sometimes when I sit for too long at my desk, I move my right heel up and down almost involuntarily. But, since there is no discomfort, I’m not all that worried. In some people, however, the urge to move their legs happens more frequently and is preceded by aching, itching, or crawling sensations. The discomfort is so severe that they have to move their legs for relief.
An estimated seven to 10% of the U.S. population has RLS. The problem usually starts in young adults in their 20s, and the symptoms tend to increase in severity with age.
What Is Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)?
RLS is classified as a sleep disorder, as the symptoms are more severe at night. This forces people to get up and walk around or move their legs. And, to make matters worse, many RLS sufferers also experience involuntary leg twitching or jerking movements during sleep that typically occur every 15 to 40 seconds.
Thanks to all these voluntary and involuntary movements throughout the night, the sufferer does not sleep well. As a result, they are completely exhausted and suffer daytime sleepiness, unable to focus or complete day-to-day tasks.
Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options
In most cases, RLS has no known cause. But sometimes, the cause can be attributed to family history or an iron deficiency in the brain.
Other causes of RLS include medications like antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, and anti-nausea drugs, as well as alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine consumption.
Sometimes the symptoms can completely disappear for days, even years, but they eventually reappear. And, there is no permanent cure for RLS.
However, there are ways to control the disorder, minimize symptoms, and increase periods of restful sleep. For instance, taking iron supplementation or medications is usually helpful.
There are also some devices that have been cleared by the FDA—a wrap that puts pressure underneath the foot and a vibration pad for the back of the legs.
Tips for Managing Restless Leg Syndrome Naturally
But, before you spend money to get relief, try adopting a few of these simple and effective lifestyle changes:
If these measures don’t give you the relief you need, consult your doctor. He or she will check if your RLS symptoms are linked to any other medical condition and treat it accordingly.
- Avoid or gradually reduce your intake of alcohol or tobacco products
- Maintain a regular sleep pattern
- Exercise and massage the legs before going to sleep
- Use a heating pad or ice pack while sleeping
- Take a warm bath before going to bed
“Restless Legs Syndrome Fact Sheet,” National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, May 2017; https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Restless-Legs-Syndrome-Fact-Sheet, last accessed August 15, 2017.