I remember my mother telling me about experiencing Restless Leg, or RLS, but I never had any idea how uncomfortable this condition could be until I turned 40. I noticed strange sensations in my legs when I would lie down to sleep, without any other symptoms or warnings, and the discomfort wreaked havoc on my sleep pattern. My mom always said it was as if there were bugs crawling around under her skin; I would say that is a fairly accurate description. The jumpy, antsy feeling makes sleep impossible, and at times the only relief found is by getting out of bed and moving around.
Restless Leg Syndrome is a condition that typically affects ten percent of the population, though it is more common in women than men. It usually manifests after age forty, and the treatments offered by providers may be effective at giving some temporary relief but not in eliminating the occurrence of RLS. When I mentioned my symptoms to my doctor, I was told that genetics could be to blame for my contracting this condition, and was further informed that I would likely struggle with it for the rest of my life. While the jury is still out on a cure for this dreadful disorder, I have come to find a few things that do impact the severity of the symptoms and that help me maintain a fairly normal sleep regimen when RLS flares up.
My tips for dealing with Restless Legs include:
I found that drinking adequate water during the day eliminates the possibility of leg cramps, which could lead to or be mistaken for RLS symptoms. To be on the safe side, be sure to stay hydrated.
I incorporate a glass of tonic water into my daily diet, too. The quinine found in tonic is typically used to treat this condition in some instances; for example, my mother had a prescription for quinine pills from her doctor.
While some may recommend a warm bath as a prelude to going to bed, I find that the pulsating force of a shower is more effective at “quieting” the symptoms. I invested in an easy-to-install shower head that offers some variable settings including a very forceful jet that provides relief when symptoms force me out of bed in the night.
Constant pressure on the legs seem to help calm and soothe the sensations. I purchased a weighted-blanket from an online retailer, which are often used for children to comfort and provide security during sleep. The pressure of these blankets helps to reduce the sensations for me. Also, I added a strip of Velcro to a towel and use this to tightly wrap each leg when I lay down. This greatly reduces the discomfort and often allows me to go to sleep more easily.
The most relief comes from getting up and moving around. Since this does interfere with getting a good night’s rest, I have adapted my schedule to accommodate these experiences. I go to bed earlier, eliminate caffeine after lunchtime, and exercise early in the mornings to facilitate more restful sleep at night.
This condition warrants medical attention, and those that continue to suffer may want to try medications to treat their RLS. Many doctors offer pain relievers or Benzodiazepines to their patients that chronically struggle with symptoms, which can help many get their sleep cycle back on track.