I was in the third trimester of my pregnancy and unable to rest. Aside from the typical, not so-fun issues that I was dealing with during my pregnancy, I also developed a new syndrome that kept me up at night, caused my legs to feel weird and an inability to stay still while trying to rest. I had the uncomfortable sensation of needing to stretch, flex and constantly move my legs every time I tried to go to sleep. The sensation was not only hard to describe to my doctor, but also difficult to explain to my husband why I needed to wander around in the middle of the night to cope with the odd feeling in my legs. Though the sensation was not painful, it was extremely irritating and I was losing precious sleep over it.
When I saw my doctor next, I discussed my symptoms. He told me about Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) — more recently, RLS is also referred to as Willis-Ekbom disease (WED) — and reassured me that it was not uncommon for women that are pregnant to suffer from this syndrome. While it helped me to know that it was a common issue, I still cared about what I could do to alleviate some of my symptoms and get back to sleeping at night.
Being pregnant, I wanted to address things naturally and I immediately ruled out taking medication, which is often the first line of defense against RLS. I needed immediate, natural relief to combat my discomfort and insomnia, so I incorporated the following:
Good Nutrition and Supplements
Aside from eating good, healthy foods and eating mindfully, my doctor recommended taking supplements. I was already taking a prenatal vitamin that included Vitamin B, Magnesium, Folic Acid and Iron, so I added in an extra dose of Calcium based on his recommendation.
Regular Exercise and Other Stress Management
I found walking and yoga during the day to be immensely helpful in reducing the severity and intensity of my symptoms at night.
I didn’t realize for some time that I was not drinking enough water. I avoided it at first because I didn’t want to go to the bathroom multiple times during the night. However, the alternative — staying well-hydrated — was necessary. Water and low-sugar electrolyte drinks were especially beneficial.
Using some of the above strategies did indeed help reduce the intensity and severity of my symptoms, but as it turns out, I am one of the lucky ones because once I finally gave birth to my son, the “restless” feeling in my legs thankfully disappeared! However, according to the Willis-Ekbom Disease Foundation (Formerly the RLS Foundation), up to 7-10 percent of the U.S. population is living with the disease on a regular basis and it can severely disrupt sleep and the quality of life. For those who continue to suffer from RLS or WED on a regular basis, be sure to talk with your doctor. There are resources and support groups available.