Taming Your Restless Leg Syndrome
About 10% of the population, and many of our patients, have trouble getting a good night’s sleep as a direct result of restless leg syndrome, or RLS. A typical night starts with feeling relaxed and drowsy, interrupted by a tingling in your legs, even a crawling feeling or need to itch them. This drives you to get out of bed to stretch and move. Soon you feel better, go back to bed, and the process starts all over again.
RLS has serious consequences, impacting the quality of your life in major ways. It interrupts the oh-so-necessary deep sleep that lets us function productively the next day.
Researchers have identified a range of causes for the condition:
- Too little iron in the brain
- Too little dopamine in the brain
- Genetic predisposition
- Side effects of chronic diseases like kidney failure, diabetes and peripheral neuropathy
- Specific medications used to treat nausea, psychosis and depression, as well as cold and allergy medication that contain antihistamines
- Pregnancy, usually in the last trimester
- Alcohol and sleep deprivation
We diagnose it by listening to your symptoms and doing a neurological and physical exam. Blood tests are helpful for identifying iron and vitamin deficiency.
You can increase your chances of getting a good night’s sleep with these tried-and-true home remedies.
Hot and cold. Relaxing the muscles in your legs can make a significant improvement in how they feel at night. Decide if you do better with hot or cold by experimenting with ice and heat packs applied to the legs before bedtime. Or try alternating hot and cold. This helps by easing pain in your legs and relieving the achy feeling that often accompanies RLS.
Massage your lower legs before bed to relax them. Many of my patients have found relief by getting a professional massage every week or two. Be sure to tell your massage therapist about the problem so they can concentrate on your leg area.
Soak in a warm, not hot, bath before bedtime. Use Epsom salts or scented salts for added relaxation. Add in a few drops of an essential oil with relaxing properties like lavender or clary sage.
Exercise regularly. As we tell our patients, this will not only improve your fitness, weight and immune system, it also keeps you relaxed and calm. Don’t try to fit it all in just one day a week. Instead, do 20 to 30 minutes five to seven days a week. Add in some gentle stretches for your hamstrings, calf and ankle.
Bed routine. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Following a bedtime routine notifies your mind and body that it is time for sleep. Make your bedroom conducive to sleep by getting rid of electronics that glow in the dark.
Take a multi-vitamin every day, one that contains iron. You also need to make sure you are getting enough magnesium and B vitamins.
Eat right, including a healthy mix of complex carbs, lean protein and fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens.
We Can Help
If these tips don’t do the job, we can move on to medication. If you have pain in your legs that is interfering with sleep, try over-the-counter pain relief like acetaminophen or anti-inflammatories like ibuprophen, naproxen or ketoprofen.
We can also prescribe medication. There is a wide range that can be helpful, but it often takes a few tries to find the one that works for you. Some of the possibilities we have in our arsenal include narcotics, muscle relaxants, sleep aids and medication that is intended for Parkinson’s disease and even epilepsy.
Thinking about Restless Leg treatment in Hollywood, Miami, or West Palm Beach? Soffer Vein has the most advanced vein treatment team in South Florida. Contact us today for a consultation (305) 792-0555.