5 Ways You Can Conquer Restless Legs at Night
When throbbing, creeping or pulling sensations in your legs keep you up at night, the only way to get to sleep is to move your legs. Learn what to try at home to treat restless legs syndrome.
You’re lying in bed, hoping to fall asleep. But you can’t nod off because of an overwhelming urge to move your legs. What’s going on?
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You may have restless legs syndrome (RLS). This neurological disorder creates uncomfortable throbbing, pulling or creeping sensations in the legs.
“You feel an urge to move your legs at night and at rest, and can only relieve it by moving your legs,” notes Nancy Foldvary, DO, Director of the Sleep Disorders Center.
About 5 percent to 10 percent of the population has RLS, which affects women more than twice as often as men. Because RLS may come and go, mild cases may be difficult to diagnose.
“In fact, some people don’t seek medical attention for RLS because their symptoms are mild and intermittent. Others don’t recognize that this problem can lead to other sleep and health issues,” she says.
RLS usually occurs at night when you’re relaxing, resting or trying to sleep. The severity of your symptoms — ranging from irritating to painful — can increase throughout the night.
Although sensations can develop in just one leg, both legs are usually affected. “The arms and entire body can be affected in more advanced cases,” says Dr. Foldvary.
Your doctor will look for key features to make a diagnosis of RLS. One is that moving your legs relieves discomfort. Another classic feature is a distinct symptom-free period in the early morning that allows for more refreshing sleep.
Here are five strategies Dr. Foldvary suggests you try on your own to ease restless legs:
It’s good to be aware that periods of inactivity can trigger RLS, including:
Many people also find that RLS symptoms worsen when events or activities cut down on their sleep time.
While the cause of RLS is unknown, researchers have uncovered a link to low levels of iron or dopamine in the brain. Genetics may also be a factor.
Kidney disease and other chronic conditions, pregnancy and certain medications can also cause RLS.
If RLS continues to prevent you from falling asleep or routinely wakes you up at night, talk to your doctor or consult a sleep medicine specialist. A good night’s sleep will help you function at your best.