What is Restless Leg Syndrome?
Definition from the Mayo Clinic
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a condition that causes an uncontrollable urge to move your legs, usually because of an uncomfortable sensation. It typically happens in the evening or nighttime hours when you’re sitting or lying down. Moving eases the unpleasant feeling temporarily.
I am writing this article because it really bothers me at times, especially when I am trying to fall asleep. Also, for anyone else who may suffer from this condition.
RLS is one of several disorders that can cause exhaustion and daytime sleepiness, which can strongly affect mood, concentration, job, and school performance, and personal relationships. Many people with RLS report they are often unable to concentrate, have impaired memory, or fail to accomplish daily tasks. Untreated moderate to severe RLS can lead to about a 20 percent decrease in work productivity and can contribute to depression and anxiety. It also can make traveling difficult.
It is estimated that up to 7-10 percent of the U.S. population may have RLS. RLS occurs in both men and women, although women are more likely to have it than men. It may begin at any age. Many individuals who are severely affected are middle-aged or older, and the symptoms typically become more frequent and last longer with age.
More than 80 percent of people with RLS also experience periodic limb movement of sleep (PLMS). PLMS is characterized by involuntary leg (and sometimes arm) twitching or jerking movements during sleep that typically occur every 15 to 4seconds, sometimes throughout the night. Although many individuals with RLS also develop PLMS, most people with PLMS do not experience RLS.
Fortunately, most cases of RLS can be treated with non-drug therapies and if necessary, medications.
Possible triggers include:
- Medication — Your prescription or non-prescription drugs can make your RLS symptoms worse. These include some antihistamines, anti-nausea drugs, antidepressants, and beta-blockers. Never stop taking a prescription drug without talking to your doctor first. If you notice that your symptoms get worse while on medication, talk to your doctor about switching drugs or dosages.
- Being still — long car trips or flights, sitting in a movie theater, or being stuck in a cast can all set off symptoms. Try to take breaks if you can, so you’re not still for too long.
- Lack of sleep — Sometimes RLS can get worse if you go to sleep later or get up earlier than usual. Stick to a regular bedtime routine and get plenty of sleep.
- Alcohol — If you find that your symptoms are worse when drinking alcohol, try skipping it, especially close to bedtime.
- Caffeine — Limit the amount of coffee, cola, or tea you drink — particularly in the evening. Other hidden culprits: chocolate, energy waters, and even some cold medicines, too. Read the labels closely.
- Smoking — If you find smoking makes your RLS symptoms worse, try to quit. You’ll improve your overall health by kicking the habit.
- Exercise — Regular, moderate exercise may help ease your symptoms. For example, it may help to take a short, easy walk before bedtime or do some gentle stretching. But if you exercise too hard — even early in the day — it may make your symptoms worse.
- Stress — RLS symptoms can be amped up during times of stress. Find ways to reduce anxiety and tension, such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or tai chi.
- Temperature – While hot, humid weather can make RLS worse for some people, others might have issues with the cold. Try to avoid extreme temperatures. Get temporary relief from a hot bath, cold shower, or ice packs and heating pads.
- Refined sugar — These are found in many processed foods and sweetened drinks. Some people who have RLS say that when they cut back on sugar, they have fewer symptoms.
- Clothing — If you’re sensitive to certain fabrics or tight clothing, try different clothes, especially when you sleep, to see if that affects your symptoms.
The First Step in Treating Restless Legs Syndrome
The first line of defense against restless legs syndrome is to avoid substances or foods that may be causing or worsening the problem. Stay away from alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine. This may help relieve your symptoms. In addition, review all medications you are taking with your doctor to determine if any of these drugs could be causing the problem.
Any underlying medical conditions, such as anemia, diabetes, nutritional deficiencies, kidney disease, thyroid disease, varicose veins, or Parkinson’s disease, should be treated. Dietary supplements to correct vitamin or mineral deficiency may be recommended. For some people, these treatments are all that is needed to relieve RLS symptoms.
You may also benefit from physical therapy and self-care treatments, such as stretching, taking hot or cold baths, whirlpool baths, applying hot or cold packs to the affected area, limb massage, or vibratory or electrical stimulation of the feet and toes before bedtime. Exercise and relaxation techniques also may be helpful.
Medications for Restless Legs Syndrome
Daily medication is usually recommended only for people who have symptoms of restless legs syndrome at least three nights a week, or as determined by your doctor. Keep in mind that drugs used to treat primary RLS do not cure the condition, but only relieve symptoms. People whose RLS symptoms occur sporadically may be prescribed medication to take only when they have symptoms.
I have to apologize here. The medications that would be prescribed all have side effects and I would rather try some of the alternatives.
Please always follow your doctor’s orders.
Here are some safe alternatives to restless leg syndrome:
- Each day, take 500 milligrams of magnesium, 800 to 1,000 milligrams of calcium, and 800 to 1,000 milligrams of potassium. A shortage of these minerals can make your legs more twitchy.
- Drink mineral water that’s high in magnesium. The optimal magnesium level is in the range of 100 milligrams per liter of water.
- Bump up your intake of folic acid, a B vitamin (also called folate). Folic acid helps build red blood cells, which in turn helps oxygenate the body. That’s an important benefit since RLS is associated with a decrease in oxygen. Food sources of folic acid include leafy green vegetables, orange juice, and beans. You’ll also find folate in most multivitamins.
- Eat iron-rich foods such as dark green vegetables, liver, wheat germ, kidney beans, and lean beef. Iron is part of the myoglobin molecule, which is a protein that stores oxygen in the muscles until it’s needed. Without iron, myoglobin can’t hold enough oxygen, and muscle problems may develop.
1. Chamomile Tea
This herb can relieve the symptoms of restless leg syndrome as well as reduce stress. If you want to use this remedy, just follow these steps below:
- Prepare a teaspoon of dried chamomile herb as well as a cup of boiling water
- Pour the herb into the water
- Let it steep for about 10 minutes
- Strain the tea
- Drink this tea twice a day
- Continue every day for a better night’s sleep until all the symptoms are gone away
2. Baking Soda
If you want restless leg syndrome to be taken away, you ought to use baking soda this way:
- Take a teaspoon of baking soda
- Then put it into warm water
- Soak your legs in this solution for 10 or 15 minutes
- Do this remedy every day before you go to bed
This process will give you relief from restless leg syndrome. That’s why it is concerned as one of the effective home remedies for restless leg syndrome.
Also, you can use apple cider vinegar for this case. It can help to balance your pH levels in your body along with improving the absorption of nutrients. Here is the way you can follow in order to treat restless legs syndrome
- First, add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar into a glass of lukewarm water
- Then slowly sip it
- Finally, leave it on for about 30 minutes before you go to bed
- Do this procedure every day
Alternatively, it’s a good idea to consume apple cider vinegar tablets. But remember that you should ask the doctor before applying this method
Moreover, you can gently rub a small amount of apple cider vinegar on your legs before you go to bed every night
4. Hot And Cold Foot Soak
When you get restless legs syndrome, hot and cold foot soak is also a wonderful option for you. Why can it be said a wonderful option? Heat can promote the blood circulation meanwhile the cold can reduce inflammation. Plus, when using this foot soak, the cramping is reduced and the pain is eased. This is the detailed instruction for you:
- Now fill a bucket with bearable hot water while filling another with cold water
- Then put your feet in the first bucket with hot water for 3 minutes
- After that, dip your feet in the second bucket for 20 – 6 seconds
- Do this process again two or three times
- Keep doing this procedure twice per day daily for the best result
5. Black Strap Molasses
Talking about some natural and effective home remedies for restless leg syndrome, you should know this herb called blackstrap molasses. It is a rich source of iron which can help to treat restless leg syndrome. In addition, iron can help to transport oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body’s cells. Besides, blackstrap molasses has potassium as well as calcium.
Here is the detailed recipe for you:
- Now prepare a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses as well as a cup of water
- Then stir the ingredients well together
- Drink this solution 30 minutes before you go to bed
- Do this method once a day daily for the best result
Sometimes, you can mix blackstrap molasses with apple cider vinegar and then stir this mixture with water.
6. Epsom Salt Bath
In the list of natural home remedies for restless leg syndrome, Epsom salt ought to be mentioned too. Because of magnesium in Epsom salt, it can soothe the muscles along with calming the nerves. That can help to cure restless leg syndrome. In order to perform this remedy, what you need to do is following this detailed direction here:
- First, pour a cup of Epsom salt into the warm bath
- Then stir it well by using your hand in order to dissolve the salt in the water
- After that, soak your body in 30 minutes
- Finally, get out and pat dry your body
- Do this remedy once per day
- Continue every day until the symptoms of restless leg syndrome are taken away
7. Camphor Oil Or Cream
The antispasmodic and therapeutic properties presented in camphor will alleviate the symptoms of restless leg syndrome as well as relieve inflammation. Here is how you can apply this remedy:
- Take enough amount of camphor oil or cream
- Then gently rub it on your legs before you go to bed
- Leave it on about a few minutes
- Do this process every day and once each day in order to make the tingling sensation in your legs go away
8. Tonic Water
Tonic water, a carbonated soft drink, contains a compound called quinine that is a good choice for relieving your RLS condition. It is able to settle the nervous system along with providing you with relief from many symptoms of RLS. It also can act as a muscle relaxant and improve blood flow to the muscles.
Remember that the large doses of quinine may cause negative side effects, but with only about 20 mg of quinine in eight ounces of tonic water, it is safe for you to use.
Therefore, drink a quarter cup of tonic water before you go to bed each night. Sip it slowly so your body has time in order to absorb the quinine.
9. Coconut Oil
An effective and easy treatment you should know is coconut oil. It can help you have a better sleep at night by improving blood circulation along with relaxing the nerves. This is the recipe you are looking for:
- First, take enough amount of coconut oil
- Next, slightly warm it
- After that, rub the warm oil all over your legs
- Finally, massage your legs in circular motions.
- You need to remember to massage from the ankles to the upward
- Do this procedure every day. You can apply this once or twice a day.
10. Mustard Oil
Just like coconut oil, mustard oil is also a wonderful treatment when you are in this situation. Do you want to know the way you can use this oil? This is the answer for you:
- Now slightly warm enough amount of mustard oil
- Then rub the oil you have warmed all over your legs
- After that, massage your legs in circular motions while moving upward from your ankles
- Do this remedy once or twice a day
- Repeat every day until the symptoms of restless leg syndrome are gone away
11. Chamomile Oil
Chamomile oil has the use of chamomile tea. So chamomile oil can also promote your sleep at night by helping to relax the muscles and nerves. What you need to do now is to follow these steps below:
- Now take enough amount of chamomile oil. You can buy this oil at the store or extract the oil from chamomile flowers
- Rub the oil all over your legs
- Massage your legs for a few minutes before you go to bed
- Do this process once every night until your condition is improved
12. Peppermint Tea
One of the natural, effective, and easy home remedies for restless leg syndrome is peppermint tea. Peppermint contains high menthol content which can numb the restless feeling in your legs. Additionally, it provides relief for aching muscles and helps you sleep well at night. Here is the direction you can follow:
- Take a few peppermint leaves and wash them carefully
- Pour a cup of boiling water over the leaves
- Let it steep
- Drink this tea every day before going to bed
- You should drink 3 or 4 cups per day too. That will make you healthier.
13. Peppermint Oil
Sometimes, when you don’t have time to make peppermint tea, why don’t you try using peppermint oil? Let’s follow this recipe:
- Pour a little peppermint oil on your hand
- Directly apply the oil on your legs
- Now massage them for 5 to 10 minutes
- Carry out this process before going to bed
- Repeat every night until you feel better
14. Lavender Oil
Lavender oil can be used as a relaxant. Moreover, it can help to reduce the symptoms of restless leg syndrome. Furthermore, the aromatic scent of the lavender oil has a calming effect which will help you to sleep better at night. To perform this remedy, please consult this detailed instruction:
- Add a few drops of lavender to the tub of warm water
- The soak body in
- Leave it on for 10 minutes before going to bed
Alternatively, you can take a few drops of lavender oil and then rub it on your feet before going to bed each night.
15. Parsley Tea
When you have restless leg syndrome, you should take parsley tea. This tea will increase the assimilation of iron in your body. Also, it increases absorption. In order to make this tea, please follow these steps below:
- Pour a cup of boiling water over some parsley leaves
- Then allow it to steep
- Next, add a little honey and some lemon juice
- Now sip on this tea during the day
- Follow this method every day until the symptoms of restless leg syndrome are taken away
Pay attention: you should not take foods which have lots of calcium when you use this tea
The strongest risk factor for restless leg syndrome is insufficient iron in the diet. Interestingly, experts have linked a lack of iron in the brain, rather than in the rest of the body, to restless leg syndrome — so regular blood tests may not reveal the iron insufficiency that may exist. It’s unclear how or why the brain does not get enough iron in people with restless leg syndrome.
Did you know that an iron deficiency is the strongest risk factor for RLS?
Taking an iron supplement may help normalize its levels for those who do not have enough, although healthcare experts may need to administer it intravenously for best results.
Low vitamin D may exacerbate restless leg syndrome. One study reported that giving people vitamin D3 helped their legs feel better and less restless.
Vitamin C & E
Experts believe that oxidative stress plays a role in the development of restless leg syndrome. That means that antioxidants, which counteract oxidative stress, may help. Studies have found that vitamin C, either taken alone or with vitamin E, may normalize symptoms.
Periodic leg movements during sleep — with or without having restless leg syndrome — can reduce sleep quality and wake you up. Taking magnesium may help you sleep better by calming your nervous system.
Folate & Folic Acid
Folate, one of the B vitamins (B-9 to be precise), is found in leafy green vegetables, mushrooms, and tomato juice. Folate occurs naturally, while you get its cousin molecule, folic acid, in supplements.
Some studies indicate folate may help your legs feel less jumpy. Folic acid is not used efficiently in the body, and studies indicate that you should either get your B-9 from foods so you get the natural folate form; alternatively, take it with other B vitamins, which enhances its absorption.
Vitamin A & Beta-Carotene
Beta-carotene is a precursor of vitamin A, a red-orange substance that’s abundant in carrots. Both improve iron absorption in the body. Because iron plays such a key role in this condition, getting enough vitamin A in your diet can only help!
As an exercise, yoga can stretch out your restless legs, but can also generally improve your mood as well as your sleep quality. Yoga is also known to lessen stress in women. In one study, nine out of ten participants saw a noticeable change in how tingly their legs were within days of starting yoga. Here are some tips:
Use Heat or Ice When You Have Symptoms
Some people with restless leg syndrome find their symptoms kick up in response to heat or cold. If you negatively react to one, applying the other may reduce symptoms.
- Try applying heat or ice packs to your legs.
- Take a warm or cool bath before bed. Add Epsom salts to the bath; they contain magnesium, which can work its way into your leg muscles.
Points to Remember
While the exact causes of restless leg syndrome aren’t yet known, you can control the condition, reduce your symptoms, and improve your sleep with natural remedies. Take inventory of your lifestyle — making some easy changes can make a world of difference.
Improve your sleep habits, exercise regularly and look for activities that will help you relax and reduce stress. Say hello to nice massages, essential oils, and baths! Keep a diary of your symptoms for your own information and to share it with your healthcare provider.
Eat foods rich in folate, iron, magnesium, beta carotene, and vitamins A, C, D, and E. If you can’t get enough that way, take supplements regularly.
Thank you for reading,
Comments are welcome.