Trying to get a good night’s sleep can be difficult as you get older. The last thing you need is your legs feeling like they’re running a marathon while you’re trying to sleep. That description may sound a little humorous but there’s nothing funny about restless leg syndrome. It can ruin your sleep and put you at risk for poor health. Here’s what you can do about it.
What Is Restless Leg Syndrome?
Restless leg syndrome, or RLS, is a condition in which your legs (mainly your calves and feet) can feel prickly, like bug-crawling sensations, or feel itchy, jumpy, have pulling/drawing sensations, and/or intense pain. The most common response is that you want to get up and move around – hence, the name “restless legs”. When you do move, your legs generally feel better.
RLS can affect anyone of any age – even children. It does worsen with age, though. RLS usually starts when sitting for long periods, usually later in the evening, and especially when lying in bed. It can make traveling, sitting at your desk at work, at a movie, concert, etc, and sleeping, uncomfortable. It can really hamper the amount of sleep you get each night.
Researchers don’t completely know what causes RLS but it seems to be associated with:
Although RLS itself doesn’t really cause any physical disability – the lack of sleep it can cause can lead to your overall health decline. Lack of sleep can put you at higher risk for:
Treating Restless Leg Syndrome
When you go to your doctor with your RLS symptoms that’s just about all they need to make a diagnosis. Some blood tests may be done to see if you’re anemic or have high fasting blood sugar levels as well. Once diagnosed, though, your doctor may recommend:
However, as prescription drugs only treat the symptoms of RLS, a more natural approach to treating it can be more effective in the long run. As RLS can often be due to nutritional deficiencies, I first recommend my patients with RLS symptoms to try vitamin/mineral supplementation. For example, I often recommend the following:
Restless leg syndrome can be an uncomfortable condition that can leave you sleepless and irritable and less functional during the day. It can also put you at risk for developing more severe conditions or be prone to accidents. If you experience RLS symptoms, see your doctor to determine if you have nutritional deficiencies and what the best course of treatment for you is.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.