Few things feel as good as bumping into bed at night after a long run or a busy day or work. Yet few things feel as irritating as the inability to fall asleep due to the sudden urge to constantly move your legs.
If you know this feeling, you may have restless legs syndrome. The good news is that we talked to experts and researched the most appropriate research to understand how you can alleviate your discomfort and even better prevent it from occurring in the first place.
What is Restless Legs Syndrome?
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, is usually characterized by discomfort in the legs and an uncontrollable urge to move them. It is estimated that about 7 to 10 percent of the US population may have RLS.
Dr. Christine Stahl, a motor disorders specialist and neurologist at NYU Langone Health, describes restless legs syndrome as “a sleep-related movement disorder in which a person will describe discomfort, usually in their legs – usually after a period of inactivity. “.
RLS can cause chaos in your sleep schedule, as sensations usually occur at night (although in some cases, symptoms may occur during the day). It can also be difficult to fall asleep or go back to sleep after waking up, and this lack of sleep can lead to disturbances in your daily routine, such as changing your mood and ability to concentrate, affecting your physical health, or lowering your your immune system.
What causes restless legs syndrome?
While restless legs syndrome can be inherited, according to Stahl, a number of medical conditions – such as iron deficiency, kidney failure, pregnancy and multiple sclerosis – can contribute to symptoms. Sometimes RLS can exist on its own, with no connection to genetics or major health problems.
How can you relieve your RLS symptoms?
Staying active is extremely important when trying to combat the symptoms of restless legs.
“We recommend [people] have regular exercise to help reduce symptoms, ”says Stahl. Since the symptoms of restless legs usually take effect after periods of inactivity, moderate exercise can help shoot those sensations to the curb.
Incorporating aerobic activity and stretching your legs into your daily routine can help maintain important muscle movements. A 2016 study published in Asian Journal of Sports Medicine found that people suffering from RLS noticed a reduction in symptoms after eight weeks of successive stretching.
Like The world of the runner previously reported, regular stretching can help increase elasticity and reduce stiffness in your body. Doing any type of stretching of the quadrangles, calves and lower leg will shift the focus to the lower half and can help relieve tension in the legs. Creating a short stretch that you can do at bedtime can help alleviate the sensations you feel with RLS.
Some lifestyle changes can also help relieve the symptoms of RLS.
“Sleep is very important – sleep deprivation is a big burden,” says Stahl. Getting seven to eight hours each night is essential for your body’s recovery, she says.
Your diet can affect many aspects of your life, including restless legs. In some cases, nutrient deficiencies can make your symptoms worse. Stahl says that a proper balanced diet is important and that some nutrients, such as iron, when levels are low, are linked to RLS.
Adding iron, magnesium and folic acid to your diet can help your muscles contract properly – which can also help increase your running efficiency! – and reduce this annoying pain in the legs. Consider adding the following foods rich in these minerals to your plate to relieve your symptoms:
- Whole grains
- red meat
National health institutes recommend consuming the following amounts of magnesium, iron and folic acid per day:
- 400 mg for men aged 19 to 30/310 mg for women aged 19 to 3o
- 420 mg for men over 31 years of age / 320 mg for women over 31 years of age
- 8 mg for men aged 19 to 50/18 mg for women aged 19 to 50 years
- 8 mg for men over 51 years of age / 8 mg for women over 51 years of age
- 400 mcg DFE (micrograms dietary folate equivalents) for men and women over 19 years of age
Caffeine and other high-sugar beverages can stimulate nerves and excite restless legs – especially closer to bed. “You don’t have to cut it completely, but in moderation,” says Stahl. According to the Mayo Clinic, up to 400 mg of caffeine – the equivalent of four cups of coffee – a day is safe to consume.
Restless legs syndrome is uncomfortable and can be frustrating to deal with on a regular basis. When home treatment and lifestyle changes simply do not reduce it, Stahl recommends making an appointment with your doctor to get a correct diagnosis, especially since RLS may be associated with more serious underlying health conditions.
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