It’s bad enough when you can’t get to sleep and you just lie there, staring at the ceiling. But people who suffer from restless legs syndrome don’t just lie there. They are seized by an uncontrollable urge to move their legs. Their legs actually twitch or jerk, while they experience the sensation of something squirming or wiggling under their skin. Consequently, restless legs syndrome can lead to problems associated with sleep deprivation, such as anxiety and depression.
Researchers say this is a condition still shrouded in much mystery. Although there seem to be connections with other conditions — such as heart, lung, and kidney disorders: circulatory problems; and arthritis — the culprit sometimes appears to be as simple as excessive caffeine consumption or too little exercise.
The following home remedies are designed to help you combat this problem. If you find that you still have twitching legs after you’ve tried these tips, however, it’s time to get a medical evaluation.
1. Get up and walk. Walking around may be the only thing that helps. A midnight stroll through the house may calm your legs enough to keep them still when you go back to bed.
2. Check out your caffeine consumption. Coffee, tea, chocolate, sodas, and even over-the-c counter (OTC) medications may contain caffeine. Try cutting your consumption of caffeine-containing foods and medications (or substituting decaffeinated varieties) to see if your condition improves. Avoid tobacco, which contains the stimulant nicotine, and alcohol, which can have its own detrimental effects on sleep, as well.
3. Modify your medication. Some OTC medications, such as certain cold medications and allergy pills, contain mild stimulants that can result in jittery legs. Ask your pharmacist if any medications you are taking contain stimulants and whether there are any non-stimulating alternatives.
4. Take a bath. A warm bath or massage before bed relaxes muscles and therefore may be helpful.
5. Change your temperature. Sometimes, a change from hot to cold, or cold to hot, can do the trick. Try putting a heating pad or hot pack on your legs for a short while. If that doesn’t work, drape a cool towel over your legs, or dip your feet in cool water.
6. Make sure you’re eating well. There are some indications that a deficiency in iron, folate, or magnesium may contribute to restless legs syndrome. By eating a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods, you should get the vitamins and minerals you need. However, your doctor may recommend supplements of these specific nutrients.
7. Make a bedtime habit. Get into a regular routine that will help your mind and body settle down and prepare for bed.
8. Stick to a schedule. Getting to bed at about the same time each night and allowing for a full night’s sleep may help avoid the fatigue that could be a contributing factor to restless legs syndrome.
9. Soothe your stress. Stress may not be the cause of restless legs syndrome, but it can exacerbate it. Try to eliminate some of the stress in your life. Regular exercise and some form of relaxation technique or even an engaging in a hobby may help you “de-stress.”
10. Exercise your legs. Moderate exercise often helps, although excessive exercise can aggravate restless leg symptoms. A daily walk at a moderate pace is an excellent exercise, especially for folks who haven’t been very physically active in a while.
11. Stretch your legs. Try stretching your calves, hamstrings (backs of the knees), and gluteal (butt) muscles before bed.
12. Wear socks to bed. Some experts have found that a lot of people who suffer from restless legs syndrome also seem to have cold feet. Although nobody has studied the connection, it might not hurt to bundle up your tootsies for the night.
……Additional comments from the blog author Nutrition Breakthroughs:
Studies have shown the mineral magnesium to be effective in helping to calm restless leg syndrome and insomnia. This research appeared in the Romanian Journal of Neurology and the Journal Sleep.
Supplements should contain a 2 to 1 ratio of calcium to magnesium (twice as much calcium as magnesium). The original research on this recommended ratio appeared in 1935 in the Journal of Physiological Reviews. In addition, a softgel form containing healthy carrier oils mixed with the minerals is more digestible than tablets or capsules, and provides a deeper, longer-lasting sleep.
One formula that has these qualities and is gaining in popularity with restless leg syndrome sufferers is Sleep Minerals II from Nutrition Breakthroughs. Sleep Minerals II contains highly absorbable forms of the best minerals for relaxation — calcium and magnesium, combined with vitamin d, zinc, and heart-healthy rice bran oil in a softgel.
Kimberly B. of Troy, Michigan says: “I have been taking Sleep Minerals II for about a month now. I have tried everything out there and this supplement is amazing. I have suffered with insomnia for 2 1/2 years. I have also had restless leg syndrome my entire life and this is the first relief I’ve ever had…gone for a month now.”
For more information, visit the Sleep Minerals II page.
Credit: the Editors of Consumer Guide. “12 Home Remedies for Restless Legs Syndrome” 16 January 2007. HowStuffWorks.com. http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/natural-medicine/home-remedies/home-remedies-for-restless-legs-syndrome.htm 23 July 13.