Restless leg syndrome is defined as an uncontrollable urge to move the legs. It is considered to be a sleep disorder as it usually occurs during the night and interferes with one’s sleep. It is a disorder of part of the nervous system that can easily be misdiagnosed as stress, nervousness, muscle cramps or insomnia.
The severity of RLS ranges from mild to intolerable, although the severity can vary from day to day.
The sensation usually starts in your legs after being at rest for an extended period of time, which is why it occurs more often in the evenings or during the night.
- Sensations include:
- Creeping or crawling feeling
- Itching or aching
- The urge to move your legs to lessen the sensations, resulting in stretching, pacing or shaking of your legs.
There is no definite cause for RLS, however research has shown that it may be due to an imbalance of dopamine (responsible for signalling the muscles and causes muscles to move).
Other factors that may lead to the development of RLS include:
- Chronic conditions
- Certain medication
The use of certain substances or medications may also aggravate the symptoms of RLS. Limiting the use of certain substances may lessen the sensations. These substances include:
- Medications such as antihistamines and antidepressants
There is no real treatment for RLS. Changing certain habits and the addition of certain supplements lacking in the diet can help alleviate the symptoms or lessen the severity of the sensations.
There is nothing more important than following a healthy lifestyle. Factors that need to be taken into consideration, if you feel that you could be healthier include the following:
Vitamin and iron deficiency:
The addition of a multivitamin is the easiest way to ensure that your body gets everything it needs on a daily basis, especially if you are unable to change your diet to include more vegetables and fruit (for example, if you have a very busy schedule). You can also include an iron supplement (provided your healthcare provider doesn’t advise otherwise) or up your vitamin C intake to improve iron absorption.
Magnesium helps the muscles relax and may reduce cramping during the night. It may also result in a better night’s sleep as it helps improve blood flow while your body is at rest for extended periods.
Following an exercise routine will improve blood flow and also help you sleep better at night. You don’t have to join a gym to get sufficient exercise; you can go for a brisk walk every day and take the stairs, rather that the elevator, to get those muscles working.
Stretching regularly throughout the day will also improve blood flow to your muscles and will help prevent the symptoms of RLS. Remember to take regular breaks at work, especially if your job entails sitting for long periods of time.
Healthy sleep habits:
Getting enough sleep is very important as your body needs sufficient rest to recharge after each day. One needs between 7 and 8 hours sleep every night. If you have difficulty falling asleep, avoid watching TV or playing on your phone/ smart device in bed. Rather read a book before going to sleep, to limit exposure to bright light and help your brain switch off.