At school, your teachers always said during parent-teacher meetings: “Dave can’t stop moving”. Does that bring anything back?
Now, you work in high finance, a field that never sleeps. You thought your fidgeting was a thing of the past, but in the last few weeks, you’ve had irresistible urges to move your legs at night.
A colleague asks you: “Did you think of Restless legs syndrome?” You wonder, “What the heck is that?”, then one evening you Google “Restless legs syndrome”, and you happen upon our guide. Relax, we’re going to help you!
What is Restless legs syndrome, exactly?
Restless legs syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease and nighttime paresthesia of the lower extremities, is a neurologic sensorimotor disorder.
It is characterized by an overwhelming urge to move the legs when at rest. Other body parts could also be affected, like the arms. Sensations range from unpleasant to painful, including tingling or “pins and needles”. Generally, these symptoms occur while you’re at rest or inactive, and conversely, they disappear when you move the affected limbs.
The symptoms of RLS tends to manifest themselves in the evening or nighttime hours, and may vary from day to day, in severity or frequency. All this to say that this can significantly affect your sleep! So this disorder isn’t to be taken lightly, since it can bring you to exhaustion, or even depression!
Where does this ruthless RLS come from?
Your parents are probably where you first get it from! According to specialists in the field, the number one cause of Willis-Ekbom Disease is genetics. And it most likely is a disturbance of the central nervous system. So, if all your aches and pains come from the stress of our modern world, or have psychiatric origins, RLS isn’t your issue.
However, these factors can make it worse. One of the most prevalent hypotheses of RLS is that it’s related to a lack of iron in the brain. This deficiency might cause a dysfunction of the dopaminergic system, which would in turn be responsible for the manifestations of this disorder. Lastly, RLS mostly starts to affect people in their forties.
How do you treat legs that won’t sleep?
Google says: “It’s incurable! Well, at least you can’t die from it.” And that’s when you think Google is just mocking you: if you get no sleep several nights in a row, brain death has to follow for sure…
But this doesn’t mean that you can’t live with it! The first thing to figure out is if the RLS is caused by a condition such as iron deficiency. Get an appointment with your doctor, who will be able to confirm whether or not you actually have a deficiency! And if that’s the case, a prescription for iron supplements will relieve the symptoms.
If the symptoms are mild, a healthy lifestyle that includes moderate exercise and limited use of alcohol can reduce the symptoms. By if the latter are severe, you’ll have to take medication, starting with dopaminergic agents, the treatment of choice. If those have no effect, your physician can then turn to anti-seizure drugs and, more rarely, to opioids or benzodiazepines.
How to sleep better with Restless legs syndrome?
The first thing to avoid is fatigue!
Here, you’re telling yourself: “That’s it… they’re making fun of me!” Well, no! Fatigue has a tendency to aggravate the symptoms of RLS. At Polysleep, our recommendation is to avoid it through careful sleeping habits, starting with going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
Also avoid any stimulants, like your favorite Red Bull, after 6 p.m. On the same subject, no intensive sports at the ed of the day. Also make sure that your bedroom is a peaceful place (no work in the bedroom).
Quiet, little or no light as well as the right temperature are the key variables. Eat a light diner. And especially, the most important thing is a quality mattress that simultaneously provides comfort and support all year long!
You want to skip the long read? Here are the main points to remember!
What you should know:
- Restless legs syndrome (RLS), also called Willis-Ekbom Disease, is characterised by an overwhelming urge to move the legs or other body parts.
- This disorder is caused by uncomfortable sensations such as pulling or tingling in the limbs, and can go as far a causing pain.
- The people affected can’t help moving because it relieves the symptoms.
- For the affected people, this results in disrupted sleep which, over time, can lead to a decline in concentration and even depression. It’s a serious thing!
- The cause of this disease seems, in some cases, to be due to an iron deficiency which provokes a dysfunction of the dopaminergic system.
- Drug treatments exist if iron supplements are not the solution: dopaminergic agents (the preferred treatment), but also opioids and benzodiazepines. Consult your doctor!
- Meanwhile, keeping excellent sleep habits can help: don’t disturb you internal clock, avoid sports and screens in the evening, eat balanced meals, get enough sleep and don’t disrupt your sleep cycles.
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