Staying active during the day is a great way to keep your body and mind healthy! But if you have an uncontrollable urge to move your legs before bed or while you are trying to sleep, it could mean something more. It could mean that you’re one of the millions of people who have restless leg syndrome, or RLS. This disorder can make falling asleep or staying asleep nearly impossible, and that lack of sleep can catch up to you in many ways. Before learning how you can treat RLS, it’s important to know how it works and the effects it has on your sleep cycle.
What is Restless Leg Syndrome?
RLS is a neurological disorder that causes uncomfortable sensations in your legs. These can range from a mild itch to an intense creepy-crawling sensation, that may temporarily improve with movement. Once you experience these feelings, your body’s natural response is to move your legs to get it to stop. People with RLS usually find relief from stretching or stretching their legs, as well as walking. However, when your body is inactive, those feelings get more intense. All this leads to a tricky situation where you have difficulty falling or staying asleep because you need to move your legs so often.
Do I Have Restless Leg Syndrome?
RLS shares symptoms with many other neurological disorders, so the right diagnosis is key. A visit to a qualified doctor is your best bet at getting diagnosed properly. But there are many common symptoms and sensations that people with RLS experience. Most people with RLS describe their legs as feeling itchy, uncomfortable, and restless. They also describe a compulsion to stretch their legs or move around their bedroom. In some cases, they’ve even felt like their legs wanted to move around on their own!
Restless Leg Syndrome & Sleep
A disorder like RLS that makes you want to move your legs at night is going to make falling and staying asleep difficult. More than 3 out of 4 people with RLS experience at least one symptom that affects their sleep. Usually, it’s insomnia due to constant movement or waking up repeatedly at night. Due to these sleep disturbances, you can feel sluggish and sleepy during the day. This can then throw off your circadian rhythms, making it even more difficult to get a good night’s sleep.
If you have RLS, there’s a good chance you also have periodic limb movement disorder, or PLMD. This condition diagnosed in a sleep study, it is observed that your muscles to frequently flex or twitch while you’re asleep. While these conditions are similar, diagnosis differs. RLS is a clinical diagnosis, PLMD is diagnosed during a sleep study. Not all people who have RLS have PLMD on a sleep study. A sleep study is not needed to diagnose RLS.
What can I do to improve my restless legs?
RLS can be annoying to deal with, but there are things you can do to get back on the path to a great night’s sleep. If you have a mild or moderate case, we recommend the following healthy habits:
- Exercise Regularly – RLS symptoms are stronger when you’re not active. By getting into a regular exercise routine, you can help reduce the severity of your symptoms. In addition, a healthy body means better sleep at night, so get out there and get moving!
- Say “No” to Caffeine – Caffeine is a stimulant and can make those unpleasant sensations even stronger and harder to ignore. By avoiding caffeine, you can keep your symptoms in check. Plus, avoiding caffeine before bedtime is always advised!
- Only Use Your Bed for Sleep – When you watch TV, game, or use your phone in bed, it stops being a place for sleep. Avoid blurring those lines and only get into bed when you plan on sleeping.
- Talk with Your Doctor – If your RLS is more severe and you can’t fall asleep no matter what, it may be time to talk to a doctor. They can prescribe medication to reduce your symptoms or help you get to sleep.
So now you know that you don’t have to let your legs control your sleep cycle! RLS can be a hassle to live with, but you have plenty of options to manage it. By following these tips and practicing good sleep habits, you can go back to sleeping soundly again.