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Restless Leg Syndrome is the worst. Full stop. Are you a sufferer of restless leg syndrome? If you are, you know the feel. The repeatedly horrible feeling of always having to change positions when you are trying to sleep and constantly moving and stretching your legs because your brain is fooling you into thinking that it will help.
Some people describe it as an itching, creeping or crawling feeling. I’ve never really found that, but I did have it so bad one night that it almost made me sick to my stomach. Truth!
I’ve been an “on and off” sufferer for almost 22 years, since I was pregnant with my 2nd child, and the feeling of Restless Leg Syndrome is the absolute worst feeling in the world there is without there being pain involved (although I’m told that some sufferers do suffer pain).
Restless leg Syndrome (which is also called Willis-Ekbom Disease – who knew?) is described as uncomfortable sensations in the legs which causes an irresistible urge to move them. It happens when the body is trying to rest and mostly at night which is why sleeping is so difficult. Yay!
RLS is a neurological disorder and is believed to be genetic. Here’s a great article by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke which gives us all the gory details regarding what RLS is and what causes it, blah, blah, blah. Seriously, I can’t even give it any respect because it is so horrible.
So, here’s the big question: what can we do about it? Well, let’s start with what not to do:
- Avoid eating or drinking anything containing caffeine in the evenings – coffee, cola and yes, that even includes chocolate. Caffeine is a stimulant which means instead of relaxing us, it wakes us up, and by us, I mean all of our bodily nerve systems too. It’s great in the morning when we want to be alert, but in the evening it can definitely make RLS symptoms worse.
- Don’t have an erratic sleep schedule. Our bodies are kind of like mini computers and they save information about our sleep habits. You’ve heard of jet lag?? Well, if our body is used to starting the sleep process at a certain time, it will be more apt to start the unwinding and relaxing process earlier too, which will lessen the symptoms of RLS before we need to sleep. Read a book, dim the lights, listen to some relaxing music … that sort of thing.
- Don’t sit still for long periods. Get up and walk around frequently during the day. For some extremely odd reason, RLS symptoms act up when people are resting or trying to sleep. Talk about juxtaposition! Relax … don’t relax … relax … don’t relax. It’s ridiculous, but also true. I guess this is why our body has the urge to move our legs when RLS symptoms hit.
- Try to avoid stress. I know, I know, easier said than done, but stress can make RLS symptoms worse. Stress causes all kinds of things like headaches, muscle pain, chest pain, fatigue, anxiety, irritability, the list goes on, and if we are stressed it stands to reason that our bodies will become agitated and have a hard time relaxing, so keeping stressors at bay can help with reducing the symptoms of RLS.
- Don’t exercise before bed. Exercise is one of the best remedies for anything, and it helps with RLS too, if it is done regularly and during the day. But, it raises our heart rate, so if it is done after dinner or later in the evening, it will again produce the agitating effects to our body that trigger our restless legs.
- Avoid over-the-counter anti-nausea medications and antihistamines. For some reason, these medications trigger RLS symptoms.
If RLS does strike, however, what can we do to relieve the symptoms? Here’s five remedies that I have tried that do provide some relief.
- Hot Bath in Epsom Salts – this is the most basic method to get relief, and it acts pretty quick too. The heat relaxes our body, our muscles and our nerves, so it helps relieve the symptoms. The best time for a hot bath is before sleep, so that the symptoms will go away long enough to fall asleep before the symptoms act up again.
- Apply Heat and Cold Compresses – applying hot and cold compresses intermittently will relieve or at the very least lessen the symptoms. Apply hot and cold separately for about 20 minutes each. For both hot and cold, I use one of these. I find these really handy because they can be heated up in the microwave or chilled in the freezer to prepare for use. Obviously, if you only have one of these, you can’t use it back to back cold and hot, so I sometimes will swap in a bag of frozen vegetables for the cold cycle.If you don’t have one of these, here’s a quick and simple DIY. Fill a sock with grains of rice, tie off the open end, and put it into the microwave for 1 or 2 minutes to heat it up (be careful you don’t burn yourself though; some microwaves heat hotter than others).
- Compression Stockings – these are very tight stockings that are typically used to prevent blood clots and improve circulation, but they are also useful in providing relief for RLS. It is believed that they help by increasing circulation and calming the nerves in the legs. They can be purchased at any drug store.
- Lavender Oil – lavender oil is a natural antispasmodic which means that it prevents muscle spasms by relaxing the muscles. It is also an essential oil that promotes calm. Rub a few drops of lavender oil along with a carrier oil (see here for examples of carrier oils from Young Living Essential Oils) on your legs before you go to bed and it will relieve the symptoms of restless leg syndrome. The aroma may just help you sleep too!
- Yoga – yoga seems to be a cure all for everything nowadays, but it really does work for RLS. The stretching component of yoga, as well as the ability for yoga to relax the muscles has been studied in the treatment of Restless Leg Syndrome and has been found to be beneficial. Here’s a great research article from hindawi.com that gives us all the deets.
And, here’s the solution that I consider to be pure magic! But , before I share it, I have to provide one more bit of information. Research shows that people who suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome also suffer from a deficiency in magnesium. So the answer seems simple, right – supplement with magnesium. The problem with that though, is that oral magnesium supplements can cause side effects, and we also have to be careful about how much we take, because too much magnesium can be harmful, so we need a little magnesium lesson before we start!
Oral magnesium supplements can and do help with RLS symptoms, however, here’s some of the side effects that they can cause (and do cause – I myself cannot take it orally).
- stomach upset
Now, if you can take oral magnesium supplements without experiencing side effects, the highest dosage that should be taken daily is 350 mg.
But, here’s my go to remedy for Restless Leg Syndrome. It’s called Ancient Minerals Magnesium Oil. I use this regularly and it provides near instant relief from my symptoms. I have tossed and turned in bed and then sprayed some Ancient Minerals Magnesium Oil on my legs and have instantly felt relief from my symptoms. Seriously.
Ancient Minerals Magnesium Oil is not an essential oil, and it does not have an oily consistency, so it comes in a spray bottle. You can either spray it into your hand and rub it into your legs or spray it directly onto your legs.
It absorbs very quickly, which is probably why it works so quickly. It also helps with leg cramps and aches as well.
Restless leg syndrome is very challenging. I didn’t even know it existed until I experienced it the first time. If you’re a sufferer, I truly hope you are able to take advantage of some of these remedies.