Healthy Living

What Is Restless Leg Syndrome?

Restless Legs Syndrome

What Is Restless Legs Syndrome?

Key Takeaways

  • Quitting smoking 
  • Adopting good sleeping habits
  • Regular exercising 
  • Avoiding certain medications
  • Staying away from stimulants

Restless legs syndrome is a condition that causes an overwhelming sensation that urges you to move your legs. Symptoms are more prevalent during rest and become worse at night. For mild symptoms, treatment isn’t necessary since the illness will naturally pass by within a few days or weeks. However, medication can significantly improve the condition if the symptoms are severe and distressing.

Usually, the main symptom of this disorder is frequent leg movement. The movement becomes more severe when you’re resting, especially when sitting or lying on the bed. They even become worse when you go to confined places like in cinemas. Moreover, it can also affect all of your legs or arms.

RLS also becomes worse at night. Most people say it manifests in the evening, particularly when they're trying to catch some sleep. RLS-related symptoms can make it impossible for you to fall asleep. This could in turn trigger extreme tiredness the following day. However, it can easily be alleviated by massage, stretching exercises, walking or just by frequently moving. Nevertheless, the symptoms or signs tend to come back shortly after resting.

Studies show that 9 in every 10 people with restless legs syndrome also experience sudden jerks or involuntary movements on their legs while sleeping. This condition is known as Periodic Limb Movements during Sleep (PLMS). Involuntary jerks might also occur while you’re awake but at rest. The harshness of your condition differs from mild restlessness to a devastating problem that regularly disturbs your sleep. If you are experiencing mild or severe symptoms, it might be due to a lack of sleep or insomnia, depression, or anxiety.

Dopamine-related Receptors

Dopamine refers to a chemical substance that’s produced by certain brain cells. Dopamine receptors are focused on increasing the level of dopamine in the blood cells. The dopamine-related receptors include:

  • Rotigotine
  • Levodopa
  • Ropinirole
  • Pramipexole

These drugs are highly effective in treating the restless legs syndrome. However, they cause several side effects including dizziness, fatigue, and nausea. If you experience such side effects while taking dopamine receptors, you may need additional medications to improve their severity while speeding up your recovery. Impulse-control disorder (ICD) is a less common side effect of dopamine.

Your doctor may recommend levodopa if your symptoms occur infrequently. When taken regularly, this drug might end up worsening your symptoms. It’s usually available in tablet or oral form, and should be taken once the symptoms associated with RLS are felt. Be informed that this medication will make you feel sleepy and tired. Therefore, avoid driving or handling machinery after taking levodopa.

Natural Treatments for Restless Legs Syndrome

Several lifestyle changes can be embraced to alleviate the pain and restlessness caused by RLS. The following changes are:

  • Quitting smoking - Smoking aggravates the severity of your RLS. Thus, try to minimize smoking or quit once and for all to relieve RLS.
  • Adopting good sleeping habits - Always sleep and wake up the same time every day, relax before retiring to bed, avoid sleeping during the day, and staying away from caffeinated drinks, especially in the evening.
  • Regular exercising - Developing a daily regular exercise routine is beneficial. However, avoid exercising at night, particularly just before going to bed.
  • Avoiding certain medications - If you find out that the medications you’re taking are triggering or aggravating your symptoms, you should quickly consult your doctor and avoid taking them.
  • Staying away from stimulants - anything that could trigger RLS should be avoided particularly at night.
You can also observe the following measures to soothe the pain caused by RLS:

• Take hot baths before sleeping.
Walking and stretching regularly.
• Gently massaging your legs.
• Get involved in mind-distracting activities such as reading or watching television.
• Apply warm or cold compresses on your leg muscles.