This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a serious, but treatable condition. The key to living with RLS is managing the symptoms. Lifestyle changes, like limiting caffeine and alcohol, taking iron supplements or a hot bath, or initiating an exercise plan, and seeing a heath care professional to discuss treatment options can help. Everyone experiences RLS differently, so it is important to work with your heath care professional to determine the best way for you to control your symptoms. A detailed list of some other lifestyle changes you and your heath care professional may want to consider include:
- Checking to see if there is an underlying iron or vitamin deficiency and then possibly supplementing your diet with iron, vitamin B12 or folate.
- Looking at medications you may be taking which could make RLS symptoms worse. These may include drugs used to treat high blood pressure, heart conditions, nausea, colds, allergies, and depression.
- Looking at any herbal and over-the-counter medicines you may be taking to see if they could be worsening your RLS.
- Identifying habits and activities that worsen RLS symptoms.
- Looking at your diet to assure it is healthy and balanced.
- Eliminating or lessening your alcohol intake.
- Looking at various activities that may help you personally deal with RLS.
- These could include walking, stretching, taking a hot or cold bath, massage, acupressure, or relaxation techniques.
- Also keeping your mind engaged with activities like discussions, needlework or video games when you have to stay seated.
- Implementing a program of good sleep habits.
- Reducing or eliminating caffeine from your diet to aid in general sleep hygiene.
Since RLS symptoms often worsen in the evening or at night, they can have an extremely negative impact on one’s sleep and daily life. Specifically, people with RLS can have difficulty falling or staying asleep, one of the main complaints, and can sometimes wake up three or more times a night. As a result, sleep deprivation can seriously impact your work, relationships and health. The following are 10 tips that may also help you get a better night’s sleep:
- Maintain a regular bed and wake time schedule every day, including weekends.
- Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath or hot tub and then reading a book or listening to soothing music.
- Create a sleep environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool.
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
- Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex.
- Finish eating at least two to three hours before your regular bedtime.
- Exercise regularly, but complete your workout at least a few hours before bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine (e.g., coffee, tea, soft or energy drinks) close to bedtime, as it can keep you awake.
- Avoid nicotine (e.g., cigarettes, tobacco products) too close to bedtime.
- Avoid alcohol close to bedtime.
For people who are unable to find symptom relief through lifestyle changes, medical treatments are available. Find a sleep professional in your area.