Restless Leg Syndrome Keeping You Awake?
TEMPUR® sleep specialist guide to easing RLS to ensure a good night’s sleep.
Ahead of Restless Legs Syndrome Awareness Day (23 September), Thomas Høegh Reisenhus, TEMPUR® sleep specialist and sleep counsellor, shares his guide on how to ensure this unpleasant condition doesn’t cause sleepless nights.
“Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a common condition of the nervous system that causes an overwhelming urge to move your legs,” says Thomas.
“It can cause an unpleasant crawling or creeping sensation in the feet, calves and thighs, as well as involuntary jerking of the legs and arms, known as periodic limb movements. And due to symptoms often being worse in the evening or at night, it can severely hinder our ability to enjoy a good night’s sleep.
“In the majority of cases, the exact cause is unknown. Some neurologists believe the symptoms may have something to do with how the body processes dopamine, a chemical involved in controlling muscle movement. It is also known to be linked to underlying health conditions, such as iron deficiency. Interestingly, there’s a common link between pregnancy and restless legs syndrome, though it’s not clear as to why exactly this is.
“One of the most effective ways to manage RLS symptoms is with a few small lifestyle changes, including addressing your bedtime routine.”
Read on for Thomas’ guide to managing symptoms of restless legs syndrome…
Create a morning routine
A morning routine doesn’t have to be a tick-box exercise that includes meditation, yoga, and gratitude journaling. Whilst these activities are all great ways to gently ease yourself into a new day, if you suffer from RLS it’s worth considering some gentle aerobic exercise or lower-body resistance training, as these have been found to significantly reduce symptoms in most people.
So, whether it’s a few stretches whilst you wait for the kettle to boil, a dog walk through the park, or perhaps meeting a friend for a morning gym session, make sure you get your day off to the best possible start with some exercise and then incorporate as much movement into your daily routine as possible. Just remember to avoid exercise too close to bedtime.
Address any unhealthy habits
Avoid stimulants like caffeine, cola, chocolate, tobacco and alcohol in the evening. These are all RLS triggers as they inevitably give you energy that will only serve to counteract any attempts at winding down.
Whilst alcohol is believed to make you drowsy, it is widely known to negatively impact the quality of sleep once you do doze off so must be avoided to avoid fatigue, which will only perpetuate RLS symptoms.
The key to minimising RLS episodes at night is to be as relaxed as possible and prepare both mind and body for sleep.
A regular evening wind-down routine will signal to your brain that it’s time for bed. Your night-time routine could kick off with meditation, a milky drink, or half an hour of reading.
Stress can trigger RLS symptoms so if you’re feeling tense, deep breathing or relaxing music can help to calm you before bed.
A hot bath, leg massage, gentle stretching or exercise such as yoga, pilates or tai chi before bed or when symptoms occur can be particularly helpful to ease or ward off RLS symptoms at bedtime.
Aim to start your wind-down routine at the same time every evening and at least 60 minutes before bed.
Don’t forget about your sleep environment…
Your bedroom should mimic a cave – cool, dark and quiet – in order to create the best environment for sleep. It’s worth investing in black out blinds, an eye mask and ear plugs to prevent any night-time disturbances and make sure the room temperature is neither too cold nor too warm. Around 18 degrees is the optimum temperature for sleep.
We spend up to a third of our lives asleep, so investing in a quality mattress and pillows can really make all the difference to how well you sleep at night. The right mattress will gently support your entire body while keeping your spine in a neutral position, whilst a supportive pillow can also ensure correct spine alignment. This will not only help improve your quality of sleep – the more comfortable and supported you are, the less you will toss and turn – but will also help muscles recover overnight and alleviate any aches and pains.
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