If you often have a tingling, tingling or restless feeling in your legs in the evening or at night, you may have Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS). People with restless legs simply cannot keep their legs still because of that feeling.
The condition is often not harmful in itself, but the complaints are very annoying.
What is Restless Legs Syndrome?
Restless Legs Syndrome is a disorder of the nervous system, in which you suffer from tingling, restless legs that you ‘have to’ move. In many cases, restless legs no longer disappear once you have them; especially when there is no obvious cause. There are relatively many people in the America with Restless Legs Syndrome: about one in twenty people would be affected by it. The diagnosis is usually made in middle-aged people, but it is also increasingly common in younger people. Women are more likely to suffer from restless legs than men; there also seems to be a hereditary predisposition.
6 Symptoms of restless legs
If you suffer from restless legs, you usually have the following six symptoms:
- You suffer from tingling, jitters or simply an unpleasant feeling in your legs. People with restless legs often have complaints in the lower legs in particular. This symptom is usually most severe in the evening and at night, but it can also occur at other times while sitting or lying down.
- When you have these complaints, you feel an irrepressible restlessness in your legs. You ‘have to’ move to get rid of the unpleasant feeling, although that does not work in all cases.
- During your sleep, your legs sometimes make jerky movements on their own that look a bit like tics or spasms. You cannot stop these movements and they come back regularly.
- The complaints are often worst just before going to sleep, when someone is trying to relax.
- Many people with restless legs sleep very badly at night. The restlessness in their restless legs makes it difficult for them to fall asleep, and the jerking movements often wake them up. This can make you tired or sleepy during the day.
- A final symptom of restless legs is that the feeling also arises when people sit for a long time. For example, in a bus, cinema or plane, people with this condition also have complaints.
Causes of restless legs
Unfortunately, it is often difficult to determine an exact cause for Restless Legs Syndrome; there is no clear reason for the condition yet. Some people seem to have a partial genetic predisposition to the condition, which makes them more likely to have restless legs. Obesity, smoking, alcohol, coffee and little exercise can possibly make the symptoms worse. In addition, certain medications can cause or worsen the condition, and pregnant women are more likely to suffer from it (the symptoms often disappear after childbirth). Also thyroid problems, impaired renal function and cause restless legs Parkinson’s disease. Restless legs could also be caused or made worse by iron deficiency.
Doctor’s advice related to restless legs
Once you have restless legs, unfortunately the complaints usually keep coming back. But often there are also periods when things get better and you have fewer problems. If you do not have iron deficiency and no other medical or medicinal causes can be found, then the following measures can help to reduce the symptoms or prevent you from getting problems.
- Do not drink coffee or other caffeinated drinks in the evening.
- Quit smoking.
- Make sure you plenty of daytime movement gets, for example by walking, cycling or swimming.
- But: avoid intensive sports just before going to sleep, that can trigger the restless legs.
- Do not drink more than one glass of alcohol per day and preferably not daily; that also has many other health benefits.
- Go to bed around the same time every day and get up at a fixed time. Regularity is good for your sleep rhythm.
- Take warm or cold foot baths to calm your lower legs.
- Some people benefit from magnesium supplements. However, do not take this until you have first checked your blood values by the doctor.