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Restless legs syndrome (RLS)
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Restless legs syndrome (RLS)

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BRAIN & NERVOUS SYSTEM

Sleep

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a condition in which your legs feel extremely uncomfortable while you're sitting or lying down. The condition usually makes you feel like getting up and moving around. In doing so, the unpleasant feeling goes away.

The disorder affects both sexes, can begin at any age and may worsen as you get older. Restless legs syndrome can disrupt sleep - leading to daytime drowsiness - and make traveling difficult.

A number of simple self-care steps and lifestyle changes may benefit you. Medications also help many people with restless legs syndrome.

Self-care

Making simple lifestyle changes can play an important role in alleviating symptoms of RLS. These steps may help reduce the extra activity in your legs:

  • Take pain relievers. For very mild symptoms, taking an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen when symptoms begin may relieve the twitching and the sensations.

  • Try baths and massages. Soaking in a warm bath and massaging your legs can relax your muscles.

  • Apply warm or cool packs. You may find that the use of heat or cold, or alternating use of the two, lessens the sensations in your limbs.

  • Try relaxation techniques, such as meditation or yoga. Stress can aggravate RLS. Learn to relax, especially before going to bed at night.

  • Establish good sleep hygiene. Fatigue tends to worsen symptoms of RLS, so it's important that you implement a program of good sleep hygiene. Ideally, sleep hygiene involves having a cool, quiet and comfortable sleeping environment, going to bed at the same time every night, arising at the same time every morning, and obtaining a sufficient number of hours of sleep to feel well rested. Some people with RLS find that going to bed later and arising later in the day helps them obtain an adequate amount of sleep.

  • Exercise. Getting moderate, regular exercise may relieve symptoms of RLS, but overdoing it at the gym or working out too late in the evening may intensify symptoms.

  • Avoid caffeine. Sometimes cutting back on caffeine may help restless legs. It's worth trying to avoid caffeine-containing products, including chocolate and caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea and soft drinks, for a few weeks to see if this helps.

  • Cut back on alcohol and tobacco. These substances also may aggravate or trigger symptoms of RLS. Test to see whether avoiding them helps.

  • Stay mentally alert in the evening. Boredom and drowsiness before bedtime may worsen RLS.

 

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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Last Modified : 03/15/08 02:03 AM