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5 Ways I Get Through a Day With RLS

Last updated: January 2022

Like me, you might have a daily routine that you follow in hopes of staving off or at least minimizing some of your restless legs syndrome (RLS) symptoms.

There's nothing revolutionary on my list, and you may or may not have tried some or all of them. Since we're all different in what works for us, we're all likely to hear shouts of, "Oh heck no!" when we share our tricks and tips. But you never know. Something may work for someone else too.

1. Choosing comfort over fashion

My routine starts first thing in the morning with choosing what I wear. I definitely won't make any best-dressed lists. I gave up trying to be a fashionista long ago. Keeping my legs warm is the priority now.

Occasionally I'll throw caution to the wind and wear a skirt or shorts during the day, but by late afternoon you'll find me in long johns, leg warmers, and woolen socks. I'm also not too proud to take a throw blanket to a party or the movies.

2. Stretching and exercise

A good brisk walk is about right for me. Injuries, new and old, can worsen RLS symptoms. I wear a knee brace on my dodgy old knee when walking. If I don't, I'll pay for it later. I've also found that certain stretches help with my symptoms.

Deep heel-drop stretches are my go-to. Because you're standing on a step-stool or the stairs, you're using your body weight for this stretch; I find it packs a punch. It not only gives me some immediate relief, the effects last much longer than any other stretch I do. I do heel-drop stretches before a movie or when I will have to be sitting for a long time and I keep a step stool beside my bed for when my symptoms wake me up during the night. I add in some calf, thigh, and piriformis stretches before bed.

3. Watching what I eat

Reading the ingredients on everything I buy is not something I enjoy doing, but it's amazing how many times I've found one of my food triggers hidden in there somewhere. Even though my RLS is well controlled with medication, and as diligent as I try to be about avoiding my triggers, it's sometimes impossible to know where those bad boys lurk.

Recently, I was being awoken every night by the dreaded creepy crawlies and that relentless urge to move. I'd gotten into the habit of grabbing a handful of the chips my son always has hanging around. I'm embarrassed to say it took 3 months for it to occur to me to check the ingredients. Sure enough, there was my nemesis, MSG, loud and proud on the back of the package. I was pretty disappointed in myself for not clueing in earlier. It's not the first time, and it probably won't be last.

4. Stealing sleep when I can

While good sleep hygiene can work well for a lot of people, it can be difficult when insomnia is as much a problem as RLS. When my children were little, I started living by the motto "Sleep when you can." I still live by it. If the opportunity arises for a nap, I'll take it.

Yes, I'm one of those people you see sleeping on the bus or at the lunch table at work. Getting horizontal during the day is like sending out a bat signal to the creepy crawlies, so I've always found napping while somewhat upright works better. It's not always possible to nap when we'd like to, but if you need to and the opportunity arises, I say take it.

5. Taking hot baths

A hot bath is something I look forward to every evening. Stress can also exacerbate RLS symptoms, and a long soak can not only alleviate some RLS symptoms, but it's a good stress reducer.

I often throw in some lavender-scented Epsom salts. The effects may not be long-lasting, but at least for a brief time, I get some relief. Sometimes I take the opportunity to take a nap then too!

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