Resolve to Avoid Restless Legs in the New Year
The most common New Year's resolutions typically involve weight loss or quitting smoking. And if you want to do either, go for it! Good health habits make it easier to enjoy life more fully.
For those with restless legs syndrome (RLS), achieving better sleep at night may be life-altering. After all, avoiding, preventing, or minimizing RLS means you’re more likely to get deeper, better sleep.
Well-rested people are poised to optimize their days because they’re recharged and rejuvenated. Folks with RLS don’t typically enjoy these benefits because RLS prevents them from falling asleep. It can also disrupt sleep midway through the night, should they reawaken only for their legs to start acting up again.
Let's resolve to get better sleep
If you need relief for RLS, why not resolve to get better sleep this year?
Let’s face it: we all need better sleep! Removing RLS as a main cause for poor sleep can lead to improved mental health and physical well-being. Who doesn’t need that in 2021?
Even if you can’t entirely eliminate your RLS, a resolution might still help you reduce its grip over you at bedtime and gain a little more sleep than before, which is still an improvement.
5 ways to RLS relief
Relief may mean you eliminate the problem entirely, or it could mean reducing the severity of your restless legs. Either is still better than no change at all.
Check out these 5 ways you can focus your efforts on better sleep so that RLS doesn’t get the best of you, night after night. If you’ve found other tips and tricks that help you fight back against RLS, please share in the comments!
1. Improve bedtime habits
Aside from adjusting your diet and exercise, a primary way to improve nighttime sleep is through better sleep hygiene. Try these simple ways to make that hour before bed work for your benefit.
- Listen to relaxing music or podcasts with calm, pleasant content
- Put handheld electronic devices away to prevent bedtime overstimulation and to avoid blue spectrum lighting, which can make it difficult to fall asleep
- Practice meditation or prayer
- Learn other relaxation techniques such as guided visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, or yogic breathing
- Read a book, work on a jigsaw puzzle, pick up an adult coloring book: these nonelectronic activities provide distraction and can be very relaxing
- Download and use a cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-i) app
- Use pillows to bolster your posture for added comfort
- Take a warm bath before bed (Epsom salts provide much needed magnesium)
2. Keep moving
Even the mildest exercise can benefit someone with RLS. In fact, too much exercise, or exercise done too late in the day can actually make your RLS worse, so try to establish a new daily practice earlier in the day that includes one or more of the following:
- Short walks in your town or neighborhood
- Yoga or mild stretching
- Resistance training in the legs
- Outdoor sports you enjoy
- Outdoor games such as ladder ball, cornhole, croquet, badminton, pickleball, and Bocce ball
- Gardening tasks and yardwork
3. Invest in relief
There’s no need to suffer through RLS. Consider investing in these different treatment approaches. Most are inexpensive and don’t require a prescription, and in some cases, insurance will cover the cost.
- See a doctor about your RLS, if you haven’t already
- Supplement with magnesium (topicals, liquid supplements, pills, sprays, oils)
- Try iron supplementation (ask your doctor about this option)
- Consider prescriptions that can bring relief for severe RLS (gabapentin, pregabalin, pramipexole, as examples)
- Apply warm or cold compresses (from simple washcloths to drugstore compresses)
- Use Epsom salts for baths and foot soaks
- Sleep with weighted blankets
- Use massage tools
- Schedule regular massage visits
- Practice aromatherapy like candles, fragranced bath salts, essential oil diffusers or pillow sprays—popular relaxation scents include lavender, rosemary, and chamomile
- Change your diet to include more iron- or magnesium-rich foods
4. Avoid triggers
Triggers for RLS vary widely. For some people, foods are the culprit, such as:
- Dairy products
- Caffeine (in beverages, foods, supplements, and “energy” food products)
Other triggers include:
- Medications (over-the-counter sleep aids, cold and allergy medications, certain antidepressants, as examples) with RLS as a side effect
5. Practice forgiveness
A resolution is nothing more than pursuing intention formally to reclaim good health and well-being. Still, you’re only human. You may occasionally slip up on your resolutions for RLS-free nights. That’s okay.
Even in the most controlled environment, we can still make mistakes or forget to do the things that best serve our health.
There’s an old saying: “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” Remember, one bad night shouldn’t lead to permanent failure. Tomorrow’s a new day to reassess your approach and try again.
Does caffeine make your RLS worse?