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How Restless Leg Syndrome Can Affect Your Sleep

If you’re someone who simply can’t calm down enough to get a good night’s rest, you might be dealing with a more serious problem. Restless leg syndrome is a disorder that causes millions of people worldwide to unwillingly sacrifice a good night’s sleep. Also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease, Restless Leg Syndrome affects anywhere from 7 to 10 percent of Americans nightly. If you’ve experienced any kind of aching, throbbing or a feeling of simply being unable to lie still, you may be dealing with RLS. If RLS isn’t treated, it can do serious damage to your sleep cycle, leading to a host of other health problems. To learn more about RLS’s effect on sleep, read on. 


RLS Often Leads to Insomnia

For people who are dealing with RLS, getting to sleep isn’t always an easy matter. When you’re dealing with an uncontrollable urge to move your legs, your body is likely to be sending you mixed signals before bed, no matter how tired you are. That’s why it’s a good idea to bring an ice pack or heating pad to bed in order to soothe your muscles and try to lull them into a state of inactivity. It’s also helpful to go on short walks or engage in non-strenuous nighttime activity, such as yoga or a few stretches before bed.


It’s Worse at Night, Which Can Mess Up Circadian Rhythm

Our bodies run on a natural clock. We produce the hormone melatonin at night so that our bodies are able to feel sleepier when it’s dark outside. For someone dealing with RLS, however, it might not be so simple. Though your body might be feeling the natural strain and fatigue of a long day, your legs will still feel the urge to move. That’s why it’s important to get treated as soon as you can in order to prevent losing out on too much REM sleep and falling into sleep debt. Having good sleep habits can be helpful in combatting RLS, since following a strict routine could help to override any mixed signals your agitated muscles could be sending when it’s time for bed.


Treatments and Therapy May Help

If you’re dealing with severe RLS and are feeling exhausted all the time, there’s no reason you should have to go on suffering. Seeing a doctor will help you get a sense of all the treatments that are out there. While there’s no traditional “cure,” doctors are getting to a point in their research where they’re able to address the problem in a more targeted way. Many patients benefit from dopamine medicine treatments. There are also specific RLS medicines that mimic the effect of dopamine on the brain, aping the chemical by sending signals to the brain to control muscle movements.


RLS Can Also Be Prevented

In many cases, RLS is actually a hereditary illness. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be proactive about preventing RLS if you know yourself to be at risk. There are a lot of simple lifestyle changes you can make to help prevent RLS from popping up, such as keeping a healthy, physically active lifestyle, sticking to routine when it comes to bedtime, cutting out possible triggers like caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol, and taking supplements for iron and other possible vitamin deficiencies. Making sure you sleep in a cool, regulated environment free of media and other distractions can also be helpful. If you think you’re at risk for RLS, making your bedroom a sanctuary is a great way to make sure your body responds to rigidly-set sleep routines each night.