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Sleep Issue #3: Restless Leg Syndrome

Depending on which expert you choose to believe Restless Leg Syndrome impacts between 2% and 10% of Americans; if you go with 2-3% of the population that’s more than 5 million people who struggle with this (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke/NINDS). That’s a good number of Thriving Individuals who are having a rough time! What makes this a sleep issue is that for a majority of cases the “creepy-crawling” sensation doesn’t start until they attempt to go to sleep or wake them from their sleep. While it’s generally limited to the legs there are cases of other regions of the body being impacted. Women tend to be twice as likely to have RLS as men.

Here’s the best description I’ve found, again from NINDS, “Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder characterized by throbbing, pulling, creeping, or other unpleasant sensations in the legs and an uncontrollable, and sometimes overwhelming, urge to move them.” Often times pressure, such as from rubbing or getting up and walking, will give some temporary relief of the symptoms. RLS has not gained total awareness or acceptance within the medical community and therefore accurate diagnosis can be difficult if a Thriving Individual finds themselves in the office of a medical professional who is perhaps less willing to embrace this as a legitimate disorder (Harvard Health Blog).

Symptoms of RLS include an urge to move the legs when seated or resting, a sensation of “creepy-crawling” or “like soda in my veins”, tiredness in the daytime despite sleeping through the night, and movement of the legs such as getting up to walk giving temporary relief. Interestingly, one important criteria for a diagnosis is “symptoms that are worse at night and are absent or negligible in the morning.” (www.ninds.nih.gov) If this sounds like you or someone you know, a review, with a medical professional will ensure there are no other possible explanations for the condition such as a vitamin deficiency, known side effect of a medication or herbal supplement being used, or other neurological issue. Once diagnosed there are medications and lifestyle changes that can be implemented which have the capacity to give some measure of relief but not a cure.

While not widely understood yet there are some factors or other conditions which could be related to RLS and include “chronic diseases such as kidney failure, diabetes, and peripheral neuropathy.” Pregnant women, especially those in the last trimester, are also candidates for RLS although their symptoms generally disappear within a month after delivery. (www.ninds.nih.gov) An article published in 2012 in Harvard’s journal Circulation states a possibility of heart disease related to RLS, perhaps but not yet fully understood, due to the extra strain on the heart by the night time movement of the legs or affected areas.

As we’ve discussed with other sleep disorders there are number of steps Thriving Individuals can take to help manage the symptoms including our favorite recommendation of regular exercise! Limiting or eliminating caffeine and alcohol help with the symptoms as they can both interfere with the onset and sustainability of sleep. Taking up a “hand activity” such as knitting, needlepoint or getting involved in discussions or playing video games can keep a Thriving Individual’s mind engaged and less focused on the sensations felt in the legs.

In an effort to best Thrive someone with RLS can also be a bit more proactive in order to manage their symptoms while striving to be as engaged and productive as possible. The most useful suggestions include seeking an aisle seat while traveling or in the movies, scheduling activities that require long periods of sitting for times of the day when symptoms are least problematic such as early mornings and taking up a stretching activity such as yoga or Pilates to practice later in the day. Letting people know what’s going on can also be extremely helpful so they can be a part of the support network.

A Thriving Individual is more than capable of managing this uncomfortable condition with the right support and medical support. As always if you’d like some extra support to help Thrive even under tougher conditions I’m here to do just that! I have all the confidence in the world that if RLS is impacting you or someone you know there are effective, non-invasive ways to get you relief ~ I wish you all the best in your efforts!

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