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Restless legs syndrome triggers:

treating restless leg syndrome

Restless legs syndrome triggers:

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Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a common condition affecting the nerves in the legs. Sufferers report the unpleasant sensations of pulling, creeping or tugging in their legs. It is also characterized by an irresistible impulse to move one’s legs. Typically, the symptoms are more prevalent at night or when your legs are at rest.

We don’t know the exact cause of RLS, and currently there is no cure. However, we do know that certain things will trigger the symptoms. Becoming familiar with the triggers and knowing how to avoid them will help.

Potential RLS triggers:

  • Medication – Some prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications may worsen RLS symptoms. Some of these are beta blockers, antidepressants, anti-nausea drugs, and some kinds of antihistamines. Remember, it is important that you never decide to stop taking a prescription drug on your own. Always consult with your doctor before you stop. If you suspect that your medication is making your symptoms worse, make an appointment to talk to your healthcare provider. He or she might want to try an alternative medication of alter your dosage.
  • Drinking alcohol – Although a depressant alcohol can trigger unconscious muscle movement while sleeping. If you notice that your RLS symptoms worsen after drinking alcohol, try going without it. This is especially important before bedtime.
  • Drinking caffeine – Drinks like cola, tea, coffee and others have high levels of caffeine. Some other common culprits are energy waters and chocolate. Even some flu and cold medications contain caffeine. Make sure to read their labels closely and avoid caffeine particularly in the evening.
  • Sitting still The unpleasant sensations of pulling, creeping or tugging in your legs may get worse when you are forced to sit still for extended periods of time. Sitting still during air travel and car rides are common triggers. Standing up and moving around from time to time will help alleviate these feelings. Being confined in a cast or brace can also be a difficult time for RLS sufferers. Sitting in a seat for long periods of time, for example at work, a movie or play, are common triggers. If you can, try and take breaks. Standing and moving around for a few minutes will help.
  • Inadequate amount of sleep Some report that their RLS will get worse when they go to bed later than usual (it can also happen if you get up early). Do your best to observe a consistent bedtime routine and make sure that you are getting enough sleep.
  • Your clothing – Some people with RLS are sensitive to specific fabrics or to tight clothing. If this is the case with you, attempt using different clothes, especially for sleeping. This may improve your symptoms.
  • Nicotine There are few things that can improve your overall health more that quitting smoking. Nicotine can also trigger RLS symptoms. Talk to your doctor about ideas on how to make kicking the habit easier.
  • Changes in your temperature – How RLS reacts to different temperatures, is a very personal phenomenon. While it is well documented that hot and humid weather may trigger RLS symptom in some; others find that the same is true in the cold. Try to stay away from extremely hot or cold temperatures. Many find short-term alleviation in the form of a cold shower, a hot bath or in cold packs and heating pads. Experiment with these techniques before bed.
  • Sugar – It may seem impossible to avoid refined sugars as they are found in an increasing percentage of sweetened drinks and processed foods. Many RLS sufferers report that they have fewer symptoms that when they reduce their sugar intake. Check the ingredients on the foods and drinks that you consume. Take note that many manufacturers attempt to hide refined sugars in their products by calling them by other names. Be on the lookout for anything that includes the words corn syrup (corn syrup solids, high fructose corn syrup, etc.) and fructose and sucrose.
  • Moderate exercise – A regular and moderate exercise routine can reduce your RLS symptoms. Working out for too long or too hard may worsen your symptoms, even if it is done earlier in the day. Some suggested activities are yoga, gentle stretching exercises or a short relaxing stroll. 
  • High stress levels – As your stress levels increase, so too will your RLS symptoms grow in intensity. Talk to your doctor about finding easy ways to reduce stress, tension and anxiety. He or she may recommend yoga, tai chi, meditation, and/or deep breathing. These techniques should also help with sleeping.

Restless legs syndrome, or RLS, is a condition that affects the nervous system. While the exact causes are here to yet unknown, it disrupts the movement of the legs while at rest. Since it most commonly expresses itself during sleep, it is often classified as a sleep disorder as well.

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