All jokes aside, RLS, or Restless Leg Syndrome is actually more prevalent than you may think. True, many articles and reports I have read about the condition mainly say that it is a new made-up disease. I disagree totally, it is not a disease, nor is it made up. I suffer from it, and have for over a decade, and I'm not sure how it started poking it's head into the light of day, but I am thankful that it did. I was able to put a name to this thing that plagues me at least one night a week, and sometimes as many as four or five.
If you want to skip through all my explanations and ravings, just head to the bottom of this post (after the drumroll) where I'll tell you what simple fix is calming my restless legs these nights.
For those of you lucky enough to not personally know what I'm talking about, or those who don't know what to call that thing that is keeping you up at night, Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is defined as "a disorder of the part of the nervous system that causes an urge to move the legs. Because it usually interferes with sleep, it also is considered a sleep disorder" (from webmd.com). It is not painful, just really, really annoying, and the urge can last anywhere from a couple of minutes to all night long. Take it from someone who has experienced the long ones, it is not a fun way to stay up all night.
So, are there ways to combat RLS, to treat, cure, or keep it in check? The good news is that there are. The bad news is two-fold. This includes side effects and lifestyle changes, along with a growing number of studies showing that RLS may only be a symptom of a larger medical issue. When we're treating only the RLS, we're not looking at the bigger picture. I would guess its akin to drinking Buckley's to quiet the cough and ignoring the emphysema.
Firstly, let's take a look at the first option most people choose: medication.
US: "Doctor, my legs feel weird at night and I can't sleep."
DR: "Here's a prescription. Check back with me in 3 weeks."
Don't even try to pretend that that is not the way most doctor visits sound. So what types of prescription medications are available?
That's what came up when I goggled "RLS medications". What came up when I clicked the actual link was even crazier. A two page document listing no less than TWELVE categories of drugs including opioids, hypnotics, and anti-depressants that can be prescribed for RLS. The side effects, as with many new drugs oddly, seem worse than the actual condition we're medicating and they run the gambit from headaches and dizziness to hallucinations and compulsive behaviors. Scary.
There are also some natural ways to deal with your discomfort, from supplements to exercise to quitting smoking. RLS seems to have something to do with mineral imbalances, so some suggestions are to take some magnesium, calcium, and potassium supplements to calm your leg nerves. Lengthening your legs, pointing your toes, and massaging your calves is also recommended, but that did absolutely nothing in my case, it only seemed to prolong my torture. Also worth noting is that smokers have a higher instance of RLS, and cutting down on caffeine and alcohol before bed is apparently helpful. I'm guessing my nightly cup of coffee is probably not helping my situation. There is also mention of avoiding cold and sinus medications, but I don't know how helpful that advice is when you're suffering from a cold or sinus allergy. Pick your battles, I guess.
One last thing to mention before I get to my "cure". A warning from rlcure.com. If you have RLS, or if you are interested in reading more about it, I highly recommend you read this, it's an interesting look at what RLS may be trying to tell us. Maybe my legs are trying to tell me that I'm going to die early, but I think my cigarette pack has dibs on letting me know which terrible disease is the most likely to kill me.
Here is what you have all been waiting for, and what some of you skipped my whole post to see: how did I stop my RLS?
A bar of Ivory soap.
Yes, you read that correctly, a bar of Ivory soap. No, wait, don't go! Just hear me out. I'm not crazy (well, I might be, the test results aren't back yet), I read something crazy on pullingcurls.com about the author's mother using Ivory soap to cure her RLS. One night a few weeks ago it was particularly bad. I was exhausted, I had a migraine, and of course my legs decided to get in on the action. After an hour I was desperate for relief. I asked my husband to go into the laundry room and get me a bar of Ivory soap. He gave it to me and I unwrapped it, tossed it between my calves, and hoped for the best. Hubby gave me some strange looks, but he's pretty used to my weirdness by now.
It worked. Hallelujah, the legs stopped the party and I fell asleep almost instantly. I used it for a week straight with no re-occurrences. The next week I did not sleep with a bar of soap. My legs betrayed me. So now I sleep with a bar of Ivory every night whether I think I'll need to or not. Is it psychological? Does the urge to move my legs stop when I have soap in my bed because I think it's helping me? I don't know, maybe. Truly, I don't really care why it works. All I know is that I can sleep through the night without taking medication, getting acupuncture, or having to give up my nightly cup of coffee, and it cost me less than a dollar.
Thanks for stopping by, I hope you left just a smidge more informed.
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