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This is updated from a previous post
Sleep is essential to our mental and physical health. It is when the mind and body repairs itself, recharges, and recovers from the day. It is important to get 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night in order to maintain your physical and mental health.
The importance of getting an uninterrupted night of sleep cannot be overstated. Studies show that those who get less than 6 hours have increased risk of medical conditions such as depression, ADHD, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, stroke and cancer.
A sleep disorder called Restless Leg Syndrome, also known as RLS, periodic limb movement disorder, or Willis-Ekbom disease, has been known about for many years, but has only recently begun to be taken seriously as a contributor to not getting a good night's sleep. While there are different theories as to what causes it, one theory is that it's a neurological disorder and is believed to affect anywhere from one in ten to half of people worldwide.
If you have received a diagnosis of RLS, or know a family member who has, don't be discouraged. More is known about this disorder than ever before, and the best news is there is a simple, cheap, and easy remedy that just might help improve your quality of life by giving you back a better night's sleep.
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a mysterious and complex sleep disorder. RLS symptoms include unpleasant sensations, even uncomfortable sensations, marked by periodic limb movements, mainly involuntary leg twitching, that are uncontrollable. This irresistible urge to move the legs, feet, and less common the arms, is often accompanied by a tingling sensation. Some have described it as feeling like they have Cola Cola running through their veins.
The symptoms of RLS can come and go, meaning that one might have a succession of nights where they do not experience the unpleasant feeling, but then without warning or reason strong urge, or even overwhelming urge, to move one's legs becomes present again.
Many institutions, such as the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, have done a substantial amount of research into understanding the cause of RLS and have come up with a number of possible causes. Depending on the way you look at it, this can be good news or it can also be bad news. Not finding an obvious cause of restless legs syndrome can be bad news because it makes it harder for an individual to pinpoint the underlying cause which can be frustrating especially if they are suffering from severe symptoms.
The good news is it can help an individual gain better insight into what might be causing their struggle with RLS if they don't fall within the "norm" of what might be considered the cause for the general population.
Having one of these medical problems of course isn't good, but identifying the problem means that it can then be addressed and that's always good, especially with severe cases. The byproduct of addressing a medical concern is that it can be improved and possibly alleviated, thus also alleviating restless leg syndrome as well. In which case you wouldn't even need a remedy.
Let's take a look at some of the possible causes and if you struggle with restless leg syndrome, perhaps you'll recognize yourself and can get the proper medical treatment for the underlying cause. Remember, as with any health issue, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider to address these or other medical problems.
One of the more common health problems that people, especially women, encounter is iron deficiency. Because of this, it is believed that it can be a contributing factor to restless leg syndrome. Dr. Christopher Earley, an MD who specializes in Neurology in Baltimore, Maryland, has held discussions on research done with Johns Hopkins University that there is a strong cause to believe that there is a link between iron deficiency and restless leg syndrome. In fact, it iron deficiency is the single most consistent finding associated with restless leg syndrome.
As with so many health issues, there is never a cut-and-dried answer and what the findings show is that while someone may not test as having low iron, It is possible that there can exist an iron deficiency in the tissues of the body in spite of normal serum iron. (source: Professor Nordlander, Swedish Physicist)
While taking an iron supplement might seem like the most logical and easiest path to take to stopping restless leg syndrome, it isn't that simple. This is where it is important to seek the care of a qualified physician who is knowledgeable not only about doing blood tests for low iron levels, but is also knowledgeable about the different components of iron, such as folic acid and ferratin. Getting these levels regulated can be a tremendous game-changer, but it can take a bit of trial and error, and erring on the wrong side can have detrimental effects on your health.
Before leaving the subject of low iron, it stands to reason that pregnant women are at risk of having issues with both low iron and restless leg syndrome. While pregnancy is a wonderful thing, it often comes with not so wonderful conditions. When a woman is pregnant, it is common practice for her doctor to prescribe that she start on an iron supplement regimen. That is because low levels of iron is a very common condition of pregnancy.
Unfortunately, because pregnancy can affect iron in the body, nearly a third of pregnant women develop restless leg syndrome. Also unfortunately, because of pregnancy, traditional treatments used for restless legs syndrome is a little trickier. But again, the good news is there is a natural and safe remedy that even pregnant women can use.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg. That's an easier question to answer than whether sleep apnea contributes to restless leg syndrome, the other way around, or not at all. Each issue can be mutually exclusive but they can also be intertwined. And either way, as a person ages, they're unfortunately more likely to develop one or both.
Sleep apnea is typically caused by the airway becoming obstructed, and being overweight is usually the main culprit. Who among us doesn't struggle with losing weight, but really, weight loss is the easiest route to take if you suspect you might have sleep apnea.
Another route is the use of a CPAP machine, which would be prescribed by a health care provider and is usually covered by insurance. CPAP machines have come a long way and aren't the intrusive monstrosities of yesteryear. If you suspect you might have sleep apnea, (or if your spouse or partner have told you that you do!), it really is a good idea to talk to your doctor about getting a sleep study done. Those have come a long way as well, and can be done at home with a small monitoring machine that is worn for one night.*
*Check with the sleep center before you do an at-home study to make sure they won't require you to still do an onsite overnight study. If they do, try to find another center. Despite what they might tell you, it really isn't necessary to do a second study.
Even though restless leg syndrome is usually a lifelong condition, that doesn't mean you have to suffer with it the rest of your life. Through the years, those with symptoms of restless legs syndrome have desperately sought a solution to the ailment and have come up with a method that, on its surface, might seem crazy but countless people who struggle with RLS have tested the method and have sung the praises of this odd remedy’s effectiveness.
What is this wonder drug? What is this miracle cure? It's not really either, but it's even better because as I mentioned before, it is safe, easy, simple, natural, and so on. Are you ready for it? It is simply to place a bar of soap under the fitted bed sheet down by your legs while you sleep. Can this remedy actually work, and if so, how?
One theory as to why this remedy works is because of the magnesium typical in many soap bars. Magnesium helps with metabolic function, and many might suffer from a magnesium deficiency unknowingly as magnesium becomes less and less prevalent in our foods. Magnesium is anti-inflammatory and known to help fight anxiety and to promote bone health. The theory as to its benefit with placing a bar of soap under the sheets is that as the magnesium in the soap is absorbed into the legs, it helps relax the muscles because magnesium is also known to soothe and prevent muscle cramping.
And if your soap has lavender in it, even better. Those who have used soap containing both magnesium and lavender have attested to further benefits, and studies have shown that lavender can also fight against mild insomnia and chronic pain. (Some people have an adverse reaction to the scent of lavender so make sure the presence of lavender doesn’t create the opposite effect and cause even more sleep disturbances.)
Placing a bar of soap under the fitted sheet might seem strange, but it is certainly worth a try. People think I'm nuts when I tell them about this remedy but I've used it for years and it works. My dad used it for years, too, and I know other people personally who've used it. Give it a try and see how it works for you. It is an intriguing at-home, homeopathic remedy that could make a difference if you, like me and many others, are struggling with RLS and are searching for a way to ease the aches and discomfort that accompany the syndrome. After attempting this remedy, you may find that you are able to relax and get that eight hours of sleep we all strive for.
Restless leg syndrome in and of itself is not serious, but not getting enough sleep over a prolonged period of time can have potential side effects. The least serious being daytime sleepiness but it can contribute to more serious issues such as heart disease and stroke.
As mentioned before, iron supplements can help in the treatment of restless leg syndrome, as well as other supplements such as magnesium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. But it is vital that you consult with your healthcare provider before starting any supplement to make sure there are no ill effects due to getting too much or it causing a conflict with other medications you might be taking.
Other possible causes to consider in no particular order:
Coffee and the use of caffeine substances
Peripheral neuropathy (any condition that affects the nerves outside your brain or spinal cord)
The genetic component of there being a medical family history of RLS.
Chronic diseases such as kidney disease and kidney failure.
Dopamine sets off a variety of nerve impulses that influence how muscles move. The outcome is comparable to that of Parkinson's disease. Additionally, both illnesses are treated with medications that raise dopamine levels. However, the risk of RLS does not appear to be increased by Parkinson disease, and having RLS early in life does not seem to raise the risk of developing Parkinson later in life. (source: Mount Sinai)
First, getting a physical examination is important to help determine, and rule out, possible causes. He or she will be able to help you determine what is the best treatment of restless legs syndrome.
If you tend to have a sedentary lifestyle, lifestyle changes such as getting more exercise and making dietary changes to help you lose weight are the healthiest treatments to try first. Especially if you are middle age or older.
Taking a hot bath before bedtime has been known to help relax the body and muscles which helps decrease muscle movement while you sleep.
Humans are creatures of habit, so keeping regular nighttime hours for when you sleep is also important.