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  • Writer's pictureAllan Fjelmberg, lege

Lifestyle treatment of restless legs syndrome

Updated: Mar 19, 2023

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder characterized by an overwhelming urge to move the legs, often accompanied by uncomfortable sensations such as tingling, itching, burning, or aching. The symptoms of RLS typically occur in the evening or at night and can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Lifestyle changes can play an important role in managing the symptoms of RLS and improving sleep quality.

  1. Exercise: Regular exercise has been shown to reduce the symptoms of RLS and improve sleep quality. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, cycling, or swimming, at least 3-4 times a week. Aerobic exercise, such as cycling or running, can be especially beneficial for RLS.

  2. Sleep: Reduced sleep may aggravate symptoms of RLS in many patients. Thus, improving sleep may possibly reduce symptoms of RLS

  3. Iron: Iron deficiency may cause restless legs syndrome. Start iron supplementation if ferritin is below 75mcg/l. Vitamin C increases iron absorption

  4. Vitamin D: There seems to be a significant association between vitamin D levels and restless legs syndrome. Normalize vitamin D levels if deficiency is present

  5. Avoiding triggers: Certain activities and substances can trigger RLS symptoms, so it's important to be aware of your personal triggers and avoid them as much as possible. These can include alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and certain medications.

  6. Massage and stretching: Massaging the legs and stretching can help to reduce RLS symptoms. This can be done before bedtime or any other time when RLS symptoms are likely to occur.

  7. Warm water: Taking a warm bath or using a heating pad on the legs can help to reduce RLS symptoms.

  8. Compression stockings: Compression stockings can help to improve circulation and reduce RLS symptoms. They can be especially helpful for people who experience RLS symptoms during long periods of sitting or standing.

In conclusion, lifestyle changes can play a significant role in managing the symptoms of RLS and improving sleep quality. It's important to find a balance that works for you and to consult with a doctor or a sleep specialist if you have any concerns. This can include a combination of exercise, sleep hygiene, stress management, diet, hydration, massaging and stretching, hot and cold therapy, and avoiding triggers. Additionally, medication and other treatments may also be recommended by a doctor or a sleep specialist.


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