Thursday, May 22, 2014

Restless legs and trends I notice

I started to have problems with restless legs (RLS) just after my oldest son was born. I couldn't sleep because my legs were sooooo restless. It was so awful, but it went away.  I didn't experience it again until about halfway through the pregnancy with my second son. I was miserable and there was nothing I could do about it, or so I thought - no medication, anyway.

This time it didn't go away. I still had bouts of it. Things that tended to make it flare up was lack of sleep and sitting too much. Things got a bit worse as I got heavier.

Just after we moved to this new house, I started to have serious problems with it. I was having horrible sleep night after night. I learned a few yoga poses that helped (see here), but I was beginning to go crazy with it. But then when I started getting my fitness and weight in order, it disappeared except for rare occasions. I would only get it when I was super sleep deprived or I had way too much physical activity in the day.

With my regain, I've had some more problems, but nothing terrible. Two nights ago being the exception. I was waking up for what seemed constantly with restless legs. So, I did some looking. It seems to be random when I get the symptoms again, but now when I think about it more, there are triggers.

See here about some things you can/should change to help with RLS:

8 Lifestyle Tweaks for Restless Legs Syndrome

WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

1. Get hot and cold.

Take a warm bath or shower before you go bed to relax, says Jessica Vensel Rundo, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center. She also recommends using cold or warm compresses on your legs. The temperature of the compress may also distract your muscles if you’re feeling the tingly sensations of RLS.

2. Move and massage.

Janis Lopes, 73, learned she had RLS more than 25 years ago. Lopes, who runs an RLS support group in southern California, says she finds relief from restless legs by getting up and moving.
  • Stretch your legs before bedtime. For instance, flex your ankles to stretch your calf muscles.
  • Choose an aisle seat on a plane or in a theater. And then take advantage of it -- get up and move around.
  • Massage your legs. It's a kind of "counter-stimulation" to the sensations of RLS, Vensel Rundo says.

3. Review your medications.

With your doctor, go over all the medications you take, including even those that don't need a prescription. 
Some allergy and cold medications, antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, and anti-nausea drugs, for instance, may worsen RLS symptoms. There are often other options that you could try in their place.

4. Be active, but don't overdo it.

You need to be active, just like everyone else, for your best health. With RLS, you should avoid sudden changes in your activity level, such as suddenly starting to train for a marathon or quitting your usual routine. 
"People who have RLS function best with the same amount of activity daily," Asher says. Doing a lot more or less than that might worsen your RLS symptoms. 

5. Back off of caffeine.

Giving up coffee, chocolate, caffeinated sodas, and other caffeine-containing foods may help you wind down for better sleep. 
''If somebody is having bad symptoms of RLS, getting rid of caffeine isn't going to solve their problem," says neurologist Irving Asher, MD, of the University of Missouri Health System. "But if the case is mild, it may make a significant difference.''

6. Avoid alcohol.

It might help you fall asleep, but alcohol will also wake you up in the middle of the night. When that happens, Asher says, your restless legs may bother you even more.

7. Eat a healthy diet.

Everyone needs to do this, and if you have RLS, it's even more important. 
Some cases of RLS are linked to not having enough iron. Supplementing with iron may help. 
Magnesium supplements might also be a good idea, though it's not clear how it helps, Vensel Rundo says. Talk to your doctor before starting magnesium supplements, and about what dose, since too much magnesium can cause diarrhea.  
While you're at it, get all of your supplements on your medical record, even if products are natural and don't need a prescription. That way, your records are up to date and your doctor can watch out for any side effects.

8. Upgrade your sleep habits.

Check that you're doing everything you can to make your sleep the best it can be, starting tonight. 
  • Go to bed at the same time each night. 
  • Get up at the same time every day. 
  • Finish eating 2-3 hours before bedtime, so you have time to digest. 
  • Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and primed for sleep.
The times I have noticed recently that I have problems are when I'm seriously sleep deprived, too hot in bed, too active during the day, and drinking alcohol.

The other day I was gardening for 7 hours (at least). And at other times I was making lunch and dinner for the family. I was on my feet all day long. I should have slept great, but I didn't. Take a look:

I was up for an hour in the middle of the night and then sporadically later in the night. When I woke up I felt unrested and after such a long day on my feet working! It made no sense.

Yesterday I took it easier as I had several appointments to take my son and last night I crashed and slept great.

Notice the difference? And I only woke up around 2 am because my husband was coming to bed which disturbed me slightly for a few minutes.

So, I need to remember that exercise is good, very good for controlling restless legs, but TOO much is bad, bad, bad. Not that there's much I can do about it, but at least I can be aware of the consequences.

I hate RLS, but like most things we ail from as a society, I think it's mostly self-inflicted.

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