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Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a condition in which your legs feel very uncomfortable while you’re sitting or lying down. Those suffering from this syndrome usually feel unpleasant sensations in the legs like tingling, aching and itching. It makes you feel like getting up and moving around. When you do so, the unpleasant feeling of RLS temporarily goes away. RLS can begin at any age and generally worsens as you grow older. Women are more likely than men to develop this condition. It can often disrupt sleep and lead to other sleep-related disorders. Research seems to indicate that mineral imbalance could be the cause of RLS, so taking supplements may help. But some simple self-care techniques and lifestyle changes too can help you.

Taking the right supplements

  • A shortage of the minerals calcium and magnesium are known to cause the twitching sensation in the legs, so try taking a supplement of say 500 mg calcium and 250 mg magnesium. Over a period you may increase the dose marginally if you see it has a positive effect on your RLS, but remember that these two minerals need to be taken in a 2:1 ratio.
  • Drink mineral water which contains magnesium. The ideal magnesium content per litre of water is 100 mg.
  • Increase your consumption of vitamin B folic acid, which helps in the formation of red blood cells, which in turn help in circulating oxygen in the body. This can really benefit as RLS is often associated with a dip in the level of oxygen in blood. Good natural sources of folic acid are green leafy vegetables, orange juice, whole gram and beans.
  • Dark green vegetables, liver, wheatgerm, kidney beans are also rich sources of iron, which is a vital component of myoglobin molecule, which is a protein that stores oxygen in the muscles until it is needed. If you have a deficiency of iron, myoglobin can’t store enough oxygen and that can lead to RLS.

Stretching the leg muscles

  • When you feel the symptoms of RLS coming on, stretch out your legs full length and point your toes. These movements will send a signal to your brain that can relieve the uneasy, twitchy feelings. If you get cramps, stop the stretching as it would indicate a deficiency of magnesium.
  • Some good massage therapy to your calf muscles can also relieve the condition. But if it doesn’t work, get up and take a walk. Walking indoors will do, but take long strides and bend your legs sufficiently so that they get stretched properly.

Before going to bed

  • Dip your legs in comfortably hot water for 10 to 15 minutes before you go to bed.
  • Alternatively, apply a cold pack to your legs before going to sleep.
  • You can even combine both the hot and cold treatments one after the other for a minute or two several times before you go to sleep.

Preventive measures

  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine in the evenings, as they tend to stimulate the muscles and nerves in your legs, which may cause RLS.
  • Smokers are more prone to the condition than non-smokers, according to some studies; so if you smoke, quit.
  • Cold and sinus remedies also need to be avoided, as they are known to aggravate the symptoms of RLS.

By the age of 60 years, around 60% of men and 40% of women start snoring