Have you ever heard about Restless Legs Syndrome or RLS? This condition causes patients to feel an uncontrollable need to move their legs. This urge is usually caused by strange physical perceptions, such as throbbing, aching, pulling, or itching sensations.
It is very common for these symptoms to occur while the patient is at rest. Restless leg syndrome causes periodic limb movements of sleep (PLMS), which can severely disrupt your sleep.
Restless legs syndrome is also known as Willis-Ekbom disease or WED. Its symptoms can begin at any age, and it generally worsens over time. The symptoms of the condition can even spread to other parts of your body, such as your arms.
RLS/WED might not sound like a very serious condition, but it can negatively affect patients’ lives. It can undermine your ability to carry out daily activities since it disrupts sleep and rest. It can also lead to anxiety and depression.
RLS can be a primary or secondary condition. Having primary RLS simply means that the disorder isn’t the result of another medical condition. Secondary RLS, on the other hand, has an identifiable cause, such as iron deficiency, pregnancy, or kidney disease.
The mechanisms that cause restless legs syndrome aren’t fully understood yet. As a result, many different therapeutic options are used to treat this condition. Fortunately, there are many home remedies that you can use to alleviate and control restless legs syndrome.
Read on to discover the best evidence-based home remedies for restless legs syndrome or Willis-Ekbom disease.
Home remedy #1. Maintain healthy sleep hygiene habits to make falling asleep easier.
Creating a healthy bedtime routine might not relieve your RLS per se, but it can help compensate for lost sleep. Following the same routine each night can make it easier for you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer.
Some evidence suggests that going to bed earlier can reduce RLS symptoms during the night. This might be related to the natural hormonal fluctuations that you experience throughout the day.
Follow these tips to create good sleep hygiene:
- Go to bed and wake up around the same time each day – even on weekends and holidays.
- Make sure you only use your bedroom to sleep.
- Keep distractions, such as your TV or computer, outside of your bedroom.
- If you haven’t fallen asleep within 15 minutes of getting into bed, go to another room and do something relaxing before trying to sleep again.
- Try natural remedies to improve sleep, such as chamomile and valerian root.
- Create a dark, cool, and quiet sleep environment.
- Avoid screens of any type for at least 2 hours before going to bed.
Home remedy #2. An innovative foot wrap can help reduce your symptoms.
A foot wrap called ‘restiffic’ has shown to be an effective treatment for RLS. This simple device places acupressure on your abductor hallucis and flexor hallucis brevis. The pressure helps your leg muscles relax and prevent restless legs episodes.
A 2013 study found that patients experienced less RLS symptoms and better sleep after using this wrap for 8 weeks. The foot wrap doesn’t produce adverse side effects and could be helpful for people who choose to avoid medications.
Home remedy #3. Exercise regularly to reduce your symptoms and improve the quality of your sleep.
There is ample evidence that suggests that regular exercise can improve RLS symptoms.
Most patients with RLS show significant improvement after incorporating aerobic exercise and lower body strength training into their regular routines. Studies have shown that regular exercise can even improve the quality of life for patients with RLS.
However, you shouldn’t overexert yourself. This could lead to inflammation, aching, and muscular pains, which can worsen RLS symptoms. Instead, increase the intensity, length, and frequency of your workouts progressively.
Home remedy #4. Massaging your legs can provide a simple method for instant relief.
Massaging your legs a couple of times each day can improve your restless legs syndrome. Different types of massage therapy, including Swedish massage and myofascial release massage, can work.
Massage therapy relieves RLS through several mechanisms. It has been found to increase dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that has been linked to RLS. A massage can also improve circulation to the area, increasing oxygen and nutrient supply to your aching muscles.
Massage therapy is more effective if you perform it regularly. Studies have found that these RLS symptoms improve after just a few massage sessions. However, you have to keep regularly massaging your legs in order to sustain these benefits.
Home remedy #5. Vitamin D supplementation has many health benefits – and it can also help treat restless legs syndrome.
Suffering from vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a higher risk of developing restless legs syndrome. A 2015 study showed that RLS symptoms improved for patients with vitamin D deficiency after taking a supplement of this vitamin.
Getting mild sun exposure is a great way to increase your vitamin D levels. Additionally, vitamin D supplements are widely available in drugstores and pharmacies. You can also increase your dietary intake of vitamin D through these foods:
- Egg yolks
- Canned tuna
- Beef liver
- Cod liver oil
- Cheddar cheese
- Fortified foods, such as orange juice, soy milk, and oats
Home remedy #6. Yoga and stretching exercises can improve your strength and flexibility. But did you know that they can also help manage restless legs syndrome?
We’ve already talked about how great exercise can be for restless legs syndrome. But yoga, in particular, can have a profoundly positive effect on RLS symptoms. Stretching exercises are also a great way to manage acute episodes of this condition.
Many studies have shown a positive correlation between yoga and RLS improvement. During a 2013 study, women with RLS participated in approximately 4 yoga sessions per week. Once the study ended, most patients reported that their symptoms were now minimal and that their sleep quality had improved significantly. Their mood and stress levels had also improved.
Leg stretching exercises can also help manage RLS. You can perform stretching exercises several times per week to see improvements. Alternatively, you can stretch your legs before going to bed or whenever you start to feel abnormal sensations.
Stretching exercises can alleviate the urge to move your legs. They can also help relax your muscles, preventing RLS episodes.
Home remedy #7. Make sure you are getting enough iron and folic acid.
Iron deficiency and anemia are amongst the main causes of RLS. Many people can develop chronic anemia without even being aware of it. A simple blood test can help your doctor diagnose these conditions.
To avoid iron deficiency, make sure you are getting enough of this mineral. Iron-rich foods include:
- Fortified bread and cereals
Home remedy #8. Get some compression socks to prevent uncomfortable sensations in your legs.
The pressure caused by compression socks can help relieve the uncomfortable sensations that make you want to move your legs during a restless legs episode.
Compression socks are an affordable and easy method to relieve RLS. However, it is important to find socks that don’t compress your legs excessively, since they could decrease blood flow to your legs. The socks counteract the stimuli produced by the abnormal sensations in your legs, allowing your mind to focus solely on the pressure.
Home remedy #9. Magnesium can help relax your muscles and make you sleep better.
Certain causes of RLS could be caused or worsened by magnesium deficiency. Magnesium can block calcium, which stimulates muscular contraction. As a result, magnesium supplementation can help your muscles relax more easily.
A scientific study showed that oral magnesium supplementation can lead to a significant reduction of RLS episodes. You can try a magnesium supplement or increase your dietary intake of this vital mineral. Magnesium-rich foods include:
- Dark chocolate
- Whole grains
- Fatty fish
- Leafy greens
Home remedy #10. A vibrating pad can override the unpleasant sensations that lead to RLS.
A 2015 study tested the efficacy of a vibration pad called ‘Relaxis’ as an alternative therapy for RLS. This device consists of a foam pad that contains a vibration source. The pad vibrates for 30 minutes at a time and then gradually stops vibrating.
The vibration pad works by creating a stimulus that counteracts the feelings produced by RLS. As a result, your body focuses on the vibrating sensation and is able to prevent the uncontrollable leg movements. This pad has been shown to be just as effective as some RLS medications.
Home remedy #11. Try a weighted blanket to reduce anxiety and help manage restless legs.
RLS can produce anxiety, and anxiety can worsen RLS. This vicious cycle can be very difficult to break when you are afraid of experiencing restless legs and being unable to sleep.
Weighted blankets are simply blankets filled with materials that make them heavier, like plastic pellets. These blankets generate pressure that can make you feel calm and relaxed during the night.
Weighted blankets can benefit patients in two different ways. First of all, they provide counter stimulation that can help your mind drift away from abnormal sensations. Additionally, their anxiety-relieving properties can help prevent RLS episodes.
Home remedy #12. Avoid these foods before going to bed to make RLS less likely during the night.
Certain foods and substances can overstimulate you and act as RLS triggers. In order to prevent RLS symptoms, avoid these substances before going to bed:
- Carbonated drinks
- Energy drinks
- Dairy products
- Processed sugar
Home remedy #13. Taking a relaxing bath before bedtime will improve your sleep and relax your leg muscles.
Taking a warm bath can help your muscles relax and improve your circulation at the same time. It can also help you relax before going to bed, and it can be part of a healthy bedtime routine.
You can add lavender essential oil to help reduce anxiety and to make you fall asleep faster. You can also try adding chamomile, eucalyptus, or Epsom salts to create an even more relaxing bath.
Home remedy #14. Focus your thoughts on something other than your RLS symptoms.
Self-directed activities have been found to help prevent or relieve RLS symptoms. If you start to experience the abnormal sensations that preclude an RLS episode, turn your attention to one of these activities.
Tasks that require you to solve a problem are particularly helpful. For example, you can try to solve a sudoku or crosswords puzzle until your symptoms improve. Then, try to fall asleep again.
Since blue light can disrupt your sleep cycle, it might be a good idea to keep some printed puzzles near your bed. You can focus on them – without using your phone or tablet – for a few minutes before going back to sleep.
Home remedy #15. Learn some stress management techniques and beat anxiety.
Stress is one of the most common RLS triggers. High-stress levels increase inflammation and cortisol production, which have been linked to RLS episodes. If you want to successfully manage your RLS, you will also have to manage your stress.
Try these stress management strategies to relieve restless legs:
- Deep breathing
- Tai chi
- Soothing music
- Engage with your loved ones and community
- Find a hobby you enjoy
- Keep a journal
- Manage your time
- Be grateful
Final thoughts on Restless Legs Syndrome
It is very important to keep in mind that you should go to the doctor to make sure that there are no underlying conditions causing your RLS. If your RLS doesn’t get better after trying these natural options, there could be another reason for your symptoms.
Most natural remedies for RLS work by simply helping your muscles relax. This prevents the uncomfortable sensations that make you want to move your legs. Other remedies help you maintain healthy sleep habits to improve your chances of sleeping through the night.
When it comes to RLS, creating a pleasant bedtime routine and developing healthy habits are equally important. Be consistent and you will be able to find relief, sleep better, and resume your usual routine.
Andrea, M.D is from Valencia, Venezuela. She is passionate about sexual health and education, and public health and global health. Additionally, she enjoys researching and learning about beauty, skincare, and cosmetic innovations. She has also volunteered in several NGOs in Venezuela. In her free time, Andrea enjoys reading, drinking copious amounts of coffee, making desserts for her family, going to the beach, and spending time with her dog, Dorito.