9 Treatments for Restless Legs Syndrome

Is the sudden urge to move your legs at night affecting your sleep? If so, you might have a condition called restless legs syndrome. The good news is, there are plenty of treatments for restless legs syndrome that don’t require a prescription.

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Restless legs syndrome
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Is Restless Legs Syndrome Affecting Your Sleep?

You may know it as the urge to move or jerk your legs when you’re sitting or lying still, especially at night. Restless legs syndrome (RLS) occurs when brain cells send false signals of pain, discomfort, tingling and itchiness to nerve endings in the legs (and vice versa). Moving your legs turns off these signals, but the creepy-crawly sensations return as soon as you’re still again.

The syndrome is thought to result from an overproduction of the brain chemical dopamine during the day, which leads to an underproduction at night. Here’s what to do if your itchy, jerking legs keep you awake at night.

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Warm and comfy slippers
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1. Get Up and Walk

Get out of bed and walk for 10 minutes. Walking stimulates the nerves in your legs, turning off the itching signals to your brain. Why only 10 minutes? Research has found that moderate exercise can improve symptoms, but excessive exercise makes them worse.

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Child doing toe circles
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2. Do Toe Circles

Sit on the edge of the bed and draw circles with your toes. Like walking, the toe circles stimulate the nerves in your legs; they also stretch the legs and feet.

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Vitamin B supplements
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3. Folic Acid

In one small study, researchers found that women with restless legs syndrome were deficient in this B vitamin, required for proper brain and nerve function. Taking folic acid supplements helped. Take 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid a day, along with a 50-milligram B complex supplement.

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Woman massaging her leg calf
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4. Massage Your Legs

Knead your calves, thighs and feet with a mixture of 15 drops lavender oil in 1/4 cup of massage oil. The massage relaxes the muscles and the lavender will help you relax overall.

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Dried valerian roots
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5. Valerian and Passionflower

When taken together, these herbs relax muscles and improve sleep. Take 600 milligrams standardized valerian (shown here) and 300 milligrams passionflower before bed.

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Frozen ice cubes
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6. Use a Cold Compress

Before you try to sleep again, pack bags of towel-wrapped frozen vegetables or ice packs around your legs. The cold compresses numb nerve endings while you sleep. The towels should absorb most of the moisture as the ice thaws.

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Magnesium supplements
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7. Magnesium and Calcium

These minerals decrease spasms and quiet abnormal nerve messages. Take 150 to 300 milligrams magnesium and 300 to 600 milligrams calcium a half-hour before bed. Don’t write them off if you don’t see an improvement in your condition right off the bat: they’ll take several weeks to work.

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Hand holding lit cigarette
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8. Stop Smoking—and Lay Off the Caffeine

To prevent restless legs syndrome, limit caffeine, as it increases dopamine levels. Nicotine is another daytime dopamine raiser, so cutting back on or—better yet—stopping smoking will help, too.

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Woman laying awake at night
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9. Prescription Drugs for Restless Legs Syndrome

The drugs prescribed for restless legs syndrome are dopamine agonists. These drugs, including Mirapex (pramipexole), Permax (pergolide) and Requip (ropinirole), return dopamine levels to normal.

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Originally Published in Best Remedies

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