When I was a kid, I always wondered why my mom walked around the house aimlessly at night. I’ve always had insomnia, so I had a front-row seat to her nightly commute up the hall and down the stairs, listening to her feet shuffling through the kitchen and living room below until she’d return upstairs and repeat it.
If you have restless leg syndome (RLS), you know my mom’s struggle all too well. You most likely experience the pain, stinging, and itching that makes you wish you could crawl out of your own skin. You know how it feels to dread long car rides and flights. You feel the frustration that comes with bedtime when the rest of the world is getting some shut-eye.
While there is unfortunately no cure for the condition, there are ways to minimize the suffering and manage your symptoms. Here are 10 natural remedies you can try to help ease your RLS pain.
1. Adjust your sleep cycle.
Grab yourself a journal and document your sleep schedule. For each entry, write down how your symptoms felt. For example, if you went to bed at 10 pm, woke up eight times throughout the night, and got out of bed at 9 am, give your overall symptoms a rating from 1 to 10. Do this for two weeks and try to see some patterns. Did you have fewer symptoms when you stayed in bed two hours longer than usual? Were they worse? Be gentle with yourself and find the sleep cycle that seems to work for you.
2. Once you nail that down, adjust the rest of your schedule.
While you’re probably rigid in your work schedule, if you find that an earlier sleep schedule works, for example, eat dinner earlier than you have been. If you find getting out of bed later helps, make breakfast ahead of time so you can grab it and go. (Overnight oats are nutritious and easy to make in huge batches!) Most importantly, stick to it. Continuity and regularity can really help you get a handle on your symptoms.
3. Experiment with calming techniques.
Chronic symptoms lead to high cortisol levels and in turn high stress, but you already knew that. Try to incorporate some calming techniques into your night and morning routines. Try taking a nice bath with epsom salts before bedtime or starting each day with gentle calming yoga. (If you search on YouTube, there are even some yoga routines you can do in bed!)
Also try diaphragmatic breathing. Take a deep breath in through your nose and into the diaphragm. It should feel like you’re filling your belly with air. Count your inhale for four seconds, hold the air in your lungs for four seconds, and slowly release the air in four seconds. Do this repeatedly until you feel calm. This is great because it can be done whenever you awnt!
4. Get your stretch on.
While completely stopping the urge to move your legs constantly may be out of the cards, alleviating muscle tension in the area can help decrease the urge and that tight, painful feeling. Look up gentle stretches you can do to ease hypertonic muscles in the area that most afflicts you, whether it’s the calves, glutes, hamstrings, etc. For example, place the ball of your foot against the wall to create a gentle stretch in the calves. Hold for 30 seconds.
5. Kill the caffeine.
I know better than anyone how addicting caffeine can be. Like I said, I’m an insomnia sufferer. As it turns out though, the jitters brought on by coffee, soda, and tea can actually heighten your simptoms and trigger muscle discomfort. Try to ease caffeinated drinks out of your routine gradually and switch to decaf.
6. Become one with your epsom salts.
This altheltes’ mainstay is great for anyone with chronic muscular issues. Adding a cup of epsom salts, which also come in lovely scents like lavender, helps relieve muscle tension with magnesium sulfate.
7. Experiment with hot and cold packs.
When you’re having a bad pain day, experiment with using hot and cold packs. For some, heat works better but for others, cold compresses and ice packs do the trick. Find what’s best for you and use that as a rescue treatment.
8. Get moving (but in a good way)!
I know this sounds crazy but to limit those dreaded night-time walks, getting active during the day has proven helpful for some RLS sufferers. Now, you don’t need to go nuts and take a HIIT class or something. An evening stroll with your pup or a walk around the block on your lunch break can be enough to provide some relief. And when you are the one who has agency over your movement, you can kiss some of that stress goodbye.
9. Occupy your brain.
Hobbies that require some serious attention but also allow you to relax are great. If you’re an artist, sit down to draw for a few hours so that your body is physically at rest but your brain is extremely focused on the task at hand. Knitting is another great one!
10. Bring distractions on the go.
Following that last tip, bring some distractions with you when you’re stuck sitting down, like on planes or in cars for a long period of time. Sudoku books, crossword puzzles, and word searches can be life savers.
When it comes to dealing with chronic conditions, it’s important to manage your symptoms in a healthy way. You deserve to live a low-stress, happy life! Which one of these will you try?