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If you can't get settled, and always feel you need to shift your legs then you're not alone! Restless leg syndrome is very common, but weighted blankets can help.
It's an incredible fact but, 7-8% of the global population suffer from Restless Legs Syndrome, yet there’s still a lack of knowledge and awareness about this curious disorder.
But what causes it? What can you do to ease it? In this article we tell you what we know about RLS, and give you our best tips to obtain relief from this annoying condition.
RLS is characterised by a strong urge to move your legs when in a resting position, especially after going to bed. Many people say it feels like tickling or twitchy sensations in their legs, which is temporarily relieved by moving, stretching, or by getting out of bed and walking around. Others describe RLS as a feeling of mild electric shocks, burning, itching, crawling, tugging, or even the feeling of “a fizzy drink running in the veins”. Our natural reflex to combat these sensations is to move our legs restlessly, hence the name of the syndrome.
In general, lack of physical activity at any time can bring on the symptoms of RLS, like long journeys in a car or airplane, sitting in the cinema or simply an evening spent watching the TV, can cause RLS.
Because the symptoms of RLS vary person to person, many of those suffering from this disorder are unaware that their problem even has a proper name.
Unfortunately, nobody really knows what causes RLS. Commonly, people over 45 years of age complain of RLS, but it can happen to anyone at any stage of life, even childhood. Studies have shown that females are twice as likely to develop RLS than males. In a large number of cases, there’s no apparent cause of RLS. However, there are some underlying links that researchers have found over the years.
Several genetic links have been found for RLS, meaning it can be inherited across generations in families. So if you’re suffering from this sleep disorder, there’s a good chance you can blame your parents!
One of the most widely talked about perpetrators of RLS is a chemical called dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter responsible for carrying signals from the body to the brain. Dopamine plays a crucial role in controlling physical movements as well as emotional responses, so the right balance of dopamine is required for a healthy mind and body. If your dopamine levels are imbalanced, it could result in RLS.
RLS experienced during pregnancy is often associated with hormonal fluctuations, sleep deprivation, discomfort, deficiency of vitamins and minerals, and a heightened sensitivity of the senses. Onset RLS during pregnancy will usually resolve within weeks of delivery.
RLS is sometimes an outcome of another health condition that you’re suffering from. This condition is known as secondary RLS for example anaemia caused by iron deficiency, diabetes, and kidney failure can cause RLS.
The biggest problem with RLS is that it can disrupt your sleep, which can then have a negative impact on many other parts of your life, such as your mental health. The fact that there is no recommended cure for RLS can feel disheartening, but there are some simple self-care solutions and lifestyle changes that have been shown to relieve symptoms, so let’s look a bit closer at some of these remedies.
Like a lot of other health issues, modifying our daily habits can help ease chronic conditions. Regular exercise, maintaining a healthy sleep pattern (our weighted blankets can certainly help with that!), and cutting down on caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco can be very helpful.
The practice of yoga inherently focuses on breathing and stretching, which can calm nerves and sooth your senses, and keep you physically fit. Including yoga in your daily regimen can help reduce the impact of RLS.
Breathing exercises and meditating before going to bed help combat stress and anxiety. Such relaxing techniques not only help in eliminating symptoms of sleep disorders like RLS, but boost your overall physical and mental wellbeing.
Iron deficiency can be one of the causes of RLS. Apples, honey, dates, and pomegranates are some natural and rich sources of iron. As a natural muscle relaxant, magnesium can help to cope with RLS as well. Bananas, avocados, legumes, tofu, seeds, and fatty fish are packed with magnesium. Include nuts and greens like spinach, kale, broccoli and peas in your diet, as they are loaded with both magnesium and iron.
Consuming dairy, caffeine, and foods loaded with sugar and sodium is a big no before bedtime. They activate and worsen the symptoms of RLS. So, think twice before you decide to binge on junk food before calling it a day! Stretch those muscles. Performing mild stretching exercises before going to bed can help you avoid the symptoms of RLS to a great extent.
To cope with any kind of sleep disorder, it’s crucial to focus on factors like sleep hygiene and sleep environment; you’ve got to create a cool, comfortable and cosy vibe! Blue light from mobile phones, tablets, and televisions mess up your melatonin production and delay your sleep, so avoid using them at least half an hour before heading to bed. Fluorescent bulbs have a similar effect - they’re one of many things that can sabotage your sleep.
Weighted blankets have been shown to relieve the unpleasant symptoms of RLS. This comes down to something called Deep Touch Pressure therapy, which happens when you place evenly-distributed weight over your body, triggering pressure points that help in the production of some key relaxation and sleep hormones.
Weighted blankets cocoon your body, producing a “hugging effect” that promotes the release of serotonin, a stress-relieving chemical produced by our nerve cells. Increased serotonin not only promotes feelings of calmness, it also leads to the release of more melatonin, our sleep hormone. This chemical flood helps you quickly calm down and drift off into dreamland. Weighted blankets also reduce cortisol levels throughout the night. High cortisol - often called our stress hormone - has also been linked to RLS, so when those unpleasant sensations start creeping up at night, pull on a Sommio weighted blanket and let the weight work its magic.