Having a sleepless night now and then
can be annoying. But when you have
restless legs syndrome (RLS), going without sleep night
after night can make life miserable. You may be so tired that you just feel
If restless legs are robbing you of sleep, you're not
alone. But there may be some things you can do for yourself to make it easier
to get a good night's sleep, especially if your symptoms are mild.
How can you make changes to sleep better?
If your RLS symptoms are mild, you may be able to get a good night's sleep
most nights by making some changes in your lifestyle. Make sure to follow these
general sleep tips:
During the day
- Don't drink liquids that have caffeine
(coffee, tea, some sodas), especially 4 to 6 hours before
- Don't use tobacco, especially near bedtime or if you wake
up during the night. Nicotine is a stimulant, which means it makes you more
alert and more awake.
- Don't drink alcohol late in the
- Get regular exercise, but don't exercise within 3 or 4
hours of bedtime.
- Get plenty of sunlight in the outdoors,
especially in late afternoon.
- Avoid heavy meals close to bedtime. A light
snack may help you sleep.
- Don't go to bed thirsty, but don't drink
so much that you have to keep getting up to go to the bathroom.
- Set aside time for solving problems earlier in the day so you
don't carry anxious thoughts to bed. Try writing down your worries in a "worry
book," and then set it aside well before bedtime.
- Do relaxing
activities before bedtime. Try deep breathing,
tai chi, or
muscle relaxation techniques. Take a warm bath. Play a
quiet game, or read a book.
During the night
- Reduce noise in the house, or mask it with
a steady, low noise such as a fan running on slow speed or a radio tuned to
static. Use comfortable earplugs if you need to.
- Keep the room cool
and dark. If you can't darken the room, use a sleep mask.
- Use a
pillow and a mattress that are comfortable for you.
- If watching the
clock makes you anxious about sleep, turn the clock so you can't see it, or put
it in a drawer.
- Reserve the bedroom for sleeping and sex. A bit of
light reading may help you fall asleep, but if it doesn't, do your reading
elsewhere in the house. Don't watch TV in bed.
- If you can't fall
asleep, or if you wake up in the middle of the night and don't get back to
sleep quickly, get out of bed and go to another room until you feel
exercise is important, but very hard workouts may make your symptoms worse. Try
to figure out what level of exercise works for your symptoms and at what point
exercise makes them worse.
- Bathing in very hot or very
cold water before bedtime may help. Or try using a heating pad or ice bag. Some people find that having a heated mattress pad on the bed helps.
- Change your sleep schedule. If your symptoms usually get better
around 4 a.m. to 6 a.m., try going to bed later than usual or allowing extra
time for sleeping in to help you get the rest you need.
- You may be
able to control your symptoms by gently stretching and massaging your limbs
before bed or as discomfort begins.
symptoms don't get better, talk to your doctor. He or she may prescribe drugs
to control your RLS and help you sleep.
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