It's the end of a long day and you're exhausted. All you want to do is crawl into bed and sleep, so you rush through your evening routine and crawl under the covers.
And just as you get comfortable and start to relax ... your legs become overwhelmed with the urge to move. It's an uncomfortable jittery feeling that only stops when you physically move your legs.
You try to ignore it so you can fall asleep, but each time you start to drift off the sensation in your legs intensifies and wakes you back up.
These are the symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome, and it can quickly turn into an endless cycle of sleeplessness.
Having dealt with it for a couple years now I have a some tricks for coping I want to share, including why taking magnesium for restless legs is the best thing I've done.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be used in place of the advice of a healthcare professional. While my wife and I have been taking magnesium supplements every day for years, I can't say how they might affect you. Always consult a doctor if you have health concerns: don't try to self-diagnose!
What is Restless Leg Syndrome?
Restless Leg Syndrome is one of those odd medical conditions that isn't always taken seriously. I mean, how do you explain to someone that when you try to sleep at night your legs feel 'jumpy' or 'crawly'? It sounds like something a TV hypochondriac would have.
I suffer from RLS though, so I can tell you it is very real.
Also called Willis-Ekbom disease, the primary symptom is an uncomfortable and almost irresistible urge to move some part of your body. Most often it occurs in the
It usually starts when you are in a relaxed state, such as sitting to watch TV or lying down trying to sleep (or it can drive you nuts for all four hours of an airplane ride as I recently found out).
It's a really odd sensation that is difficult to describe. It's not exactly painful, but it is definitely not pleasant. It's as if your muscles have tensed up for action but have nothing to do, and the only way to get them to behave is to move them.
But it's like scratching a bug bite: it itches so you scratch it and it feels better ... and then the itch comes right back. Your legs feel restless so you move them and they feel better ... but then they just feel restless again. Rinse and repeat ... all night long.
The severity of RLS varies greatly from person to person though. One person may experience it a couple nights a year while another has it every single night.
What Causes RLS?
Short answer: nobody knows.
Some studies have shown links between RLS and both dopamine and iron but the exact cause is unknown. Genetics and heredity may also have something to do with it.
That said, I've noticed that there are a couple different triggers that will make it much worse for me:
- Drinking a lot of soda. For some reason if I drink it every day for a couple days in a row then I'll start having RLS every night until I stop. Even weirder is that the 'Throwback' versions of Pepsi and Mt. Dew don't seem to impact me as much as sodas made with high-fructose corn syrup. I have no idea
whythough, I just know that I need to limit how much soda I drink or I pay the price.
- Similar to soda, eating ice cream in the evening usually guarantees my legs will act up. I love my ice cream, but I love sleeping more, so when I want ice cream I make sure I have it no later than mid-afternoon.
- More recently I realized that there is a correlation between how often I take antihistamines for my allergies and how often I have RLS. Claritin (Loratadine) seems to have a moderate impact if I take it a couple days in a row, while I've found that Zyrtec (Cetirizine) affects me even more.
- My RLS also gets worse if I don't keep a regular sleep schedule. Sometimes my job requires me to work during the night, and if I keep shifting back and forth between working days and nights then my legs definitely start to get agitated. I've also found that changing time zones and being jet lagged can trigger RLS.
- Lastly, if I don't get exercise on a regular basis then my symptoms will get worse. Simply using my elliptical a couple times a week seems to reduce how often my RLS acts up.
Over time I've found that if I can avoid these triggers that I don't have Restless Leg Syndrome that often.
Magnesium For Restless Legs
That said, the single best thing I've found that helps me prevent RLS is magnesium supplements.
Along with all the other things that magnesium has helped me with, taking it every night before I go to bed has reduced the frequency and severity of my Restless Leg symptoms.
I tried both magnesium oxide and magnesium citrate for my restless legs but I found that malate helped the most.
Not only do I sleep better as a result but my legs seem less restless during the day too. In particular the malic acid in magnesium malate seems to have made all my muscles more relaxed.
Now instead of RLS being a nightly occurrence I get it at most 3-4 times a month, and I can almost always link it to one of the triggers I listed above.
It's worth looking into magnesium for restless legs syndrome!
How I Handle My RLS
However, on rare occasions my RLS acts up even when I've avoided all my triggers and have taken my magnesium.
When this happens I have two tricks I use to get my legs to calm down enough to let me sleep:
- I have a couple different leg exercises that really tire my calf muscles. I basically do everything I can to wear my legs out to the point of muscle fatigue right before I crawl into bed.
- If I can tell ahead of time that my legs are going to be problematic then I will take some Ibuprofen. Provided I give it an hour to start working, taking two Advil seems to take enough of the 'edge' off my Restless Leg Syndrome to let me fall asleep.
Typically if I do both of these things then I will be able to fall asleep, and usually if I can fall asleep then I have a good chance of making it through the night without issues.
Test Your Iron Too
Just like any other medical condition it's a good idea to see a doctor if you have RLS. Not only are there prescription medications that can help relieve your symptoms (I do have
This is especially important because Restless Leg Syndrome can also be caused by an iron deficiency! Be
So if you think you have Restless Leg Syndrome, before taking an iron supplement it is very important to see your doctor and ask them to check your vitamin and mineral levels.
Do You Have Restless Legs?
If you have Restless Leg Syndrome please leave a comment below:
- How bad are your symptoms?
- How do you cope?
- Has magnesium, iron, or some other vitamin helped?
- Do you have any tips or tricks for dealing with RLS?
As always, you are strongly encouraged to consult with your physician or other qualified medical professional to help determine your own optimal level of magnesium, and to see whether magnesium supplementation is right for you.