Restless Legs Syndrome

Are the things above keeping you up at night? Don't suffer in silence - ask our Soak&Sleep resident Doctors who’s on call to answer everything and anything!

What is restless legs syndrome?

Restless legs is a clinical syndrome of a feeling of discomfort (some people report a “crawling” sensation) and an overwhelming urge to move the legs (or sometimes the arms) for relief, which is worse in the evening or at night. It can prevent sufferers getting to sleep and may be associated with leg movements during sleep, disrupting sleep throughout the night.

Why do I have restless legs syndrome?

Restless legs can be associated with low body stores of iron (even if you are not anaemic). In some individuals, there may be a genetic component. The condition can be aggravated by some medications (including some antidepressants such as sertraline and fluoxetine) and by alcohol, nicotine and caffeine. Restless legs can occur in pregnancy, and usually settles after delivery. Individuals with kidney failure and those on dialysis can also experience the symptoms.

Is there anything I can do to relieve the symptoms of restless legs syndrome?

You should reduce your use of alcohol, caffeine and avoid smoking. Your doctor can check your iron (ferritin) levels. Keep a regular sleep/wake schedule. Moderate daytime exercise can help, as can massaging the legs or using heat or ice packs. In more severe cases, your doctor may prescribe you a medication to reduce the leg movements.

Do you only suffer from restless legs syndrome at night or can you also suffer during the day? Are the symptoms worse at night?

Symptoms are, by definition, worse in the evening or at night, but over time and with more severe symptoms, can spread to occur earlier in the day

Are there any products that help with restless legs syndrome?

Heat packs or ice packs can provide temporary relief of more mild symptoms, as can a warm bath

What would you recommend would be an ideal bedroom environment to get the best night's sleep?

The bedroom should be cool, dark and quiet. Earplugs or white or pink noise apps can help if you live in a particularly noisy area, or shared residence, but should otherwise not be necessary. Similarly, eye masks or blackout blinds can help if you cannot keep the room dark, particularly in the summer months. A comfortable, supportive mattress and pillow will help you remain comfortable through the night, particularly if you have pain or joint issues. 

What is your sleep wardrobe?

I keep things as simple as possible: a supportive mattress which is turned and replaced regularly, clean, breathable cotton bedding to help regulate my body temperature overnight and an “all seasons” duvet so that I can reduce the thickness (tog) in the summer months and increase it for additional warmth in the summer. 

Sleep Expert, Dr Allie Hare, shares her small tips that can make a huge difference to your sleep. Give them a try and see how you get on.

Dr Alanna Hare is a consultant in respiratory medicine at Royal Brompton Hospital, where she treats private and NHS patients.

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