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Thursday, February 15, 2007

I get restless legs and can’t sleep - Please help me!

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a horrible condition that is poorly understood and for which there are few medical treatments other than sedation and muscle relaxants. An athlete in training does not want these. The condition may also be associated with or confused with night cramps.

RLS is more common in older people and may be associated with poor circulation and poor nutrition and as a side effect of medications for other conditions like high blood pressure. Excessive caffeine, red wine and chocolate before bedtime might be factors. Symptoms include feeling like something is crawling about inside the legs, an uncontrollable urge to tense and straighten the legs and cramping feelings in the legs and feet. This can be intolerable and renders sleep next to impossible.

Little has been written about RLS in athletes despite it being quite common. In the case of athletes, RLS is probably the result of over training, over-indulgence in caffeine and nutritional deficiencies, especially magnesium and B vitamins depletion. Here are some suggestions that might help bring some relief:

  • Do the bulk of your training early in the day, rather than late afternoon or evening so that recovery is well on the way before sleep.

  • If you notice the symptoms abate during your recovery weeks you might be over-training. You may benefit from reducing the overall volume of training and doing a more graduated build up.

  • Get off caffeine and other stimulants and avoid red wine and chocolate in the evening and any other foods or substances that you think might upset sleep. If you have been a habitual caffeine taker, it may take up to three weeks to get through the withdrawal symptoms, so you must be strong.

  • Have your last big meal well before sleep so that you are not digesting a full stomach while trying to sleep.

  • Do not eat heavily spiced meals, such as hot curry and chilli peppers in the evening.
    Try a course of magnesium, calcium and B group vitamins supplementation to reduce cramping. Take one of each of these supplements about an hour or less before bed. Take with a warm cup of milk.
    Have a Super Smoothie with whey protein. Add some creatine and take before and after exhausting exercise.

  • A glutamine supplement in the evening might assist.

  • Have a relaxing bath with Epsom salts and a gentle massage of the legs before going to bed.

  • Sleep in a cool, dark room without excessive bedding so that you do not overheat the legs. The legs should always be several degrees cooler than your core temperature.
If symptoms persist, or if you want assistance with refining this advice to suit you, give me a call.


Anonymous said...

Hi - I had a similar problem last year and followed Gary's advise taking magnesium and calcium supplements - I still take them now, but with a lower dose and only up the magnesium if I feel my legs getting that weary feeling
GOod luck!

Anonymous said...

I get this severely for periods of time - usually about 3 weeks. I sleep for about an hour after going to bed and then spend most of the rest of the night awake - stretching and flexing, stretching and flexing. I take Magnesium, calcium and vit B but no difference. My wrists get it worse than my legs.

Gary Moller said...

These things can drive people slowly nuts as I'm sure you can tell. You need to look for patterns of association, like caffeine and red wine, spicy foods, exercise, other medications and so on and so on. Can you see any pattern, like time of month, seasons, working week, is it worse after your gym workout days, when you have had a stressful day etc? Give me a call if you like to help work through these.

Anonymous said...

I get this severely but periodically. I find it eases when I do train harder and tire my legs out,. Being inert seems to buold up the tension in them. More recently im finding it in my wrists and hands particularly the joints of my fingers. I definitely see the pattern with late meals, red wine and chocolate and along with the 'time of the month'where my body temperature is much higher.

Gary Moller said...

Knowledge advances and here are couple more things you can experiment with:

Try a course of Agewise Coenzyme Q-10. Take 3 per day for the first bottle then one per day ongoing.

The other is to try a course of 5-HTP. Take 1-2 in the hour before sleep and see what happens. (This will be avialable off my site in about a week from now.

Give each of these about 2-4 weeks to work.

If you try any of these suggestions, please let me know how you get on.

Anonymous said...

hi there my name is melinda and i am very concerned about my grandma (joyce). she is 75 and suffers from really bad restless legs and has for some time.she has had 3 strokes in the last 10 years which has left her very weak in one leg, she has tryed everything from the chemist and health shops and nothing works,her doctos suggested that she take sleeping pills that may make her feel dopey next day grandma goes to clubs and things every week so that would be no help.i see her every day and its painful for me to see her so affected by this.
she is only getting 3 nights if that sleeps a week,and because of the weekness from the strokes it makes her days hell when she hasnt slept,its doesnt seem fair that she has to suffers in the last years of her life.please could you help me out. she is very healthy never smoked or drunk.i see her everyday and i can see the affect when she hasnt slept.please help? thanks for your time look forward to hearing back. melinda mc farlane

Gary Moller said...

Melinda, I appreciate your concerns because this condition can drive people crazy.

Since I wrote this article there have been further developments.

The most valuable thing you can do for your Gran is to arrange for her to have a Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis. This is a robust diagnostic tool nowadays that shows us what is happening inside her cells with regards to minerals, vitamins and metabolism. It removes most of the guesswork for dealing with conditions like these. Once you know for sure what is going on you can then take positive steps to alleviate the discomfort other than resorting to medications that dull the nervous system.

Write me direct with your address and I will send you an information kit about how to go about getting this test done.

Unknown said...

I've found that there are 4 stages to recovering from RLS. The first, and most important is the healing of the inflammation in your legs that is causing the RLS.

Here are the 4 steps to a FULL recovery ...

STEP 1. Stop the Spreading Inflammation in its Tracks

STEP 2. Encourage the Repair/Replacement of your Damaged Cells

STEP 3. Encourage the Healing/Repair of your Nervous System
(nerve cells frayed from prolonged inflammation)

STEP 4. Prevent Inflammation from Reoccurring

Less inflammation = less RLS. This is as universal a truth as you will ever hear in regard to Restless Legs Syndrome.

This is not a "personal" cure that is only going to help a few. This will help EVERYONE that is willing to try it out.

It doesn't matter what sort of heavy duty drugs you're taking for your RLS. You don't need to go off of them. Eventually your inflammation will lessen and you'll be able to wean off at your own pace.

The best way to heal the inflammation that is causing your RLS is to load up with as many anti-inflammatory herbs as your budget will allow. Curcumin, Ginger Root, Cayenne, St. John's Wort, Licorice Root DGL, Devil's Claw and Skullcap are good ones.

Also, to enhance the healing, take a high quality Cal/Mag, Iron, Zinc, Omega 3, Lecithin and Vitamin B12.

It sounds like a lot, but you will not regret the effort when you start to see the results.

David Wimble