Lifestyle Changes and Activities
Can lifestyle changes relieve RLS symptoms?
Making simple lifestyle changes plays an important role in alleviating symptoms associated with restless legs syndrome. Therefore, physicians may advise patients to consider altering their lifestyles, when possible, by avoiding certain activities that may aggravate symptoms and engaging in others that may help relieve symptoms.
What activities should be avoided?
The use of tobacco products or the consumption of alcohol may increase the intensity of RLS symptoms. Therefore, refraining from alcohol consumption and tobacco use is usually recommended. In general, the consumption of anti-nausea medications, neuroleptic, and antidepressants should be avoided.
What activities are helpful?
Following a regular sleep routine may alleviate RLS symptoms, whereas having irregular sleep habits may contribute to fatigue and potential aggravation of symptoms. Therefore, it may be beneficial for patients to retire at the same time every evening; arise at a regular time every morning; and ensure that their sleeping environment is comfortable, quiet, and at an appropriate temperature. In addition, physicians may recommend that patients develop an awareness of the number of hours of sleep they require to feel refreshed (restorative sleep) and then adjust their sleep routine accordingly. There is a known circadian rhythm to RLS (i.e., the typical nighttime worsening of symptoms may follow an approximate 24-hour biological pattern). Accordingly, sleep studies have shown that individuals with RLS may best achieve restorative sleep later in the 24-hour cycle (such as from 2 a.m. to approximately 10 a.m.).
Regular, moderate exercise may also alleviate RLS symptoms. In contrast, excessive exercise typically intensifies symptoms and therefore should be avoided if possible. It is often recommended that exercise be discontinued at least six hours prior to bedtime. However, some find that briefly performing certain routine, moderate exercises immediately before bedtime may be helpful in promoting sleep. Taking a hot bath or receiving a massage before bedtime may also help to promote restorative sleep.
Some people with RLS may experience symptoms while sedentary (e.g., during prolonged periods of sitting during traveling). In such cases, concentrating on tasks that engage the mind may temporarily help to relieve symptoms. For example, reading a gripping novel or playing a video game while traveling may be beneficial.
Consuming a healthful, balanced diet may also play a role in alleviating RLS symptoms. Physicians may also recommend appropriate vitamin supplementation to help ensure proper nutrition.
Are there any other activities that may alleviate symptoms?
In many cases, when individuals experience symptoms associated with RLS, engaging in particular movements or performing certain self-directed activities (i.e., offering "counter stimuli") may provide temporary relief. Such activities may include walking, bending, rocking, pacing the floor, or stretching, massaging, or "jiggling" the affected limb(s). Applying hot compresses or cold packs to the affected limb(s) or practicing relaxation techniques may also be beneficial.