I’ve been struggling with a relatively mild form of Restless Legs Syndrome for years (yes, it really is ‘a thing’!), especially at night. RLS is also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease and ‘causes unpleasant or uncomfortable sensations in the legs and an irresistible urge to move them.’1) In my case, it’s more like an intense, unrelenting ache inside my bones. I’m lucky, however, as my bouts with RLS have been too sporadic to warrant a doctor’s visit but I’ve realised over the years that, although paracetamol is the most effective ‘drug’ for reducing my discomfort, I am well aware that taking ‘pain-meds’ repeatedly is perhaps not the best long-term solution to this particular problem, so I decided to do some research on the subject.
I was surprised to learn that in ‘most cases, the cause of RLS is unknown’2) although there is growing evidence that certain common factors may play a role; i.e. chronic diseases, medications, and lifestyle habits may all contribute to this condition.3) Hence, certain healthy habits like enough sleep, moderate exercise, avoiding alcohol, tobacco and caffeine in excess, minimizing certain cold remedies that contain antihistamines and generally following a nutritious and varied diet can all help reduce the frequency or intensity of (non-severe versions of) RLS.4) Following these guidelines is generally a good rule of thumb for most of us, but what if you already do and you still face the odd sleepless night with RLS? I found it fascinating to read that sometimes a simple mineral deficiency can also be the culprit, with the two most common being iron and magnesium.5)6)
We need iron for growth and development. Our body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body, and it also uses it to make myoglobin, a protein that provides oxygen to the muscles. Furthermore, our body needs iron to make some hormones as well.7) Similarly, magnesium deficiency may result in a host of symptoms including anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, hormonal imbalances, sleep issues and muscle cramps, rather like RLS.8) So it was eye-opening for me to discover that I could perhaps help myself by supplementing with either iron and/or magnesium.
I’m a big fan of trying to find the easiest or most natural solution first to any problem if I can, and you know what the simplest fix that I’d heard about was? To place magnets under my mattress, directly underneath my legs when I’m sleeping. I plan to try this one first – although I’ve added iron and magnesium to my shopping list for next week as a back-up, just in case this little gem of a tip doesn’t work (😜)!
1), 2), 3), 4) “Restless Legs Syndrome Fact Sheet.” National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Restless-Legs-Syndrome-Fact-Sheet.
6), 8) “Top 7 Benefits of Magnesium.” Thenutritionwatchdog.com, thenutritionwatchdog.com/top-7-benefits-of-magnesium/.
5), 7) “Office of Dietary Supplements – Iron.” NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-Consumer/.