You know that feeling when you’re not ready to get up yet the dreaded alarm clock forces you to. That feeling when the sun is beaming right into your eyes and you feel like you just fell asleep an hour ago.
Welcome to the world of insomnia – a common sleep disorder that affects millions of people worldwide.
Besides causing grumpiness, poor mental acuity and fatigue, insomnia can lead to a long list of health problems such as:
- cardiovascular disease
- weight gain
- poor gut health
- weakened immunity
The underlying cause of insomnia varies. Some individuals have a hyperactive mind that is difficult to shut off, while others suffer from a more serious condition that is rarely talked about – Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS).
RLS affects over 10% of the population.
It is more common in pregnant women, those with iron-deficiency, and children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The disorder affects a part of the nervous system and leads to a sudden urge to move the legs, especially at night.
Other symptoms experienced in the legs include:
- burning sensation
- “pins and needles” sensation
People with the condition often describe an intense restlessness in their legs, a crawling sensation on their skin or an urge to get out of bed and start moving.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders & Stroke lists these 4 criteria for diagnosing RLS:
- Symptoms that are worse at night and are absent in the morning;
- A strong and often overwhelming need or urge to move the affected limb(s), often associated with paresthesias (burning or prickling sensation) or dysesthesias (unpleasant, abnormal sensation);
- Sensory symptoms that are triggered by rest, relaxation or sleep;
- Sensory symptoms that are relieved with movement and the relief persists as long as the movement continues.
Although the vast majority of restless leg syndrome cases occur at night, many individuals suffer from RLS during the day, particularly after prolonged periods of sitting or inactivity.
The main treatment for RLS is dopaminergic agents along with sleep medications.
These drugs have been prescribed since the 1980s and although they offer some relief, they also come with side effects, such as headaches, drowsiness, and hallucinations.
To avoid side effects, many people prefer a natural, less-invasive treatment approach. Please consult your Naturopathic Doctor (ND) before using any of the supplements suggested below.
- folic acid (400 mcg)
- iron (30 mg)
- vitamin B12 (1000 mcg)
- vitamin C (500 mg)
- vitamin E (400 IU)
- magnesium (250 mg)
Avoiding stimulants, calming the nervous system, and relaxing before bedtime are also encouraged. Remember that stimulants cause adrenaline to be released, which has a negative effect on the body and can worsen symptoms such as burning, itching, and tingling.
Replace caffeinated beverages with valerian root tea, skullcap tea or passionflower tea.
Alcohol and tobacco appear to aggravate the condition as well and are best avoided.
This condition can be very debilitating – affecting sleep, mood, and stress levels. Although it is a lifelong condition with no cure, naturopathic treatments can help control the disorder, reduce symptoms, and improve quality of life.