Sleep deprivation, restless legs syndrome, hand in hand.

Firstly, what we are talking about.
Restless legs syndrome involves...

1. An uncontrollable urge to move the legs (and occasionally the arms or other body parts,) nearly always plus uncomfortable or unpleasant sensations in the muscles or bones there.

2. The symptoms begin or worsen during periods of rest or inactivity such as lying or sitting.

3. Movement such as walking, wriggling or stretching reduces the symptoms at least while you do it.

4. Symptoms are (or were at an earlier stage) worse or only present in the evening or at night.

5. A family history of restless legs syndrome over half the time, especially if you are under 40.

6. Mostly plus involuntary leg twitching or jerking movements during sleep.

With feelings like creeping, crawling, itching, searing, tugging, aching, hot and cold or electric current, it's little wonder the effects of lack of sleep are added to the RLS.

It's easy to focus on your tiredness and difficulty getting to sleep. If you fit the above description, treating your restless leg syndrome is what you need to sleep better.

Causes and treatment of RLS

Iron deficiency must be checked for. Correction of this can help, and it is very important to find out why one is iron deficient.

This is usually caused by blood loss, which may be slight but persistent, and due to something which needs treatment itself.

varicose veins may not be very obvious, but cause leg heaviness, difficulty walking, pain or tenderness along the course of a vein, itch, pins and needles, burning sensations, night cramps, swollen ankles, skin pigmentation and RLS.

There is recent work¹ indicating that compression stockings help.

Certain drug treatments, used for depression, hay fever and nausea may aggravate RLS.

If you're on any such medications, check with your doctor.

Nutrient deficiency of magnesium or vitamin B6 may be the cause.

Magnesium deficiency may be caused by zinc deficiency, so both may be needed.

A zinc taste test is reasonably useful to point towards lack of zinc.
No convenient test for magnesium deficiency is available, so it is just "suck it and see."

Large doses of magnesium may be needed, either as chelated magnesium tablets or magnesium ascorbate solution. The latter is made by sprinkling ascorbic acid (vitamin C) powder into fluid magnesia until it stops fizzing up.

This is taken in doses throughout the day, to avoid diarrhoea. You need to know that your kidneys function is OK before you try this, and to check with your doctor about interactions with prescribed drugs.

Vitamin B6, ideally the activated form pyridoxal-5-phosphate, is best taken early in the day to avoid getting vivid dreams.

"Detox" may be useful, as excitotoxicity from plastics, pesticides or new building materials may be the cause.

Pins and needles sensation - different

Miss W told of pins and needles in her feet if she sat too long and in her hand (plus numbness, waking her at night.)
This responded rapidly to one calcium orotate tablet per day.

One does need to describe one's symptoms very clearly. Think about the best descriptive terms to use before you see your doctor.

Notes and references

1. Lettieri CJ et al Pneumatic compression devices are an effective therapy for RLS: a prospective, randomized, double-blinded, sham-controlled trial. Chest. 2009 Jan;135(1):74-80

2. Bandolier is always worth looking at - has a number of references re RLS at, if you are researching this.

3. is is a non-profit organization providing the latest information about RLS.

4. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke page is at

5. From Australian Prescriber see...

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