Home / Blog February 20, 2020 Updated on January 11, 2024

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How Weighted Blankets Can Help Restless Legs Syndrome

In this blog, let's examine restless legs syndrome (RLS) and how you can relieve your symptoms and treat restless legs syndrome by using the right weighted blanket, improving sleep quality.

How Weighted Blankets Can Help Restless Legs Syndrome

Did you know?
Restless Legs Syndrome affects more people than type 2 diabetes. Despite being a common health condition, it is unheard of by a majority of people, even those suffering from it.

Though nearly 12 million Americans suffer from Restless Legs Syndrome, there’s still a lack of knowledge and awareness about this curious sleep disorder. A nemesis of sleep, rest, and nightly peace of mind, RLS is a neurological disorder that impacts our senses and motion.

But what causes it? And what are some natural ways to fight off the frustrating feelings that come with it? We’ll examine what we know about RLS, and give you our best tips to relieve the restless sensations and get better sleep, the natural way. (Hint: a weighted blanket is the perfect place to start!)

What Is RLS?

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a condition that is characterized by a strong urge to move our legs when we’re in a resting position, especially after going to bed. Also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, RLS can begin at any age but worsens as you age and disrupts your sleep.

What does restless leg syndrome feel like?

Many people say the restlessness feels like tickling or twitchy sensations in their legs, which is temporarily relieved by moving, stretching, or by getting out of bed and walking around.

weighted blanket for restless legs

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Others describe restless leg syndrome as a feeling of mild electric shocks, burning, itching, crawling, tugging, or even the feeling of “an aerated drink running in the veins”. Unpleasant, to say the least.

Our natural reflex to combat these sensations is to move our legs restlessly in involuntary movements, hence the name of the syndrome; you feel the irresistible urge to move your leg muscles in periodic limb movements to get rid of the uncomfortable sensations of twitching legs.

Restless leg syndrome generally comes on during the evening hours. As the sun sets and you decide to rest and relax, RLS goes into activation mode and the unpleasant crawling feelings begin.

But in general, a lack of physical activity at any time can bring on the symptoms of restless leg syndrome, so it’s not just during sleep that it tends to strike. Any kind of sedentariness - like long plane or car rides, sitting in a theatre for a concert, or an especially long wait at the doctor’s office - can cause RLS to kick into gear.

If you find it torturous to maintain composure while sitting in confined spaces for long hours, there is a high probability you have RLS.

Because restless leg syndrome symptoms tend to vary from person to person, many of those suffering from this disorder are unaware that their problem even has a proper name. By recognizing we have a condition, we're in a much better position to address and relieve it, and find ways to treat it for more restful sleep.

We've shed some light on the symptoms, so let's talk about what the underlying cause for Restless Legs Syndrome is.

Restless Leg Syndrome Causes?

Unfortunately, there aren’t too many hard and fast rules as to what causes this sleep disorder. Commonly, people over 45 years of age complain of RLS, but it can happen to anyone at any stage of life, even childhood. Studies have shown that females are twice as likely to develop RLS than males.

In a large number of cases, there’s no apparent cause of RLS. However, there are some underlying links that researchers have found over the years.

Several genetic links have been found for RLS, meaning it can be inherited across generations in families. So if you’re suffering from this sleep disorder, there’s a great chance that it runs in your genes.

Dopamine imbalance
One of the most widely talked about perpetrators of RLS is a chemical called dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter responsible for carrying signals from the body to the brain. Dopamine plays a crucial role in controlling physical movements as well as emotional responses, so the right balance of dopamine levels is crucial for your physical and mental well being. If your dopamine levels are imbalanced, it could result in RLS.

Restless Legs During Pregnancy
RLS experienced during pregnancy is often associated with hormonal fluctuations, sleep deprivation, discomfort, deficiency of vitamins and minerals (such as iron deficiency anemia), and a heightened sensitivity of the senses. Onset RLS during pregnancy will usually resolve within weeks of delivery.

do weighted blankets help pregnancy

Photo by Juan Encalada on Unsplash

Existing health conditions
Restless leg syndrome is sometimes an outcome of another health condition that you're suffering from - in these cases, this health condition is known as secondary RLS, as opposed to primary RLS. Anaemia caused by iron deficiency, diabetes, and kidney failure can cause secondary RLS.

Foods that cause restless leg syndrome
If you suffer from restless leg syndrome, you should avoid any foods or beverages that contain caffeine, for caffeine stimulates your nerves and worsen RLS symptoms. Examples include coffee, tea, energy drinks, and chocolate. You should also stay away from fattening or excessively sugary foods and beverages, such as sugary sodas and fried or processed foods, and focus on eating a more balanced and healthy diet.

Some Natural Ways To Treat RLS

The biggest danger with RLS is that it can severely disrupt your sleep cycles, which can then negatively impact many other parts of your life, like your mental health and have negative physical effects.

The fact that there are no tried-and-tested, universal treatments for RLS can feel disheartening, but some simple self-care solutions and lifestyle changes have been shown to relieve symptoms, so let’s look a bit closer at some of these remedies for your well being.

Change your habits
Like a lot of other health issues, modifying our daily habits can help ease chronic conditions. Practicing sleep hygiene and healthier habits, such as regular exercise and maintaining healthy sleep patterns aligned with your circadian rhythm can be very helpful. Simple home remedies can also help immediately ease the symptoms of restless legs syndrome - try taking a warm bath, or using a heating pad or ice pack on the affected area for temporary relief.

How to stop restless legs immediately at home
Simple home remedies can help immediately ease the symptoms of restless legs syndrome. Taking a warm bath or using a heating pad or ice pack on the affected area can provide temporary relief.

Other sub-sections: Change your habits, Try Yoga, Use relaxation techniques, Get your iron and magnesium.

Try Yoga
The practice of yoga inherently focuses on breathing and stretching, which can calm nerves and sooth your senses, and keep you physically fit as a plus! Including yoga in your daily regimen can help reduce the impact of restless leg syndrome, and help you fall asleep.

Use relaxation techniques
Breathing exercises and meditating before going to bed help combat stress and anxiety, calming the nervous system. Such relaxing techniques not only help in eliminating symptoms of sleep disorders like RLS, but boost your overall physical and mental wellbeing.

restless legs

Get your iron and magnesium
Iron deficiency can be one of the causes of restless leg syndrome, which you can supplement with natural sources rich in iron such as apples, honey, dates, and pomegranates. As a natural muscle relaxant, magnesium can also help you alleviate RLS symptoms. Bananas, avocados, legumes, tofu, seeds, and fatty fish are packed with magnesium.

We recommend including nuts and greens like spinach, kale, broccoli and peas in your diet, as they are loaded with both muscle relaxants - magnesium and iron.

What vitamins help restless leg syndrome
Research has shown that vitamin B6 supplements can help reduce the severity of symptoms for restless leg syndrome and improve their sleep quality, as well as vitamin B12, as vitamin deficiency can cause RLS.

Avoid sugar and sodium before bed
Consuming dairy, caffeine, and foods loaded with sugar and sodium is a big no before bedtime. They activate and worsen the symptoms of RLS. So, think twice before you decide to binge on junk food before calling it a day!

avoid sugar - weighted blanket and restless leg

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

Stretch those muscles
Performing mild stretching exercises before going to bed can help you avoid the symptoms of RLS to a great extent, helping with muscle spasms and calming down your nervous system.

Create a sleep-friendly environment
To cope with any kind of sleep disorder, it’s crucial to focus on factors like sleep hygiene and sleep environment; you’ve got to create a cool, comfortable and cosy vibe!

Blue light from mobile phones, tablets, and televisions mess up your melatonin production and delay your sleep, so avoid using them at least half an hour before heading to bed. Fluorescent bulbs have a similar effect - they’re one of many things that can sabotage your sleep.

Once your phone or tablet is tucked away, try curating your sleep environment to create a space that truly feels restful. This will look different depending on what helps you relax! You might invest in a silky pillowcase to keep your hair and skin fresh, or a extra long body pillow that supports you from head to toe

Use a weighted blanket
Weighted blankets have been shown to relieve the unpleasant symptoms of RLS. This comes down to something called Deep Touch Pressure therapy, which happens when you place evenly-distributed weight over your body. Deep Touch Pressure is especially helpful for restless legs syndrome, for the gentle pressure triggers pressure points that help in the production of some key relaxation and sleep hormones.

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The hand-knitted weaves of our best weighted Bearaby Nappers completely cocoon your bodywith the sensation of being hugged - the deep pressure stimulation evenly across your body promotes the release of serotonin, a stress-relieving chemical produced by our nerve cells. Increased serotonin not only promotes feelings of calmness, it also leads to the release of more melatonin, our sleep hormone. This chemical flood helps you quickly calm down and drift off into dreamland, which is why using a weighted blanket for restless legs is an excellent idea to help you fall asleep.

are weighted blankets good for restless legs

Weighted blankets also reduce cortisol levels throughout the night. High cortisol - often called our stress hormone - has also been linked to RLS, so when those unpleasant sensations start creeping up at night, pull on a Napper and let the weight work its magic.