If you’re like thousands of Americans, you have trouble sleeping. Some people suffer from nightmares, others are just plain insomniacs. But if you climb into bed at the end of a long day, brain exhausted and ready to rest, and your legs suddenly get the urge to run a marathon, you might just have RLS. I know, because I do, too.
Restless Leg Syndrome, or Willis-Ekbom disease, is the neurological disorder that gives you an irresistible urge to move your body in order to combat odd or uncomfortable sensations.
I’m one of those people who, for years, discounted the notion that “Restless Legs” was an actual thing. But denial can only go on for so long. It was my habit to lie down in bed each night, only to get up 20 minutes later to perform any number of remedies that I could concoct. Occasionally I’d toss and turn so much that my wife would have to get up, take a pillowcase, and literally tie my legs together. I got the hint and started trying other remedies. Here’s a list of the ones that did, and didn’t work:
Quinine Pills: My mother called me up (she has RLS, too) to offer her advice. Someone had told her that drinking quinine (tonic water) before bed helps keep your legs calm. I tried it, to no avail. I suspect she was mixing her quinine with gin.
Ivory Soap: Another cockamamie idea I was given was an old wives’ tale that said
if you place a bar of Ivory soap under your sheets, it will alleviate the symptoms. It didn’t do anything for me. In fact, I smell a conspiracy. An Ivory-fresh smelling conspiracy.
Exercise: More often than not, I try to tire my leg muscles out when they start to get all herky-jerky. I think this is the most vindictive remedy—my brain is inconvenienced by the lack of sleep, so it punishes my legs. This one tends to work best, though, and exercise is never a bad thing…
Hot Shower: I find that, is all else fails, I climb into a hot steamy shower and just soak for a while. Then, I stumble over to the bed and my body is relaxed enough for me to fall asleep. My wife is not a big fan of this remedy, because the sheets are soaking wet in the morning.
The Couch: When all else fails, I drag my sleep-deprived body down to the couch. There’s this space in between the cushions and the back of the couch that I jam my feet down into so that they can’t move. This swaddling technique is great, except that I occasionally wake up with a stiff neck from sleeping on the couch.
Sleeping Pills: This one was always kind of a last resort for me, but once in a while I found it necessary. Sleeping is great, but once you’ve been up for four nights in a row, a simple 8-hour snooze becomes downright heavenly.