temperatureKeeping your legs cool in the evening is vital to managing restless legs.
My top two remedies for restless legs
These are the top two remedies that have helped relax my restless legs and help me sleep!
Remedy #1 – Use icepacks on your legs before bedtime
Well I’m not a doctor but here’s my theory of why it works for me – the uncomfortable sensations in the legs are due to low-level inflammation and swelling. With this comes heat. I feel the need to move my legs slightly to feel better, which I liken to tossing and turning when you’re trying to sleep on a hot night.
When to use icepacks
I try to ice my legs in the hour before I go to bed, or when I’m lying in bed. It’s a bit of a hassle, but when I don’t do it, I always find it hard to get to sleep and I might have to get up and do it anyway.
How to use icepacks effectively
I’ve found the easiest thing to use are gel icepacks and ideally as large as possible. I have two icepacks and ice both legs at the same time.
My problem is in the lower leg so this is the area that I ice. To start with I do the front of the leg. First I ice the knee to mid-shin – make sure your calf muscle on the outer part of your leg is covered. Then shift the icepacks down to do mid-shin down to the top of the foot.
Then I do the back of the leg, from just below the knee to mid-calf, then mid-calf downwards including the achilles.
Depending how crazy my legs are feeling, I will usually keep the ice in each position for 5 mins at a time. As this is in 4 different positions, that is 20 mins in total.
Using icepacks safely
In case you are new to using icepacks – be aware that you could do some damage if you leave them on for too long or use an icepack directly against your skin. You could freeze or damage some of the delicate tissues on your skin and muscles. At worst, it could stop blood flow or cause frost-bite.
You must have a barrier like a towel or cloth between the icepack and your legs. Also, use a timer to make sure you don’t leave them on for two long.
If you are going to do a proper trial of icing your legs, I highly recommend you use gel icepacks. The gel is soft, so it wraps around your legs and the surface of the icepack is in full contact with your legs making them very effective.
The second advantage of these icepacks is that because they shape to your leg, they generally stay where you put them on your leg, without having to hold them in place. Always use a cloth between the icepack and your skin.
If you are going to try icing your legs, then make sure to pair this with Remedy #2 which follows:
Remedy #2 – Take a layer off your legs at night
Warmth from blankets
If you have inflammation in your legs and you’ve spent time icing to cool them down, you don’t want to undo this good work by having your legs too hot during the night.
Usually, the sheets, blankets or duvets we use, cover us from our neck to our toes. But if you have inflammation in the legs, your legs are going to be warmer than the rest of your body so you don’t need the same coverage from top to toe. The solution is to take a layer off your legs. This is as simple as pulling back the top layer of bedding just from your legs and folding it to the side.
You know in the middle of summer when your room is too hot and you’re tossing and turning all night? This is what your legs are doing, they are literally tossing and turning, trying to cool down so they can be at rest. Start to notice on nights where you can get to sleep then are woken by your symptoms – often your legs have become too warm. Once you can cool them down again, it will be easier to get back to sleep.
A sheet on its own may be too cold and you might need another partial layer. If you have cold feet you may need to wear socks. Make whatever adjustments you need to find that sweet spot, but it is more than likely that your legs do not need the same amount of warmth as your upper body.
Weight of blankets
Also, the extra weight of a blanket might be making them feel uncomfortable. If your covers are tucked in, or they are heavy and hang over the edge of the bed, this can create a feeling of your legs being constrained. Leave bedding untucked and make sure your blankets or duvet is on your bed rather than hanging over the side.
Discomfort of sleepwear
Sometimes pyjama pants or leggings can also overheat or constrain the legs so trial sleepwear that is a bit cooler or looser.