I'm a freelance writer and musician based in London with a passion for self-development, holistic health and spirituality.
I feel like a child again, afraid to go to sleep because there is a monster lurking under the bed—except the monster is my own body.
Until about three years ago I had experienced Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) a few times in my life. I knew what it felt like. It bothered me enough that I looked it up. I searched for remedies and treatments just in case it happened again.
What I found was a medical mystery as baffling as the Bermuda Triangle: “Doctors believe...”, “It’s thought that...”, “Some people may find relief with...”. No sources could tell me definitively why it felt like there was electricity running through my legs when I tried to sleep. And the only solutions they offered were to essentially knock yourself out with the strongest painkillers or sleeping tablets you can find.
This was frustrating. But nowhere near as frustrating as it was going to get.
Three years ago, my nights became a waking nightmare of thrashing, wailing, aching, stretching and pacing that has left me feeling hopeless and desperate beyond measure.
Restless Legs Syndrome Is Cruel
I have no idea why—when I’m preparing to go to bed—I start to feel these tingles in the base of my spine. Next my toes begin to twitch. The twitching creeps up my calves and up toward my thighs until my whole lower body is vibrating.
I have resorted to some insane measures to get to sleep. Sometimes lying on the floor, peddling my legs in the air with my eyes closed frantically until my body collapses, exhausted. I’ve done full-scale aerobics and yoga in the dark, half-asleep, at 3am, just waiting for the moment when finally, my legs give up the fight and we can both rest.
I don’t believe in painkillers and sleeping aids. Not only do they not work for me, but I don’t like what they do to my body. And so, I am seeking a holistic cure. I want to understand what is causing this and work with my body to fix the problem.
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I have done a lot of research. I have also spent time trialing various ideas, strategies and theories to test what effect they have on my body.
Does eating sugar at night have an impact? Should I be going to sleep earlier? (In my case, the later I wait to rest, the harder it becomes to fall asleep.). Am I missing some essential nutrients? How important is exercise? (For me, any lactic acid build-up following exercise causes an immediate reaction that can keep me up for days or weeks after.).
Importance of Spinal Alignment, Dopamine Levels and Iron Levels
Holistic physician Dr. John Bergman, who says that RLS is caused, not by one thing but by a combination of factors: spinal alignment, dopamine levels and iron levels. He posits that addressing these three elements in combination can provide relief or ultimately cure restless legs in most people.
Many RLS sources do point to low iron levels as a potential cause of leg cramping and restlessness. They also suggest movement or exercise to try and offset the restlessness at night (by extension, exercise increases dopamine so this holds weight), however, this is the first mention of spinal alignment I’ve seen and it has been a crucial puzzle piece for my management of this condition.
My journey continues and I am managing my condition as holistically as I can. I continue to work on both my iron and dopamine levels and look for ways to increase my movement gently without upsetting my body’s balance. And, with regular visits to the osteopath, I notice a profound and immediate improvement in my symptoms and I can sometimes go weeks without any RLS episodes.
I have enormous empathy for the many people who suffer from this condition every night. The lack of sleep is torture. The pain and discomfort are grueling. But, I hope that they never give up hope of finding a real solution.
If anyone here has had any success with other holistic or natural treatments or remedies, I’d love to hear your stories.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2020 Shannon Connolly