Treatments for RLS

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Remember that before taking any medication it is imperative that you consult with doctor/ pharmacist to make sure that you are on the right treatment. Some treatments that work for some people may not work for you.

There are a number of medical treatments and alternative therapies available for RLS which are covered in these pages. However, it is important to follow a number of general ‘sleep hygiene’ tips to help encourage a good night’s sleep.

Advice on how to improve sleep

  • The sleep environment should be optimised, so that the bed is comfortable and the bedroom is dark and quiet
  • A routine should be adhered to, by going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning (to stabilise circadian rhythms)
  • Naps should be avoided. A brief sleep – less than 10 minutes – in the early afternoon is permitted. Naps should not be taken in the early evening
  • Exercise during the day can help to improve alertness and initiate sleep at night. Please note that excessive exercise immediately before bedtime can prevent sleep
  • Food should not be consumed late in the evening
  • Caffeinated drinks should be avoided late in the day
  • Physical and mental relaxation before going to bed may help – e.g. take a warm bath, unwind from the day’s events

Substances to avoid

Avoidance of alcohol may help some patients, particularly those with a family history of RLS. In one study, 17.5% of individuals with a family history of RLS reported that alcohol worsened their symptoms.

Avoidance of caffeine-containing drinks is commonly advised, but the evidence linking RLS and caffeine intake is sparse. However, it seems sensible that a substance that delays sleep onset is not going to help sleep hygiene.

Smoking cessation is sometimes recommended, but while it is clearly desirable from a general health perspective, the medical evidence for this in RLS is ambiguous. Smoking is thought to exacerbate RLS, and a study has found RLS to be more common in smokers. However, another study found no association between smoking and either RLS or PLMS.