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sleep / wellness

Diet and Restless Leg Syndrome

by BetterSleep
Mar 29 • 4 min read

Restless leg syndrome (RLS), is also known as Willis-Ekbom disease. It’s an uncomfortable health condition where you have the intense urge to move your legs. Alongside this, some people experience unusual sensations like crawling or throbbing.

While it can happen at any time, sufferers report it happens most often at night. It may also happen when you’re laying or sitting and trying to keep your legs still. Often there is no known cause for RLS. Although, some research has shown it can run in families, be caused by an underlying health condition or result from lacking certain nutrients in your diet.

If you are suffering from or think you’re suffering from RLS, you should always get checked out by a doctor. Alongside medical treatment, certain lifestyle changes such as increasing exercise levels, cutting out caffeine and adding certain foods to your diet may help relieve symptoms.

Do Certain Foods Cause Restless Leg Syndrome?

Certain foods may aggravate the symptoms of RLS. Foods to avoid include:

  • Chocolate
  • Fried foods
  • Sugary soda
  • Processed foods
  • High sugar foods

Drinks containing caffeine can also aggravate RLS, because they overstimulate nerves. If you have RLS, it’s best to avoid:

  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Energy drinks

What Vitamins Help Restless Leg Syndrome?

People with restless leg syndrome may be lacking in certain nutrients. Research has found some sufferers to have a deficiency in brain iron. Another study found that the development in RLS was significantly higher in those deficient in vitamin D. Aim to increase your iron intake by eating foods such as:

  • Liver
  • Red meat
  • Spinach
  • Pork
  • Poultry
  • Beans
  • Seafood
  • Iron fortified cereals

In the summer months, you should be able to get enough vitamin D from sunlight. In the winter, it’s recommended to take a vitamin D supplement or up your intake of foods containing this vitamin, such as:

  • Liver
  • Red meat
  • Oily fish
  • Egg yolks
  • Fortified foods
  • Mushrooms

Low levels of magnesium and folate are also thought to be a factor in those suffering from RLS. Each nutrient plays a part in nerve pulse conduction and muscle contraction, which may explain why they are so beneficial. Increase your intake of magnesium rich foods like:

  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Peanuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Spinach
  • Edamame
  • Soy milk
  • Brown rice
  • Black beans
  • Peanut butter
  • Whole wheat bread

Try these foods rich in folate:

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Liver
  • Leafy greens
  • Lentils and beans
  • Rice and quinoa
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Fortified cereals

Eating a diet rich in nutrients and avoiding the common triggers such as caffeine, alcohol and high fat and sugary foods, should make you feel a whole lot better. Pair a healthy diet with tailored sleep sounds from the BetterSleep app and you’ll enjoy a deeper, more restful sleep.

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