Why Do You Get Restless Legs?

By: Covenant Odedele


Your friends prefer to take a drop to Awo from the gate, but you would rather save the hundred bucks than gift a cabman; you must have been nicknamed a wakawaka; people often tell you that your legs are restless. That may be true, but it’s not what I mean to explain. 

Now, imagine you are on a bed with another person who is asleep, and this person moves their legs as though they were cycling; they’re probably not acting out a dream, their legs are only restless. 

The Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a condition that causes an uncontrollable urge to move one’s legs, usually because of an uncomfortable sensation. It comes in such a way that makes the legs “twitchy”, and as though they want to move on their own. It typically happens in the evening or night-time hours when you’re sitting or lying down, and is most often severe at night when a person is resting. It can also pose a problem when one’s trying to sleep. This condition also occurs during inactivity and if one sits for extended periods, like watching a movie for hours.

Sitting or resting are common triggers for RLS symptoms, but these restless leg symptoms can also be caused by other conditions including diabetes, iron deficiency anaemia, alcoholism and some forms of arthritis. It is relatively common in pregnant and older women. And among many, sleep deprivation is one of the more common side effects of RLS, since sufferers may need to get out of bed and walk around many times every night in order to alleviate the cramps. Some liken this sensation to shooting darts of electricity or squirming insects inside the legs. 

Most individuals with restless leg syndrome will have rhythmic or semi-rhythmic movements of their legs while they are asleep. Since any movement of the legs will usually bring about some immediate, although temporary relief, the legs must be moved. And if the legs are not moved, they may jump on their own. 

RLS symptoms are frequently described as abnormal, unpleasant sensations in the legs or feet. They usually happen on both sides of the body and less commonly, the sensations affect the arms. Since symptoms mostly increase in severity during the night, it could become difficult to fall asleep or return to sleep after waking up. And as a result, RLS is one of the several disorders that cause exhaustion and daytime sleepiness, which can strongly affect mood, concentration, job and school performance, and personal relationships among others. Moving the legs or walking typically relieves the discomfort but the sensations often recur once the movement stops. Sometimes the sensations are difficult to explain, however, there is a consistent desire to move the legs. You would find yourself pace the floor, constantly move your legs while sitting, and toss and turn in bed.

RLS can be treated, with care directed toward relieving symptoms. Moving the affected limb(s) may provide temporary relief but RLS symptoms can be controlled by finding and treating an associated medical condition, such as peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, or iron deficiency anemia. Pneumatic compression devices also help by increasing blood flow to the legs by filling with air to squeeze the legs. RLS is generally a lifelong condition for which there is no cure. However, current therapies can control the disorder. Some of which are an increase in periods of restful sleep and healthy lifestyle practices such as massage and hot baths.

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