Can Anxiety Cause Restless Leg Syndrome?

Updated January 2021
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There are many causes of restless legs syndrome, and one of the most common is anxiety. When you have anxiety, your body becomes hyper-stimulated. Your body becomes filled with nervous energy, and there are several ways in which this manifests itself, including certain tics like having restless legs.

What is restless leg syndrome?

Restless legs syndrome is a condition affecting the nervous system. It creates an overwhelming urge to move your legs, particularly when you're sitting or lying down.

Also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, many doctors view it as a sleeping disorder because most people experience it in bed. Up to 10 percent of people in the United States suffer from RLS, and there are many symptoms individuals can experience from this disorder.

  • Tingling or itching sensations in the legs
  • Feeling of restlessness
  • Feeling an urge to move limbs to relieve sensations
  • Daytime drowsiness

Is anxiety a trigger for restless leg syndrome?

Anxiety and stress are major triggers for RLS. The reason for this is that anxiety triggers the body's "fight or flight" response. Adrenaline increases, and you feel an urge to move to get away from a situation. The only problem is that there's no situation to get away from, so your body becomes fidgety.

There are several other potential explanations behind your RLS that include:

  • Low levels of iron
  • Depression
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes

How can I treat my anxiety?

By addressing underlying anxiety, you can have an easier time going to sleep at night. You may also feel more relaxed in your day-to-day life. Everyone's anxiety is different, and depending on your body and lifestyle, you may need to make several changes to find relief.

  • Talk to your doctor about prescription medication options, such as Lexapro, Paxil, or Zoloft
  • Avoid stimulants and foods high in sugar, especially right before bedtime
  • Engage in light to moderate exercise several times a week

Will treating my anxiety help my restless leg syndrome?

By addressing any underlying anxiety, you avoid hyper-stimulating your body. This can help in numerous facets of your life. It can even help with RLS, but some people may notice they're still suffering from symptoms.

It's critical to speak with your doctor if you're still suffering from RLS after treating anxiety. Another cause may have played a role in your RLS, such as an iron deficiency. Your doctor may need to run additional tests to determine other causes. For example, a blood test can reveal if you have low levels of iron in your body. Many RLS sufferers need to take iron supplements to address the problem.

Will a new mattress help with anxiety and restless leg syndrome?

Another reason why you may have anxiety and restless legs syndrome is due to your mattress. Sagging and bumpy mattresses make it difficult to get comfortable at night. This can create frustration and may make you toss and turn all night long.

If your mattress is lumpy or over 10 years old, then it's time to get a new one. A new mattress should be part of an overall lifestyle change where you really examine your sleeping habits. You should try going to bed at the same time every night and eliminate any distractions in the bedroom so that you can sleep soundly and improve your sleeping rhythm.

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