Restless Legs Syndrome Could Be Sabotaging Your Sleep, So Watch Out For These 4 Signs

On those warm summer nights when I resort to counting sheep or reading my old textbooks in an attempt to finally get some rest, I want nothing more than to be able to drift into uninterrupted sleep. Luckily, these kinds of wakeful nights are a rarity for me, but for many people, something else is seriously disrupting their slumber, called restless legs syndrome. If you're not familiar with the condition, but you are familiar with the mysterious agony of a sleepless night, it might be helpful to know some of the signs of restless legs syndrome (RLS), so you can figure out whether or not this is what's keeping you from getting the rest you need.

According to Bill Fish, a certified sleep science coach and co-founder of Tuck Sleep, restless legs syndrome, as the name might suggest, is characterized by recurring urges to move your legs throughout the night, as well as persistent leg pain that keeps you from being able to sleep. And, believe it or not, it's actually a relatively common condition: Matteo Franceschetti, co-founder and CEO of sleep technology company Eight, who suffers from RLS himself, tells Elite Daily over email that RLS affects more than 10 percent of Americans, so if you've experienced some of these signs and are wondering whether you have this condition, you're certainly not alone.

Luckily, if you're living with RLS, there are a few things you can do to improve your sleep. For instance, Fish tells Elite Daily, you can make a point to go to bed at the same time every night, which will train your body to know when it's time to rest and when it's time to be awake, thus (hopefully) mitigating some of the symptoms of RLS.

You can also try making your bedroom into what Fish describes as a "sanctuary" of sorts: Leave your electronics out of the bedroom, try to block out all light from outside, and keep the temperature cool, he recommends. Removing some of these external distractions may help to improve your sleep quality, Fish explains.

Whatever you try to do for your RLS, don't allow yourself to get too many poor nights of sleep in a row without reaching out to a professional, says Franceschetti. "If you feel like RLS is getting in the way of getting a good night's sleep, you should definitely seek help," he says. With the support of your doctor, you can find ways to adjust your sleep routine in a way that works for you, and you may even find that there's a medication out there that helps settle some of your symptoms.

In the meantime, here are the signs of restless legs syndrome to watch out for.

A Constant Urge To Keep Moving Your Legs

According to Angela Tucker, M.D., a clinical assistant professor of family medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, if you have RLS, the main symptom that you'll probably recognize right off the bat is an uncomfortable sensation that gives you uncontrollable urges to move your legs.

Keep in mind, this urge doesn't refer to your typical toss-and-turn or when you roll over during the night to get comfortable. Rather, Tucker tells Elite Daily over email, it's when these urges happen multiple times throughout the night, to the point of being genuinely disruptive to your sleep, that it may be a sign of RLS.

Persistent Leg Pain

The pain might happen throughout the night while you're trying to sleep, but sometimes, Fish explains, the pain in your legs may even increase once you just lie down in general.

And in fact, one of the tell-tale symptoms that you're dealing with RLS, and not something else, is the fact that moving your legs actually relieves the pain. "If this is happening to you and you don’t have any other extraneous circumstances like starting a new workout routine, you may be suffering from RLS and should make an appointment to see a physician," Fish tells Elite Daily.

A Nutrient Deficiency

Tucker says that one factor that could make you more susceptible to RLS is a nutrient deficiency. "People who are found to have low iron levels and low vitamin D levels may benefit from taking supplements," she tells Elite Daily. So whether you incorporate more dark, leafy greens into your diet or start taking a supplement, a boost in whatever nutrients your body's lacking should bring you some relief.

Exhaustion During The Day

Since RLS can significantly affect your ability to get the rest you need at night, you might feel groggy and "not up to your normal self the next day," Fish tells Elite Daily.

In fact, according to Franceschetti, people who have RLS are losing out on a lot of sleep: In a study that his sleep tech company Eight conducted with Dr. Brian Koo, director of the Yale Center for Restless Legs Syndrome, the results of which were sent directly to Elite Daily over email, researchers analyzed over 900,000 minutes of sleep and found that RLS-sufferers accumulate significantly more sleep debt than the average person, and may lose as much as 73 hours of rest in a single year. "The most serious concern for people with RLS is that it can interfere with sleep, causing daytime sleepiness and fatigue," says Franceschetti. "If not treated, it can also put you at risk for other health problems like depression."

But it's crucial that you don't wait until you've lost all of those hours of quality rest, or worse, start to notice a negative change in your mental health. As Fish recommends, if you're experiencing pain in your legs that's affecting your sleep over a full seven days' time, take care of yourself by seeking help from a doctor.