Weighted Blanket for Restless Legs
If you’re looking for a way to get relief from restless legs syndrome (RLS), a weighted blanket may be the answer.
There is no scientific evidence to support the use of weighted blankets for RLS but people report good results.
If you’re considering using a weighted blanket for RLS, this guide will show you everything you need to know, from how to choose the right blanket to how to use it safely.
Table of Contents
Would a weighted blanket help restless leg syndrome?
Yes, weighted blankets could potentially help people with restless leg syndrome sleep better and reduce their symptoms. Weighted blankets work by providing deep touch pressure, which releases hormones that ease nerves and promote relaxation.
- The gentle pressure can help soothe and calm the muscles that are twitching due to restless leg syndrome.
- Deep touch pressure has also been shown to reduce cortisol levels, which can aggravate RLS symptoms.
- Weighted blankets can provide a calming, relaxing effect that may help to create a distraction from the unpleasant sensations in the legs.
- Weighted blankets can also help to improve the quality of sleep, making it deeper and more restorative, which can help reduce RLS symptoms.
How does a weighted blanket work for restless legs syndrome?
A weighted blanket can be an effective treatment for restless legs syndrome, as it works through two important mechanisms. First, the even pressure of a weighted blanket can help regulate dopamine and serotonin levels in the body, which can reduce symptoms of restless legs syndrome caused by low dopamine levels. Secondly, the gentle pressure of a weighted blanket can help reduce stress levels, leading to decreased symptoms of restless legs syndrome.
By inducing the production of “feel-good” hormones, applying gentle pressure to the body, and providing a distraction, weighted blankets can help to reduce the severity of restless leg syndrome symptoms. Read our detailed guide on how to use a weighted blanket correctly.
What is restless legs syndrome?
Restless legs syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease, is a neurological disorder that causes people to have an uncontrollable urge to move their legs when resting. The discomfort associated with RLS is often described as a tingling, burning, aching, prickling, twitching, crawling, tickling or electric shocks sensation. It is more common in women than men and typically begins in middle age.
RLS can significantly disrupt a person’s sleep patterns and can cause fatigue, irritability, and problems with concentration. Symptoms of RLS can be temporarily relieved by stretching, moving, or getting out of bed and walking around. Treatment for RLS should be sought out to help manage symptoms and improve overall health.
What are the causes of restless legs syndrome?
The causes of restless legs syndrome are still largely unknown, but some potential causes include an imbalance of dopamine in the brain, genetics, current health conditions like diabetes or anemia, pregnancy, neuropathy, low dopamine levels, and medications such as antipsychotics, antidepressants, anti-nausea, and cold medicines.
It’s safe to use a weighted blanket during pregnancy for restless legs but women needs to be sure that they use the right weight.
Researchers also believe that there may be a genetic component to RLS, as the condition tends to run in families and is more likely to affect those whose symptoms begin before the age of 40. Secondary RLS is caused by an underlying medical condition, such as iron deficiency anemia, peripheral neuropathy, or kidney failure.
What are the symptoms of restless legs syndrome?
1. Unwanted Movements in the Legs
The unwanted movements in the legs associated with restless legs syndrome include twitching, jerking, kicking, aching, tingling, pins and needles, burning, itching, tugging, crawling, and mild electric shocks. These sensations may be worse at night and can be relieved temporarily by stretching or getting up and walking around. People with RLS may also experience involuntary twitching or jerking of the legs during sleep, called periodic limb movements of sleep (PLMS).
2. Unrestful Sleep
The symptoms of restless sleep include: difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, daytime sleepiness, reduced energy levels, negative changes in mood, involuntary movements and twitching at night, feeling unrested in the morning, higher production of cortisol, increased stress and anxiety levels.
3. Sensation of Crawling or Tingling Legs
The sensation of crawling or tingling legs is often described as twitchy, tickling, burning, itching, tugging, or even mild electric shocks. This sensation is what characterizes Restless Leg Syndrome, and is often felt when someone is in a resting position, such as after going to bed.
Other symptoms of RLS can include leg-twitching or kicking while sleeping, an urge to move your legs after periods of rest, and a sense of relief when moving your legs, such as jiggling, stretching, shaking, or walking around. It is also associated with a lack of physical activity at any time, and worsening symptoms at night. People with RLS often find it difficult to sit for long periods and have difficulty socializing due to the discomfort.
4. Intense Urge to Move Legs
The intense urge to move legs with restless leg syndrome can be quite uncomfortable and often very disruptive. It can feel like a tingling, pins and needles, an electric shock, a throbbing, aching sensation, or like something is crawling under your skin. It is an overwhelming, irresistible urge that can make it difficult to sit for long periods of time or to get a good night’s sleep.
Often, the symptoms worsen in the evening and at night, making it hard for people with RLS to relax and get the rest they need. People may also experience involuntary jerking of their arms and legs while asleep.
Sufferers of RLS may feel relief after moving their legs, or by stretching, shaking, or walking around.
5. Muscle Cramps
Muscle cramps can also be a symptom of restless leg syndrome. To help reduce the symptoms of restless leg syndrome, it is recommended to take warm or cold compresses on the legs, avoid trigger foods or substances such as alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, nicotine, dairy products, and foods high in sugar before bed, and engage in activities such as taking a bath or shower, going for a short walk, or doing some light exercises or stretching.
What are the pros and cons of using a weighted blanket for Restless Legs Syndrome?
The pros of using a weighted blanket for Restless Legs Syndrome include providing a distraction for the nervous system, reducing stress, and improving sleep quality. Weighted blankets can counteract the unpleasant sensations in leg muscles, reduce cortisol levels, and help to quell anxious thoughts. Many people find instant relief from discomfort and it is often a completely natural tool to try.
The cons of using a weighted blanket for Restless Legs Syndrome include that not everyone will find them effective, and there are some complaints of them making matters worse. Additionally, choosing the right weighted blanket can be difficult as people need to consider the fabric, size and weight to find one that suits their needs.
Do weighted blankets help with restless sleep?
The answer is yes – weighted blankets can potentially help people with restless leg syndrome sleep better. These bedroom accessories have a calming, relaxing effect that could soothe restless sleepers and help them enjoy improved quality sleep.
Deep Pressure Therapy can help individuals with restless leg syndrome sleep better, leading to improved sleep quality and deeper, more restorative slumber. Although there isn’t enough scientific evidence to back it up, many sleepers have had success with weighted blankets and there’s no harm in trying one out.
What are the risks of using a weighted blanket for Restless Legs Syndrome?
The most common risk is the potential for discomfort due to the additional weight. If the blanket is too heavy for you, it can cause an uncomfortable feeling on your legs and make matters worse. Additionally, if the weight is not distributed evenly across the blanket, it can cause uneven pressure on your legs which can be uncomfortable.
It is important to make sure you purchase a breathable, comfortable fabric for your weighted blanket, as this will help ensure it does not trap heat and cause discomfort.
What can I do to reduce the symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome?
- Avoid consuming sugar and caffeine before bedtime. Avoid coffees too late as falling asleep after drinking coffee is not funny.
- Increase your intake of iron and magnesium with leafy green vegetables, nuts, and legumes, and sources of iron in lean red meat, poultry, and fish. You can also take iron supplements if you don’t eat enough meat.
- Quit smoking
- Take a warm bath and massage your legs, as well as apply heat or ice packs to your legs to help numb the uncomfortable sensations.
- Establish a proper sleep routine, such as not using electronic devices an hour before going to bed, sleeping at the same time every night, and sleeping in an environment that’s cool, quiet, and free of light pollution.
- Exercise in moderation early in the day and avoid hitting the gym too late.
- Try a weighted blanket for restless legs.
How often should I use a weighted blanket for Restless Legs Syndrome?
The frequency and timing of using a weighted blanket for Restless Legs Syndrome will depend on each individual’s needs. Generally, it is best to use the blanket in the evening and night when RLS symptoms are most bothersome. Some people may opt to drape the blanket over their legs while reading or watching television, while others may get better relief from sleeping with the blanket – all night.
It is important to ensure that the weight of the blanket does not exceed 12-20% of your body weight for optimal comfort and safety. Additionally, for people with RLS, it is beneficial to use a weighted blanket every night for the best results.
How common is restless leg syndrome?
According to estimates, in the United States alone, it is estimated that up to 26.6 million people are affected by this disorder, with women being twice as likely to develop it and it being more common in middle age. Furthermore, around 1 in 5 pregnant women suffer from RLS in their last trimester, which usually disappears after they have given birth.
How many minutes of restless sleep is normal?
It is normal to experience some restlessness while sleeping (when you move so much in your sleep), but the amount of time varies from person to person. Some people can fall asleep quickly, while others may take longer.
Depending on the individual, it can take anywhere from a few minutes to up to an hour for a person to fall asleep but up to 30 minutes of restless sleep is called absolutely normal.
Tipton PW, Wszołek ZK. Restless legs syndrome and nocturnal leg cramps: a review and guide to diagnosis and treatment. Pol Arch Intern Med. 2017 Dec 22;127(12):865-872. doi: 10.20452/pamw.4148. Epub 2017 Nov 9. PMID: 29120993.