What alternative therapies are available for restless legs syndrome?
Exercise. Exercise may be one of the best ways to achieve healthy sleep. A study found that people who engaged in brisk walking for 30 minutes, four times a week, improved minor sleep disturbances after four months. Another study reported that sleep improved in a group of elderly people who exercised regularly. Regular, moderate exercise, healthful in any
case, may help prevent restless legs syndrome. Patients report that either bursts of excessive energy or long sedentary periods worsen symptoms.
Stimulus Control. Stimulus control is now considered the standard treatment for primary chronic insomnia and may be helpful for some patients with secondary insomnia as well. The primary goal of stimulus control is to regain the idea that the bed is for sleeping.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation. Progressive muscle relaxation is another effective technique for inducing sleep and may help reduce legs symptoms in some patients.
Paradoxical Intention. Paradoxical intention is a psychological approach that is based on doing the opposite of what one wants or fears and take it to extreme. The first step is to make a plan to take such a paradoxical approach to restless legs syndrome.
Biofeedback. Biofeedback is also effective but requires being monitored with an electroencephalogram (EEG), a device that measures brain waves. Patients are given feedback to recognize certain states of tension or sleep stages so that they can either avoid or repeat them voluntarily.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy that emphasizes observing and changing negative thoughts (such as, "I'll never fall asleep"). It also employs actions intended to change behavior. Studies have been mixed on its effectiveness.
Sleep Hygiene. The term sleep hygiene is used to describe simple behaviors that may help everyone improve their sleep. Establish a regular time for going to bed and getting up in the morning and stick to it even on weekends and during vacations. Exercise before dinner. Avoid naps. Do something relaxing in the half-hour before bedtime.
Acupuncture. Patients who also suffer from rheumatoid arthritis may especially benefit from acupuncture to relieve restless legs syndrome symptoms. Acupuncture is believed to be effective in arthritis treatment and may also stimulate those parts of the brain that are involved in restless legs syndrome.
Homeopathy. Homeopaths believe that disorders of the nervous system are especially important because the brain controls so many other bodily functions. The remedy is tailored to the individual patient and is based on individual symptoms as well as the general symptoms of restless legs syndrome.
Reflexology. Reflexologists claim that the brain, head, and spine all respond to indirect massage of specific parts of the feet.
Nutritional supplements. Supplementation of the diet with vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, and folic acid may be helpful for people with restless legs syndrome.