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Restless Legs Are Exhausting, But Taking Magnesium Might Help

It may help relax your muscles.


Restless legs syndrome (RLS) might sound like a mild annoyance, but it can cause a great deal of discomfort and ruin your sleep schedule. What’s worse, there is currently no cure and the condition can last for years or a lifetime.

However, that doesn’t mean that there is nothing you can do. If you suffer from restless legs, consider taking a magnesium supplement. But before you can determine how much you should take and whether it’s the right solution for you, make sure that you have first received a proper diagnosis.

How To Find Out if You Have Restless Legs Syndrome

If you’re often fatigued and suffer from two or more of these symptoms, restless legs syndrome could be to blame:

  • Strong urge to move legs during periods of rest
  • Tingling in the legs
  • Itching or aching
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Brain fog
  • Blue/depressed mood
  • Anxiety

If you have two or more symptoms, talk to a healthcare professional to rule out other possible causes and receive a diagnosis.

The Importance of Receiving a Diagnosis

RLS is a draining condition that impacts more women than men, according to a recent study. Marked by an urge to move the legs, research indicates that the condition is caused by impairments in brain regions that regulate movement. “Since symptoms worsen at night, they can disrupt sleep, triggering fatigue, fog and anxiety,” says neurologist David Perlmutter, MD. But doctors often confuse RLS with other conditions — the reason it takes so long for some sufferers to receive a diagnosis.

Complicating matters: “RLS can have serious health consequences,” notes Dr. Perlmutter. Indeed, the sleep disruptions it causes can raise the risk of weight gain, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

And while drugs that lift dopamine (a chemical messenger that controls muscle activity) are often prescribed, the effects can be fleeting. In patients with intermittent RLS, they don’t work as well because they have a delayed effect and are less helpful if the symptoms have already started.

Some more good news: Taking magnesium may ease RLS.

Why Magnesium May Help With Restless Legs Syndrome

Research from 1993 shows that a magnesium deficiency correlates with certain types of restless legs syndrome. Another study from 1998 found that magnesium taken once daily for four to six weeks reduced limb movements during sleep. These findings spurred the practice of taking magnesium for RLS symptoms.

Why might this mineral help with restless legs? One source states that it helps muscles relax and may help regulate nerves, preventing overactive muscle contractions.

So, how much should you take? About 200 to 300 milligrams (mg) of magnesium before bed is a good place to start.

Just make sure to check with your doctor before dosing. Taking moderate amounts of mineral supplements may impair your body’s ability to use other minerals or even cause toxicity — so only take these supplements if your doc approves.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

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