Restless legs and I can't sleep
May 18, 2010 8:19 PM   Subscribe

Help me deal with restless legs syndrome.

It's not only my legs, but my hands and arms, too. The only thing I've found that works for sure is large doses of alcohol, but obviously that's not a long-term solution.

It's not bad during the day (and it's easy enough to deal with then anyway), but after 11pm or so it can get brutal. Has anybody tried Requip? Or anything else that isn't just a placebo or homeopathic quackery?
posted by Camofrog to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Do you take any other medication?
posted by swerve at 8:32 PM on May 18, 2010

I hear really really good things about Niacin.
posted by unixrat at 8:37 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't take anything else, no.

I'm also curious to hear about side effects, etc. from anybody taking a prescription med.
posted by Camofrog at 8:38 PM on May 18, 2010

Get your ferritin levels tested. Recent studies show that raising ferritin levels above 50 can provide relief in some cases. (Don't supplement with high iron until you are tested, especially if you're male, to prevent raising levels too high.)
posted by availablelight at 8:44 PM on May 18, 2010

I took Mirapex and it made a huge difference but it caused compulsive eating and shopping for me. It is also known to cause compulsive gambling.

I switched to Klonopin, which helps relax you enough to sleep. I occasionally have to take a hydrocodone as well. Hot, hot baths help a lot.

I also found that when I quit taking antidepressants, I went from leg thrashing, pain-filled nights to more of a dull ache. I switched medicines at the same
time I went off the antidepressants so I'm not sure which made the difference.

RLS has also been linked to iron, magnesium and other deficiencies. My iron tested low so my dr has me on iron supplements.

I hope you find some help because this is an awful condition to suffer and not always taken seriously.
posted by tamitang at 8:48 PM on May 18, 2010

I am not a doctor.

I used Clonazepam 0.5 mg and it worked and it is a generic med.

The recommended medication is Mirapex ... but terribly expensive. No generic available.
posted by JayRwv at 8:49 PM on May 18, 2010

I am also not a doctor.

For the record, I asked because some kinds of meds (some antipsychotics, some antidepressants) can cause something similar to restless legs known as akathisia.

Nthing the iron deficiency check. Iron deficiency is correlated with restless legs syndrome.

My mother takes gabapentin for her restless legs. She was not helped by Requip. I've taken gabapentin as well and it's been mostly harmless as meds go: mild weight gain, mild stupidity.
posted by swerve at 8:50 PM on May 18, 2010

Seconding the niacin suggestion - I just read this article yesterday, and it suggests that niacin will make everything All Better. I would definitely give this a try before pharmaceuticals, but of course I'm NAD either.
posted by jordanlewis at 8:52 PM on May 18, 2010

My dad suffers pretty badly from RLS and Requip has improved his nights enormously. Recently he though he had taken the pill but hadn't and spent an absolutely horrible night. So yes for Requip.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:56 PM on May 18, 2010

I'm on Klonopin for anxiety but I find it works great for RLS too. No hangover, no side effects for me. It works virtually instantly. Some people evidently have problems with dependency on it, but I have not experienced this. DO NOT DRINK ALCOHOL WITH IT; I have had blackouts this way.
posted by desjardins at 9:18 PM on May 18, 2010

When I get restless legs, I eat half a banana for the potassium, and take 450 mg. of magnesium oxide. This has always worked for me, but my problem's not severe, either. My mother, who has it worse than I, used to take quinine for it, but can't get it anymore. Now she has a good slug of tonic water if her legs start to bother her, and it helps her a lot.

If I had to pick only one of the above, I'd choose the magnesium!

I hope you find relief soon.
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy at 9:30 PM on May 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

This article just showed up on BoingBoing yesterday: Restless Legs Syndrom, Niacin, and Web Search
posted by cheeken at 9:46 PM on May 18, 2010

OTC Claritin and sometimes Sudafed will kick mine off. I have to get the 12-hour ones if I don't want to kick the bed all night.

Anecdotally, I'm on 500mg per day of niacin for my cholesterol, do flush occasionally, and haven't really kicked the bed that much since I started it. Go figure.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:16 PM on May 18, 2010

I often get restless legs when I'm going to sleep, soI usually leave them outside the blankets until they are very cold - once I put them back under the blanket, the twitchiness is gone.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:18 PM on May 18, 2010

I used Mirapex with good results for a few years. But after seeing an anti-aging and natural hormone replacement dr. and adopting a custom supplement and meds regimen from him, I no longer have RLS at all. Bonuses to the treatment were losing 40 lbs. and feeling better than I have in 20 years.
posted by northernlightgardener at 11:18 PM on May 18, 2010

someone told me once that putting a small object - like a box the size of a bar of soap - under the sheets at the foot of the bed helped restless leg syndrome. That having an object there that the brain knew to avoid subconsciously helped focus those impulses and helped. I don't know if it's complete hogwash or not, but it's harmless to try.
posted by lemniskate at 5:17 AM on May 19, 2010

I am the doyenne of Restless Leg Syndrome; had it since I was a teenager. Years ago, my internist prescribed the generic Klonopin, which helped, but made me slightly dopey and caused me to oversleep in the mornings.
I've been taking a store brand of Slow-Mag (64 mgs of slow release magnesium chloride) once in the morning, and once in the evening. It took about 8 days to work, but it works for me!
I have played a doctor on stage, if that makes any difference.
posted by BostonTerrier at 7:02 AM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks everybody. I'm going to try some of these things one at a time, starting with a little extra iron and niacin supplements (I don't think some of you actually have the same thing I do...making my legs cold or putting a bar of soap in the bed is definitely not going to work, and I've tried quinine to no avail). I've tried Klonopin, too, many years ago...I think the Parkinsons meds have replaced that as the go-to med.

I'd still love to hear from anybody else who's tried the Mirapex/Requip route. Not that I think these are the only effective meds, but the more folksy remedies never quite seem to pan out.

I'll post back as I figure things out.
posted by Camofrog at 7:24 AM on May 19, 2010

By the way it's interesting to read the spectrum of symptoms. My limbs don't really hurt, nor do they thrash uncontrollably. They just feel like they are full of energy and want to, run a marathon or lift weights. Moving and stretching instantly relieves the sensations, but unfortunately only for a couple of seconds. No amount of exercise makes any difference, fact, it sometimes seems to make it worse. It does, however, make me more tired so I can eventually fall asleep out of exhaustion. At around 4am.
posted by Camofrog at 7:31 AM on May 19, 2010

I only get it on planes. For 24 hours beforehand I drink tonic water instead of water and I try to do some yoga or other light exercise and stretches.

On the plane I do not drink any alcohol at all - it definitely, definitely makes it worse. Coffee makes it a little worse so I avoid that too.

Just my personal experience of course. Good luck.
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 8:00 AM on May 19, 2010

Both my mother and my father suffer from this. The outlook is not so good for me. My mother has had good success with Requip.

this is an awful condition to suffer and not always taken seriously

You're not joking. I've known some otherwise nice people to be dicks when it comes to this.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:33 AM on May 19, 2010

I did not find Requip as helpful as Klonopin, and it also gave me horrible dreams. I'm talking afraid to go to sleep dreams. When I was on Klonopin, I had the most restful sleep I've ever had. Unmedicated now, but it only flares up when I get the least little bit dehydrated. FWIW, while I do kick in my sleep, the sensations in my legs when I'm awake are like yours.
posted by Ruki at 8:39 AM on May 19, 2010

I use Wish Garden Serious Relaxer to calm down for bedtime when I need it (I have restless everything syndrome).
posted by No Shmoobles at 10:16 AM on May 19, 2010

My RLS is in my arms and legs too. I'm on SSRIs, and I believe that makes it worse. I recently stopped taking Requip after having taken it for years.

Warning: icky stuff ahead

The biggest problem I had with Requip is that if I took too little, I jerked and thrashed around all night. But if I took too much, I threw up. Not just oh-jeez-I-have-the-flu throwing up, either. This was hard. I usually burst blood vessels in my face (so I had dark blood freckles), and once burst blood vessels in my eye. I'd throw up anything I still had in my stomach, and continue dry-heaving for about five minutes.

The problem was that the amount kept changing. After a while 1 mg stopped working, so I had to cautiously experiment with 1.25 mg, 1.5 mg, and stop hopefully before I got bad nausea or threw up again. 1.5 mg might work for a while, then suddenly become too much, and I'd throw up and have to pull it back.

I finally quit taking it when it not only made me throw up, it made me weak, shaky, and dizzy. I was sweating profusely. I'm pretty sure it was the Requip, as the sickness came upon me out of nowhere after taking it, improved when I didn't take it, and came back when I took it again.

The other thing with Requip is that your body grows to tolerate it, and you need more and more to deal with the RLS. I got up to 4.25 mgs before I quit. My doctor wouldn't raise it any higher.

Now I take Sonata to knock me the hell out before it gets too bad. Once I've fallen asleep, the hormone that causes sleep paralysis takes care of the rest.
posted by cereselle at 10:22 AM on May 19, 2010

Update 1: Swing and a miss with the niacin. Picked some up on the way to work and ate a capsule; got slight flushing and prickles so I know it was in my system, but no change in symptoms. (YMMV.)

Next up: Slo-Mag and iron supps. If those don't work, I'm going for the big guns...I have a feeling the herbals and OTC stuff just aren't going to cut it though.
posted by Camofrog at 12:58 PM on May 19, 2010

Again, not a doctor, but I recommend that you get iron levels done by your doctor, mainly so you have a baseline. Also, give the iron some time; the body doesn't become low on iron overnight and needs time to build its stores. In my experience, six week of faithfully taking my iron supplements will usually show a notable increase in levels. Don't give up on it overnight.

I noticed that some (legit) sources are using the word akathisia to mean restless legs. I've never had restless legs, but I've had drug-induced akathisia, and it's hell. I think they're probably the same thing with different causes. I really hope you find relief.
posted by swerve at 5:13 PM on May 19, 2010

By the way it's interesting to read the spectrum of symptoms. My limbs don't really hurt, nor do they thrash uncontrollably. They just feel like they are full of energy and want to move

Yep, from what a friend has told me it's not so much the restlessness as it is a nervous "electric" energy that makes you need to move. He explained to me that he actually had to take pain relievers. Vicodin I believe. I didn't quite get what the deal was but he was pretty knowledgeable about it. When he was low on money and his script ran out he resorted to a tea boiled up from poppy flowers. I don't suggest partaking in illegal substances but you may want to look into the pain relievers.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:22 PM on May 19, 2010

Niacin takes around a week to make an impact. If you're working from a long-term deficiency it'll take a little bit to replenish your stock.
posted by unixrat at 9:44 AM on May 20, 2010

Update 2: After a week of niacin, magnesium, and iron supps, things are only getting worse. The niacin seems to work a little, but only for a few minutes, and even if I manage to fall asleep, I'll be awake again and back at square one in a half hour, only now worse since I'm more awake after a nice catnap.

P.o.B.: Your friend's description is dead-on, but no way I'm going to go the pain-reliever route, fun as that sounds.

My health insurance kicks in on June 1, at which time I am going to command a doctor to write me a scrip for Requip. Then maybe I'll rob a bank to pay for it. Last night I put the ice cream back into the fridge instead of the freezer. I need some sleep.
posted by Camofrog at 9:03 PM on May 27, 2010

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