Restless Legs Syndrome

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Hello partners

As I am a newcomer to this group, I ignore what has already been said in the posts and reading them all is a work of weeks.

But if I want to explain that the first treatment for insomnia is not medical, but psychological or perhaps both disciplines: it is firstly the "control of anticipatory anxiety" and secondly "sleep hygiene."

I am going to talk about the first point: when a person has a chronic insomnia problem, they fear going to bed because they anticipate the suffering of not being able to sleep, it generates anxiety. Anxiety is a mechanism that puts the brain and body on alert to defend themselves from danger, but it is a maladaptive mechanism because there is no reaction to freeing oneself from that danger, there is only fear, fear. That fear feeds insomnia and thus produces a malignant insomnia-anxiety-insomnia cycle.

To be able to sleep, you have to break that circle and this can be done with pills, anxiolytics, if the situation that generates insomnia is punctual, but if it is of long duration, the pills can increase the problem in the long term, since the body ends up get used to them and we start mechanisms of tolerance and / or dependence. Then it is more useful to learn psychological techniques to control anxiety, such as:

- Practice an aerobic sport not with high intensity, 4-5 hours before going to bed; yoga, or a leisurely walk an hour before bed.

- Practice a relaxation technique also before going to bed.

- Thought control technique, which consists of not letting the brain engage in anticipatory thoughts of not sleeping. This is achieved by engaging the brain in enjoyable and distracting activities. The main one is HUMOR or LAUGHTER. Laughter has been scientifically proven to have pain-reducing and anxiety-reducing effects. Watching a funny movie or reading an interesting book before bed inhibits aversive thoughts about insomnia. Any pleasant activity that keeps our brain busy is good.

- Taking a glass of warm milk, an infusion of relaxing herbs, and / or a shower with neither very hot nor very cold water, also reduces anxiety and promotes sleep.

- Once in bed you can practice breathing and relaxation exercises and let sleep come. But if 20-30 minutes pass and you have not fallen asleep, it is best to get up and start reading something uncomplicated or put on melodic or classical music until you feel sleepy and then go back to bed.

- De-dramatize the fact of sleeping little or badly for one or two nights because we have a resource to sleep on the third night, then if we can take a pill for insomnia, because if more days go without sleep, insomnia can become chronic. If we can get some sleep every night we will not take pills and we will continue with psychological treatment.

All this is complemented with the "Sleep Hygiene", which I will write in another post, so as not to be heavy today.

In severe cases of RLS this treatment will not help to remove the discomfort or spasms in the legs, which are the main cause of insomnia; but in mild cases it can help. In any case, practicing the previous two, Anxiety Control and Sleep Hygiene, can help to reduce the medication taken somewhat and make the disease less distressing.

2 Replies

Thank you again Arjiji,

I would add that mindfulness CBT is a more recent and fairly well researched technique for easing anxiety and depression.

It includes many strategies which help focus our attention in the here and now and which don't necessarily require relaxation.

Headphones with minimal techno does it for me.

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