Does Alcohol Cause Restless Leg Syndrome?

When someone has restless leg syndrome, they will often go months or years with discomfort before seeking medical attention to figure out why they are having pains in their legs or their legs won’t settle. 

Does alcohol cause restless leg syndrome

After being diagnosed with restless leg syndrome, one of the first questions people will ask is what caused this or why did it happen to me. There are some medical conditions where certain lifestyle choices could have helped prevent it, 

One of those lifestyle choices could be alcohol and how many drinks a person consumes on a regular basis. With restless leg syndrome, there is no clear causation between alcohol and developing this condition however it is strongly recommended that the amount of alcohol someone consumes is decreased. 

How Do You Know If You Might Have Restless Leg Syndrome?

This condition is a disease that involves the peripheral nerves, and most people report feeling this really uncomfortable or painful pulling feeling in your legs and is often accompanied by feeling the need to move your legs or walk around. 

When it comes to restless leg syndrome, people will usually feel like they have to get up and walk around – and it usually happens at the most inconvenient times.

For most people, the symptoms will be at their worst at night which can make it really difficult to fall asleep or get quality sleep. 

If you experience the following symptoms, you may have this condition and it’s probably time to talk to your doctor. 

  • Feeling the need to move your legs at night, or when you’re already laying in bed 
  • This feeling will often get worse the longer you are sitting or lying down 
  • The pain/discomfort is often relieved by getting up and walking around
  • Your legs involuntarily twitch or kick while you’re sleeping 

With these symptoms, it can be really frustrating because it’s hard to fall asleep. This can make it tempting to have a drink or two in order to help you get to sleep at night. However, if you have restless leg syndrome drinking alcohol can actually make it worse. 

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Alcohol And Restless Leg Syndrome 

Medical professionals are mostly of the opinion that alcohol can make restless less syndrome worse, but it is not the direct cause of it. 

man suffering from leg pain

Additionally, if someone is used to drinking socially or even daily then involuntary twitches and general restlessness are symptoms of alcohol withdrawal too. So if someone is used to drinking a lot then taking it out of their system can initially make the symptoms of restless leg syndrome worse. 

So while alcohol doesn’t directly cause it, drinking alcohol can either mimic the symptoms of restless leg or make the symptoms worse than what a person would typically experience. 

On top of that, alcohol can have a huge impact on someone’s sleeping habits and patterns too. So excessive alcohol consumption can cause you to have troubles sleeping which can also make the symptoms of restless leg syndrome worse. 

Alcohol Withdrawal

When the body is going through alcohol withdrawal, a person will experience a variety of really unpleasant side effects. 

The body will naturally try to correct some of the things that happened with excessive alcohol consumption. 

One of the things most commonly experienced with alcohol withdrawal is called neuropathy – which is a painful tingling in the arms and legs. If someone only experiences it in their legs, then they may believe it’s restless leg syndrome.

If someone has already been diagnosed with restless leg syndrome, the initial weeks of alcohol withdrawal can make the symptoms of this condition much worse and harder to handle. 

This initial detoxing period may also make it hard to sleep for some people as they could experience nightmares and excessive sweating – both of which make it really hard to sleep, and not sleeping can make restless leg syndrome worse. 

Alcohol And Sleeping

It may not be obvious, but drinking has a huge impact on a person’s REM sleep. REM sleep is the part of sleep that is the deep and restorative sleep that someone needs to function during the day. 

man drinking alcohol

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If someone drinks excessively, they usually don’t sleep very well and therefore almost always feel exhausted. 

When someone gets a lack of REM sleep and they have restless leg syndrome, the symptoms can become really unbearable. 

Being exhausted and not being able to get quality sleep can make the symptoms feel that much worse so your pain may be worse. 

Drinking excessively, overall, can significantly impact the quality of your sleep. For someone who has restless leg syndrome this not only makes them feel more exhausted but it will make their symptoms worse than if they stayed away from alcohol altogether. 

What About Alcohol At Night?

Some people will have just a drink at night, before they go to bed to help them fall asleep. 

While alcohol may help someone to fall asleep initially, it will still impact the quality of sleep you get – even if it’s just occasionally. 

As mentioned previously, alcohol disrupts a person’s deep sleep. And for someone who has restless leg syndrome, being tired can just make things worse. 

Overall, the best course of action is to avoid alcohol altogether when you have restless leg syndrome. 

How To Help Relieve The Symptoms Of Restless Syndrome

Once diagnosed with restless leg syndrome, it may take a little while to figure out what kind of treatment works best for you. Having restless leg syndrome is annoying at best, and completely unbearable at worst. 

Here are a few ways you can help with the symptoms you’re experiencing 

Avoid Caffeine, Where Possible

We all enjoy a cup of coffee or tea in the morning, and that’s completely fine. However, drinking caffeine later into the day or even in the couple hours before bed can cause the symptoms to get worse. 

Caffeine is a stimulant, and restless leg syndrome is a result of overactive or overstimulated nerves. Reducing the amount of caffeine can greatly help with the symptoms experienced. 

Get Regular Exercise 

This doesn’t have to be really intense or high-impact exercise, it could just be going for a quick walk around the block during the day. 

However you enjoy exercising – walking, dancing, lifting weights – staying active can go a really long way to helping your legs settle at night and relieving the symptoms you’re experiencing. 

Sleep Schedule 

Keeping a regular sleep schedule is beneficial for everyone – not just those who have restless leg syndrome. 

However, for those people who are living with this condition keeping the same bed time and time you wake up at can show a difference in the severity of the symptoms experienced. 

As much as possible try to keep the same sleep schedule – even on the weekends – so that your routine stays steady. This can help with brain function and ensuring you get quality sleep. 

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Give Your Legs A Massage 

Treating your legs to a regular, or even daily, massage can help to relieve the discomfort felt from the overactive nerves. 

man massaging legs using percussion massager

You can do this with your hands, if you want, or you can purchase a massage gun. A massage gun can apply more pressure than hands can, usually, so if you have a lot of discomfort then this might be a better way for you to go. 

People living with restless leg syndrome have reported that leg massages can really help with the symptoms they’re experiencing and allow them to enjoy a good night’s sleep. 

Review Your Medications 

Some people living with restless leg syndrome are prescribed medications to help them so they can get a good night’s sleep and the discomfort they feel is lessened. 

Depending on the person the medication can take effect over a different period of time. For some people, the medication will be effective right away and for others it could take a while. 

If you’ve been taking the medication for a while, though, and you aren’t noticing any positive changes then it could be time to review this with your doctor and see if there are other options or if it’s even worth it to take the medication anymore. 

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Final Thoughts

While most of us can enjoy a drink or two socially without any issues, those people living with restless leg syndrome may not have this option. 

Alcohol can have a magnified effect on people living with this condition, even if they only drink a little bit at a time. 

Alcohol may not directly impact restless leg syndrome, and there is no direct link between the two, however it can really impact the symptoms people experience when consuming alcohol.

Alcohol can make the twitches and restlessness worse than without consuming alcohol. 

Overall, alcohol consumption does not cause restless leg syndrome to occur for someone but it can definitely make the symptoms worse than for those who don’t drink. 

If you’ve been diagnosed with restless leg syndrome and regularly drink, this is the time to stop or at least slow down the amount of alcohol you consume. If you drink very rarely, you may notice on those nights that your symptoms are worse and it’s harder to fall asleep – however really monitoring your consumption will go a long way.