What causes restless leg syndrome to get worse?

I have restless leg syndrome and I wake up some nights because my legs twitch. Can what I eat, drink or do during the day be affecting the severity of my restless leg syndrome?

Doctors Answers (3)

SomnoDiagnostics, Inc.
Answered on: 10/29/2013

Caffeine and exercise close to bedtime can make restless legs syndrome worse. Also, it is typical to have a blood test to identify your current Serum Ferritin level.

J. Douglas Hudson, MD, DABSM
Answered on: 10/3/2013

By definition, restless legs syndrome gets worse when the sun goes down, when you are at rest and aggravated by several medications. The effect of food is quite variable from individual to individual and other than caffeine and alcohol which may bother some persons. The medications which commonly make RLS worse include many antidepressants, diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and agents which reduce dopamine (anti-psychotics and anti-nausea medications). Too much exercise may worsen RLS.

Vector Sleep Diagnostics Center
Answered on: 9/24/2013

Excellent question. Restless leg syndrome (or RLS) has a variety of triggers and provoking and exacerbating factors. It also sometimes runs in families (genetic predisposition). I assume formal diagnosis of RLS was made by your physician but if not I certainly recommend a visit to your local sleep specialist or any physician with expertise in RLS. It is believed that RLS is a caused by deficiency of one of brain chemical - dopamine. Iron is very important for dopamine production and iron deficiency (anemia or pre-anemia) may provoke RLS symptoms or make them worse. It is a good idea to do iron studies to look for low iron stores. Numerous medications may unmask or exacerbate RLS (medications to treat anxiety, depression, nausea, antihistamines for allergies are among those). Among common RLS triggers are caffeine (tea, coffee, soda, etc.), nicotine, possibly alcohol, stress and anxiety. Regular mild to moderate exercise (as opposed to vigorous activity) and reducing sugar intake may help RLS symptoms.