Help combat restless legs... the sleep thief!

Restless legs can be an absolute horror for women during pregnancy (and, for that matter, for anyone else experiencing it!). It is a fairly common occurrence, with 1 in 5 women reporting symptoms of restless legs during the last 3 months of their pregnancy (according to NHS figures). Although the cause is unknown, it usually disappears as if by magic once the baby is born and as the body starts to return to business as usual.

The most likely time to encounter it during pregnancy is in the later stages - particularly the last three months of pregnancy and it is most bothersome when experienced at night, when it can interrupt your sleep and become a barrier to achieving enough rest.

Since there is no known cause, unfortunately there is no magic cure either. But we asked our resident women’s PTs and physiotherapists for some tips on how to fight off some of the more severe bouts and hopefully help you to achieve some valuable shut eye.

Solving restless legs is best done through gentle stretches which serve to improve blood flow, relax the muscles in the legs and, perhaps more importantly, to gently occupy your mind with something more positive rather than dwelling on the impossibility of sleeping!

Our top suggestions for combatting restless legs include:

  • Lying on your back in bed and doing a gentle leg pumping movement - imagining that you are pushing something away with the soles of your feet. Remember you’re not looking to raise your heart rate (that will not help you to fall asleep!) simply to bring some awareness and gentle motion to your legs.

  • If things are really bad - try sitting up in bed and the propping your feet up using pillows or blankets so that they are inline with your heart. Read a book or meditate to try to relax your mind whist you’re resting in this position.

  • Anther lovely stretch to try is the classic ballet exercise of ‘good toes naughty toes’. Channel your inner Darcey Bussell.

  • And if that fails then go more Picasso and try drawing circles with your feet.

  • As a last thing to try and distract yourself, why not also try a little guided meditation using an App like Headspace or Calm to help bring your awareness to other aspects of your body and surroundings and prevent you from becoming fixated on your restless legs.


Miriam Everson