Are you kicking in your sleep?

One in four pregnant women suffers from Restless Leg Syndrome ― follow our handy hints to ease the condition.

You’re just about to drop off to sleep when it strikes — that tingling, jittery sensation in your legs that means you just can’t keep them still. This is restless leg syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, and it’s a common complaint in pregnancy.

     Because it’s usually worse when you’re sitting or lying down towards the end of the day, it can rob you of precious rest and sleep. Sufferers typically experience an itching or burning feeling in their legs, almost as if something is crawling up them.

    Although the symptoms are in your legs, the condition is thought to originate in your brain. People may imagine that their unborn baby is pressing on a nerve, or is affecting their circulation, but there’s no evidence that this is the case.

    The problem can affect anyone, at any age, although pregnancy seems to be a particular trigger. Theories as to why this is so include a lack of iron or folic acid, or a rise in oestrogen levels, which possibly affects the sensitivity of some brain cells to dopamine.

     It can occur at any stage of pregnancy, often persisting until the baby is delivered. As irritating as the symptoms may be, they’re harmless and won’t affect your baby. They should disappear soon after the birth. We show you seven tips to ease that twitching in your legs:

Up your iron intake

Ask your gynae to check your levels of iron and ferritin (a protein that stores iron) ― done with a simple blood test. Low levels are not thought to be a direct cause of the problem, but topping up any shortfall will improve your overall health and could relieve symptoms. Eating iron-rich foods throughout pregnancy and beyond makes good sense, and may reduce your chances of developing RLS again if you have another baby.

Cut out caffeine

You may already have reduced your caffeine intake, but it’s worth adopting a zero-tolerance approach to help you fall into deep sleep more easily. Most decaf coffee contains some caffeine, as does most tea, even green teas. And be aware that you’ll find caffeine lurking in some fizzy drinks and chocolate.

Keep moving

Avoid sitting up in bed reading or surfing the Net as this inactivity can bring on RLS symptoms. It’s thought that this “normal” rest inadvertently triggers a response in the brain, which usually kicks in with prolonged immobility to protect the body from problems such as pressure sores. Aim to be up and moving until you’re ready to get into bed for sleep.

Photo: INGimage