Night Time Fidgeting

A common underlying feature in night-time fidgeting is a condition known as restless legs syndrome (RIS), characterised by an uncomfortable sensation in the legs which gives rise to an overwhelming urge to move them. This condition overlaps with another known as periodic limb moverments during sleep (PLMS), in which involuntary jerks of the muscles occur at night. There is evidence that caffeine can worsen or trigger RLS symptoms, and my experience in practice is that this seems to be true of PLMS too. Those suffering from one or both of these conditions may benefit from a reduction or elimination of coffee, tea and caffeinated soft drinks from their diets.

Another strategy that may help is to boost levels of magnesium, which is crucial to muscle function. A deficiency in the nutrient does seem to be a common underlying factor in RLS and PLMS. Other symptoms of magnesium deficit include cramp and muscle twitching. I find that in sufferers of either of these symptoms, low levels of magnesium are likely. You can increase your intake of magnesium by eating more nuts and seeds. And I recommend supplementing with 350-500 mg of magnesium each day, though the full benefit may not be seen for two or three months.

Another nutrient commonly deficient in sufferers of RLS and PLMS is iron. This is importanty for the production of the brain chemical dopamine a deficiency of which can cause disturbance in body movement especially in vegans, vegetarians and women of child-bearing age, Iron leels and best assessed by measuring the level of ferritin in the blood. In practice, giving additional iron to those with ferritin levels that are low or on the low side can help to relieve the symptoms of RLS and PLMS. My experience is that for nocturnal fidgeters and their partners, nutritional therapies can be the dream ticket.

Submitted By
Dr John Briffa

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