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Restless tonight....and the next night...and the next....

But the one thing I know: that when I, I turn out the light,
Visions of you, dear, dance in the night.
I've been put down, pushed around, apprehended and led downtown.
Can't help it if I'm full of fire.

But the one thing I know: that when I, I turn out the light,

Visions of you, dear, dance in the night.
I've been put down, pushed around, apprehended and led downtown.
An' I can't help it if I'm out of sight,
'Cause I'm restless tonight.

- "Restless Tonight", by Alison Krauss; lyrics by Robert Lee Castelman

I have "restless leg syndrome".  It can, admittedly, sound like a joke, but it's not  - it's an actual neurological disorder.  Some literature says it is characterized by "unpleasant" feelings in the legs.  Uh-huh.  "Unpleasant" might be too pleasant a word for it.

For me, first of all, it isn't always a sensation just in my legs.  It affects my arms as well (not that unusual).  It is uncontrollable muscle movements, usually in the early evening or at night, or any time I might be still for a longer period of time (like a car ride).  It can feel like a creepy urge to move, as if something is crawling under one's skin.  The only way to deal with it is to get up and move around.

Last fall, I went through a rather extreme period of insomnia, mostly due to the restless legs (although I wasn't completely sure of what it was at that point).  It got pretty ugly - a continuing cycle of trying to sleep, waking up, almost falling asleep again, having my legs jerk me awake....over and over, night after night.

I would wake up in the morning and my legs would ache.  It felt like I had run a marathon in my sleep.  I would drag through the day, and then go through the whole damn thing again.

Finally, after doing some internet sleuthing, I went to see a sleep specialist.  I knew my dad had suffered from this, although it wasn't diagnosed until late in his life.  My mom used to complain about what a restless sleeper he was, but that was about it.  (RLS is inheritable.) The sleep specialist also checked my iron levels, which were REALLY low.  For some reason, not yet known, the low iron levels and restless legs go together quite frequently, although it's a chicken-and-the-egg sort of puzzle.

Now, I'm on iron supplements, plus two meds. to help with the restless legs and with sleep.  It still bothers me, but not nearly to the degree that it did last fall.

I think all physical ailments have some sort of spiritual dimension.  I'm not talking about making yourself sick with worry, and "you deserve to get AIDS 'cause you're a sinner" sort of thing, but that we can't separate our physical from our spiritual and emotional.  The whole idea of being restless at a time when I'm supposed to be resting is intriguing:  why won't I allow myself to sleep?  What's going on inside that makes restorative sleep such a battle?  "I'm tired, but I've got stuff to do and I'm not going down without a fight!", I imagine my brain saying to my body.  "You can't rest;  who will take care of....everything????", my soul screams. 

I've always been one who has a hard time "shutting my brain" off at bedtime, and now it seems that has flowed over into my body as well.  It's a constant struggle to relax - I have to consciously think about doing something that most people do quite naturally.

I also wonder if it's my mind and body's way of dealing with the complacency we all tend to feel sometimes in our lives, that "Is this all there is?" sort of thing.  You know, that wanderlust that says, "Let's just sell everything and go!"  Apparently, my body is ready and willing to go...and go...and go...

Finally, of course, St. Augustine comes to mind:  "Our hearts are restless, Lord, until they rest in Thee."  I'm always gonna be a little restless, because this isn't Heaven.  It is a vale of tears, and restless legs, and headaches, and too much work, and buttons that fall off, and cars that need repairs, and....well, you know.  I'll be restless again tonight, I'm sure, and for many more nights, until I reach a final, peaceful and most blessed rest.


  1. Elise;

    I heard about this crazy restless leg intervention, supposedly discovered by ICU nurses. Unwrap a fresh bar of soap, or two, place at the bottom of your bed, near your feet.
    I have used this myself, and it really seems to work.

    And when we're out of soap, I only have to look under the bed, and there's usually several bars (probably kicked off by restless legs!)

  2. Kathy, this is great! If nothing else, my sheets will smell fresh all the time! I'll try it.


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