If you kick at night for unknown reasons, you may have RLS or Restless Leg Syndrome. People who have taken antidepressants, for example, may notice increased leg movement at night. Indeed, RLS is a neurological condition that can cause problems for you and your sleeping partner.
In this article, we’ll look at RLS and new research that may show a link between taking CBD and improved sleep, as well as potentially soothing your legs at night. Although CBD for restless legs needs more research, there is an FDA-approved drug for epilepsy.
Keep reading to learn more about CBD and how it could be an effective supplement to add to your nighttime regimen, especially if you suffer from RLS!
What is RLS?
RLS isn’t just the feeling of “wanting to kick”; it’s also uncomfortable, although usually not painful. Usually occurring at night, before bedtime, RLS can also occur in the afternoon. Because RLS so often occurs late in the evening, many people report losing sleep. Most people with RLS report feeling some relief after “kicking” because RLS is a neurological disorder. It is estimated that 10% of the American population suffers from RLS.
Causes of RLS
Although the causes of RLS are not yet known, scientists speculate that genetics may play a role in people who develop it before age 40. What researchers do know, however, is that RLS is linked to activities in the brain, such as basal ganglia. Low levels of dopamine in the brain may also play a role in the development of RLS.
Other factors that may play a role in the development of RLS include:
- An iron deficiency.
- Long-term antidepressant use.
- Kidney disease.
- Alcohol consumption.
- Excessive caffeine consumption.
- Pregnancy (last trimester).
- Sleep deprivation.
Signs and Symptoms of RLS
The most common sign that you may have RLS is an urge to move. While this might sound odd to someone who doesn’t have an RLS, it’s no laughing matter. RLS can cause uncomfortable feelings such as:
- Weird sensations in the legs, as well as the arms.
- Sensations of itching, throbbing or “crawling” in the limbs.
- Wanting to pace the ground at night.
- Difficulty staying asleep.
- Difficulty falling asleep.
- Symptoms worsen over time.
What is CBD?
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of the two main compounds found in cannabis sativa, the other being THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Both CBD and THC have been shown to exhibit medicinal properties for several ailments, including:
Unlike THC, CBD won’t get you high, and the World Health Organization (WHO) also states that CBD is safe and well tolerated. When ingested, CBD works by combining with receptors in your ECS (endocannabinoid system), a complex network of neurons controlling nearly every aspect of your body, to produce desirable effects.
Is CBD legal?
Yes, CBD is legal in the United States. In 2018, Congress passed the Farm Bill Act, making CBD legal – as long as it’s below 0.3% THC. Manufacturers are therefore required to properly label and sell their products online as long as their CBD falls within the legal THC limit.
However, we are still in the “Wild West” in terms of state laws. Because science has only recently revealed the benefits of CBD (and the fact that it won’t get you high), states may still be lagging behind legally.
How is CBD made?
CBD is first extracted from hemp plants grown in Europe or the United States. There are many ways to extract CBD. The purest and most popular technique is Extraction of CO2. This involves the use of an expensive machine to remove solvents and residues left over from the extraction process.
Some companies prefer an alcohol extraction method, which uses solvents like butane and ethyl to remove the CBD. Some report a cleaner taste with their CBD when extracted by the CO method.
How CBD Can Help With RLS
Although research is limited, many people have reported remarkable results using CBD for their RLS symptoms. RLS is usually treated with dopamine (DA) agonists, which work well for most people. There is a subset of patients who do not respond to medical treatment, which is why scientists are so interested in further studying CBD for the treatment of RLS.
Inflammation is one of the main markers of an underlying health problem. Chronic low-grade inflammation is often an underlying symptom in people with RLS. People with RLS also suffer from low levels of dopamine in the brain and other “inflammatory signals”, such as chronic fatigue.
When ingested, CBD combines with two receptors in the ECS – CB1 and CB2. When activated by the intake of CBD, scientists found that patients’ inflammation signals decreased. Research has shown that CBD indicates the ability to block inflammation signals and relieve oxidative stress (OS) responses in test subjects.
One of the worst symptoms of RLS is that painful, “unknown” source that accompanies people at night. Patients report uncomfortable throbbing or “crawling”. Although moving the legs or arms often relieves tension, it is only for a short time. With regular CBD therapy, symptoms of RLS may improve due to its ability to block pain signals.
CBD binds to PPARy, adenosine, and vanilloid receptors to produce pain-relieving properties – like all-natural ibuprofen. In one study, researchers showed CBD to be effective in relieving symptoms associated with neuropathic pain, while another study demonstrated its ability to relieve painful symptoms of arthritis. Many RLS patients suffer from other neurological diseases like fibromyalgia, for which CBD has also shown favorable results.
Helps muscle spasms
Muscle cramps and pain can be relieved by applying a CBD-infused cream directly to the sore spot. As discussed, CBD has been shown to block pain signals. One of the most common symptoms of RLS is periodic limb movement during sleep (PLMS) – a jerky movement that can last up to 30 seconds at a time.
By combining with your ECS system, CBD produces a calming effect. Your brain tells your muscles to relax and releases hormones that can also have an anticonvulsant effect. Many people take CBD lotion in combination with CBD oil right before bed to get maximum benefits.
May improve sleep
One of the worst things about RLS is how it interferes with your sleep. You can go into a disease “loop” by not sleeping, where you are now fighting inflammation even more from the lack of rest. Studies have shown that CBD can potentially help patients with insomnia. This is good news for patients with RLS.
If you’re still concerned about getting adequate rest, consider adding other cannabinoids such as CBG or CBN to your nighttime regimen. CBG and CBN are two powerful compounds that, when combined with CBD, can be a great way to fall asleep faster and stay rested.
How to Find the Best CBD to Treat RLS
When choosing your CBD, there are a few things you’ll want to consider. First, where does your CBD come from? Look for CBD made from hemp grown in the USA and 100% organic. That means not only is it pesticide-free, but you’re also helping American farmers! Second, you’ll want to make sure your CBD has been tested and approved by a third party.
Why are CBD tests important?
More importantly, you want to know exactly where your CBD is coming from and if it’s pure. The other important reason to validate your CBD is legality. By law, any CBD containing more than 0.3% THC is considered illegal. Additionally, you may not want to ingest THC in excess of the legal amount, as it may cause unwanted mind-altering effects.
Full spectrum CBD vs CBD without THC
One of the most common questions is, “what’s the difference between full spectrum and isolate CBD?”. In addition to being THC-free, there are a few important considerations you may want to be aware of before purchasing your CBD.
Full Spectrum CBD
Full-spectrum CBD can contain over 100 active compounds responsible for its medicinal profile. Researchers have shown increased metabolic uptake when these compounds, such as CBD and THC, are ingested together. From a medical perspective, this “entourage effect” is believed to provide optimal therapy.
Isolate without THC or CBD
For those on the go or worried about drug testing, CBD isolate may be a better option.
How much CBD should I take for RLS?
After starting CBD, be patient with the results. It may take up to two weeks to start seeing an improvement in your RLS symptoms. CBD can be taken daily – preferably in the evening before going to bed. Most oil tinctures come with well-marked droppers for easy measuring and dosing.
If you are new to CBD, start with ¼ml for a week in the evening and listen to your body. After that, increase your dose to ½ ml for another week. You should start to see a slight improvement by this time, and your body will have acclimated to CBD. You can then increase your potency each night – 1ml per drop.
You can also try adding CBD lotion to your nighttime regimen. Start by making a penny-sized drop in your legs and work your way up to a quarter-sized drop. Of course, everyone has a different metabolism, and some people may have a severe case of RLS – which requires more potent CBD.