Restlessness and PMS

Restlessness is an unusual symptom of PMS often associated with anxiety and irritability


Emma Thornton
Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
@EmmaThornton
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An introduction to restlessness and PMS

Restlessness is a term that may be used to describe one of the symptoms of PMS. However, it is not easy to define and may take a variety of forms, from restless legs to a restless mind, irritability and anxiety.

However restlessness affects you, it is likely to appear or become worse if you suffer from PMS. It may also affect your sleep. Unfortunately, poor sleep often increases restlessness during the day and so the vicious circle develops.

Although restlessness is not among the most commonly reported of PMS symptoms, it can be debilitating and many women long for a solution to it.

Why does PMS cause restlessness?

The precise cause of PMS (in general) has still to be worked out, although there is a lot of evidence that the fluctuating levels of female hormones in the two weeks before menstruation is an important factor.

Furthermore, the cause of restlessness in PMS is still more of a mystery. However, research has highlighted several triggers for restlessness.

Iron or magnesium deficiency may cause you to experience restlessness in your legs, feet or hands. You may experience irresistible urges to move your limbs, or they may feel hot or itchy. This is known as Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) as this mainly affects the legs.

You may find it difficult to drop off to sleep at night. This can occur for a number of reasons, the most common being that RLS is keeping you awake, you are worried or anxious, or you are feeling more stressed than usual and as a result are finding it difficult to switch off at night.

What can I do to help myself?

The type of restlessness you experience determines the types of remedies you should try.

For most women with PMS, restlessness affects sleeping pattern and so it is important to adopt good sleep hygiene habits:

  • Go to bed at the same time each night and try to relax for an hour or so before lights out
  • If it helps, write down what is making you anxious before you go to bed, and leave your worries in your notebook until the morning
  • Keep your room dark and not too hot or cold to encourage better sleep
  • Keeping your room at the correct temperature is also important if you suffer from RLS as being too hot or cold can worsen symptoms
  • If you do suffer from RLS, then you may find that an iron or magnesium supplement could help.

Furthermore, avoid stimulants such as caffeine – try a coffee substitute and use herbal teas instead.

Are there herbal remedies to help me?

There are a number of ways that herbs can help you:

  • If your feeling of restlessness is one of a number of PMS symptoms, then treating the root of the problem with Agnus castus will be the starting point. This herb, also known as Chaste Tree or Chasteberry, has a long history of use for a variety of physical and emotional menstrual symptoms from period pains, breast tenderness and bloating, to irritability, mood swings and a feeling of being restless
  • If you are struggling to cope with stress or anxiety, and this is making you feel more restless than usual, a valerian based herbal combination may help you feel more relaxed
  • If RLS is your main problem, then improving your circulation with use of herbs such as Ginkgo biloba could help.

What about conventional medicines?

The type and cause of the restlessness you experience will determine the form of treatment your doctor might suggest.

  • If you are feeling stressed and you have not found relief from self-help or non-prescription remedies, your doctor may suggest medication including sedatives, sleeping tablets or anti-depressants. However, these are usually seen as last resorts when other methods have not helped
  • If you have RLS, your doctor may prescribe a course of quinine tablets to try. This is a naturally occurring compound which may also be found in tonic water
  • Finally, as PMS is at the root of your symptoms, your doctor may suggest the use of hormonal treatment such as the contraceptive (birth control) pill.

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Helps maintain normal healthy balance of female hormones in younger women.
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Here's what I recommend

As the A.Vogel Women's Health advisor, I recommend Agnus castus to help relieve symptoms such as menstrual cramps, breast tenderness and irritability.

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