Dear Dr. Mo: My legs feel tired when I wake up. What could be wrong and what to do?
Dear reader: A feeling of tiredness and heaviness in legs is a symptom, which can accompany many health-related disorders, ranging from those as mild as insufficient sleep and rest to more severe ones like Fibromyalgia or Seasonal Affective Disorder.
For most of people, tired and achy legs is an experience, which occasionally comes and goes without any medical intervention. This is usually from standing or sitting for longer periods of time and the problem goes away once the legs are rested or moved to a more comfortable position – crossing your legs often for instance or wearing uncomfortable shoes may contribute to discomfort.
In your case, however, waking up to a discomforting feeling of tired and heavy legs may not be caused by the lack of rest alone and it could be due to insufficient sleep or poor sleep quality.
If you generally feel tired in the morning, it may mean that your brain and other parts of your body (including legs) aren’t getting enough oxygen during sleep – this could be due to breathing problems like snoring or deviations in your nasal cavity (narrow or bent passageways in your nose), inflammation of sinuses, seasonal or other types of allergies which congest the nose, viral or bacterial infections of your upper respiratory system (nose and throat) and a more serious condition in which a person stops breathing all together for several seconds during sleep – this is called sleep apnea.
Feeling of tiredness can also come from the vitamin D deficiency and this has become a relatively recent discovery that a vitamin D deficiency is not only bad for bones and heart, it affects the rest of our body as well and you may feel fatigued and tired as a consequence.
Most of the time, the cause of this uncomfortable feeling is too much strain on your legs during day (either by walking/running or sitting for too long) and not enough of good quality sleep in a well aired room during night.
Also, don’t forget your head – stress, agitation and anxiety can disrupt sleep patterns and add to the feeling of tiredness in the morning.
What can you do?
First thing to consider, is getting enough of fresh air in your bedroom – this alone could help you feel refreshed in the morning.
If you snore, try changing your sleep position – snoring tends to get worse if you sleep on your back but if this doesn’t help and if you think other conditions with your breathing could be involved, pay a visit to your physician for a detailed examination and possible treatment.
Improve your dietary habits: Include foods that are rich in calcium, fibers, proteins and vitamin E. These ingredients taken in proper quantities will help keep your legs free from tiredness and pain. A balanced diet will also help you control your body weight.
When sleeping, keep a cushion under your feet to keep them elevated – this will provide relief from tiredness and pain in legs as such slight elevation helps to improve blood circulation in legs.
Also, you may give your legs a gentle massage just before you go to bed to boost circulation and ensure nutrients for the muscles, bones and other tissues; in addition, it will help muscles relax.
You can also mix honey and lemon juice in a cup of warm water to start your day. This will invigorate you and provide you with some relief from aching and tired legs.
You may also wish to try this: mix a tablespoon of cod-liver oil in a glass of orange juice and have it before you go to bed. You should definitely start to notice a difference in the heaviness and tiredness in your legs – a difference for the better, of course. This oil is rich in Omega-3-fatty acids, vitamins A and D. Note however that this is not recommended for pregnant women and certainly talk to your physician about a length of time you will be taking cod-liver oil.
Exercise regularly to strengthen your leg muscles and make them more efficient as a pump, which helps return the blood from the legs to the heart.
Try to quit smoking – smoking causes hypoxia (lack of oxygen) in all the tissues and organs in the body so quitting smoking will make your blood richer in oxygen and help you feel better in the morning.
Start your day with a quick cold or cool shower or at least try to end your shower with 15 seconds of cold water – this will stimulate your circulation and help you feel more awake (including your legs).
Drink plenty of water – hydration is important for all of our bodily functions. If water is not your prefered beverage, try with Green tea, which is known for its potent health benefits.
Most of the time these few simple remedies will help but if you continue experiencing this discomfort, I would advise you to talk to your physician as there could be some underlying causes to test and examine for.
Yours in health,