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Vascular Surgery

Sleep Better Knowing Your Nighttime Leg Pain is Gone

You don't want anything to disrupt your sleep — especially not leg pain. Try these tips to eliminate aching legs from varicose veins and sleep soundly all night.


Woman rubbing her legThere’s nothing like a good night’s sleep. After a long or exhausting day, you can’t wait to hop in bed and get some much-needed rest.

That rest isn’t always easy to come by. Everything seems magnified once you slip under the covers. The normal noises of your house sound louder and are more distracting. Tingles and itches feel more frequent and downright annoying. Thoughts race even though you desperately want them to come to a stop. And pain crops up to keep you from fully relaxing.

Leg pain, in particular, is a common problem at night. Throbbing aches and painful cramps can last for hours as your legs wind down from being up and about all day. That makes it hard to get some shut-eye. Whether you know you have them or not, varicose veins are often the source behind your leg pain and sleepless nights.

What do varicose veins have to do with sleep?

Sitting and standing all day both lead to varicose veins and make the associated leg pain worse. One of the best ways to keep your pain down is to move often. But unless you’re a sleepwalker, that’s not an option in the night.

Your veins are basically blood pumps. Varicose veins are dilated pools of blood under pressure that ache at the end of the day. Elevating at night relieves the pressure of being upright. Legs will ache when getting into bed, but the pain and swelling are usually better by morning. Then the cycle will repeat.

Restless leg syndrome is another common sleep problem. It’s estimated that one in 10 Americans gets unwelcome urges to move their legs at night, as well as other symptoms like tingling, itching, cramping, pain and discomfort. Va--ricose veins don’t cause restless leg syndrome, but they do make the problem worse, which can make it hard to identify the true source of your sleep problems.

How can I stop leg pain at night?

Sleep is restorative, so it’s important that you get enough of it. And that starts with getting rid of disruptions. There’s little you can do to block out the lights and sounds of a Des Moines night, but leg pain is one disruption you can control. There are several things you can do to ease the nightly aches from varicose veins to catch some Zs:

  • Elevate your feet. Put a pillow or folded blanket underneath your mattress. Nothing bulky, just enough to raise the foot-end of your bed three or four inches. This helps relieve the pressure on the veins in your legs and lets gravity pick up the slack in getting blood back to your heart.
  • Ease into the evening. Many people are active up until the moment they jump in bed. Start winding down earlier in the evening. Put your legs up and relax so that your veins can calm down before you call it a night. A little leg massage can also help the circulation in your legs and prevent pain later on.
  • Do some yoga. Exercise is not encouraged too close to bedtime because it will keep you up — even though it’s the best thing for your veins. But gentle stretching and yoga can help you relax and improve blood flow.
  • Drink plenty of water. Hydration is key to healthy circulation. But don’t drink it all right before you lie down — that will lead to other sleep disruptions. Just make sure you’re properly hydrated all throughout the day.

Easing the pain may be enough to solve your sleep issues. But if your problems persist, there are many other options that can get to the root of the problem. Varicose veins are often permanent, making the leg pain when you’re sleeping permanent as well. Varicose vein removal ranges from treatments using heat energy to minimally invasive surgery.

Visit with a board-certified vascular surgeon to find the most effective treatment for your varicose veins — and eliminate the reason why your legs hurt at night.

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