Restless Legs and Restless Minds

Calvin Bowden

Do you know someone who has restless legs that hurt so much at night they can’t sleep? If you do, you might tell her, or him, about a remedy that helps some sufferers, according to a friend who said it helped him. Seems he was discussing his RLS problem publicly when someone overheard and told him what had helped her. The remedy: cotton strings tied loosely around the ankles at night when in bed. No nylon or silk or plastic; just simple, everyday cotton. I’m not a doctor and I’m not asking you to try the remedy. I’m merely passing along something I was told. It’s up to sufferers of RLS to try it. And if it doesn’t work for you, please don’t be angry with me. I’m merely the messenger.

As we age, sleeping becomes a problem with some of us for various reasons. My guess is it’s more of a problem with men than women for reasons I don’t have to mention because the guys stricken with BRT – bath room trots - are already aware of the cause.

With some it makes no difference whether beverages such as coffee, tea or one’s favorite relaxant are consumed after 6:0 PM, or whether an inspiring TV program was watched before going to bed. (Do they still have that kind of TV programs?)

When I mention going to bed, I often think of what my farmer grandpa called it: flying up. But that would have told you I’m still a country boy at heart and that might have caused some of you to doubt my credibility. And city-reared readers might not have known that term was used because that’s what chickens do just before dark: fly up on the roost in the chicken house, or in a tall tree if not kept in a pen. It was an instinctive move that took them out of reach of predators. In a sense, sleep depravation is a predator. But I’m getting off the subject. I have never heard of a chicken having restless leg or anything else that prevented them from having a good night’s snooze.

Since I’m not an expert on sleep deprivation, I can’t say how many hours of undisturbed slumber a person needs to avoid other health problems. None of us want any more problems because we already have an ample supply. However, new aches and sore places seem to come, no matter how well we treat our bodies, or how well we behave when the sun goes down.

I don’t know if bad dreams nullify the benefits of good sleep. I’d like to know, because if I’m sleeping I’m dreaming. It’s like going to a move every night where the man in the projection room shows some films that would put a horror film maker to shame. Sometimes he rolls a pleasant feature that doesn’t continue to haunt me after waking up. But not even a pleasant dream now and then doesn’t guarantee vigor upon getting up. I still yawn as I stagger up the hall and into the kitchen for coffee.

I have no remedies for restless minds. Some might believe restless minds upon lying down are caused by guilty consciences, but I’d have to give thumbs down on hat theory. After working with the criminal element for almost thirty years, I don’t recall any of them complaining of insomnia. To be bothered with a bad conscience one must have a strong sense of right and wrong. I’m speaking in general terms here; I didn’t say all criminals are totally void of a sense of morality.

Some of the best people I know fall into a deep sleep the instant their heads are placed on a pillow, and they are seldom bothered by what’s going on nearby. What a blessing.

For those less fortunate, a strange thing happens when their heads come to rest on a pillow. Their minds immediately begin a complete rundown of the day’s happenings, along with last week’, last year’s, even going all the way back to their childhoods. Their minds linger on things they cold have done better or not at all. Their memory conjures up vivid pictures of failed careers, love affairs and that whipping hey got when they did something they shouldn’t have done. Rejections are recalled, along with recollections of unkind words spoken and kind things not done. All thoughts, good or bad, come chugging back like a steam locomotive on a steep grade. Why did I waste so much time doing this or that, and why do innocent people die when wronged and the evil doer survives to live to a ripe old age?

A restless mind is a thief in the nigh. But the saddest part of all that thinking about things past is this: there is absolutely nothing we can do about them now. Maybe those who have trouble sleeping should tie a silk red string around their heads. No, that’s too political in an election year. Same thing with blue ribbons. Make a neutral color, one that signifies independence of all tings old, tired and worn out.

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