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Restless legs syndrome: “I would be woken up by my own legs kicking”

Natalie Meredith shares her experience of living with restless legs syndrome and how CBD turned things around.

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Natalie Meredith of Empwr Botanics

Natalie Meredith turned to CBD after developing restless leg syndrome (RLS). Speaking with Cannabis Health, she explains how it helped her to fall asleep and feel less anxious.

Restless legs syndrome is a condition of the nervous system that causes an overwhelming irresistible urge to move the legs. It causes a crawling sensation in the feet, calves, thighs and occasionally arms. While it can happen during the day, it often gets worse at night preventing sleep.

It is not known what causes RSL but doctors suspect it may be associated with how the body processes dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical produced in the brain that is associated with muscle movement. It is also thought to be potentially caused by kidney issues or low iron levels.

Restless leg syndrome (RSL): A banner advert for the medical cannabis clinicsRestless leg syndrome at night

Natalie left Australia to move to England before noticing she was experiencing bursts of energy in her legs. She is not a huge fan of going to her GP because of her previous experiences with misdiagnoses and medication so tried to cope as best she could.

Natalie said: “I would try to go to sleep but I would get this energy in my legs. I tried to ignore it but it would get worse until I couldn’t sleep or rest. I couldn’t watch anything on my laptop without being really disturbed. It was frustrating because I couldn’t sleep. I would try so many things before I researched what was happening.”

She added: “I tried drinking wine every night to put me to sleep. I don’t use cannabis so that wasn’t an option for me. I finally looked it up on the NHS website and that’s what told me exactly what it was. I had every symptom and I found out I had it worse than most people.”

Natalie was not just experiencing restless leg syndrome (RLS) at night when she was trying to sleep but also when she was trying to go about her daily life. She would experience it on public transport or planes when travelling.

However, the lack of sleep was one of the more difficult symptoms she experienced.

“I would not have any sleep or a minimal amount then I would go to bed that night knowing that I am not going to get any rest. It weighed on my mental health so I was irritated. I was mad at everything but nothing could fix it. I was exhausted and my focus was down so I couldn’t concentrate on work or the littlest thing would set me off.”

She added: “It led me to go out of my way to find things to do at night so I wasn’t just sitting there. Oddly enough, even though I was irritable, I started socialising and drinking more. That lifestyle just continued and it was really bad. I’m not a typically big drinker yet this was causing me to have wine every night. Not only that but sleep deprivation gives me sleep paralysis so it was a horrible vicious cycle.”

Sleep paralysis is when a person cannot move or speak as they are waking up or falling asleep. It can be distressing or cause anxiety.

Natalie continued: “My mind was going to sleep then I would be woken up by my own legs kicking. I didn’t understand why I was doing this to myself. There was no outside thing causing this that wasn’t letting me sleep. It was almost like self-sabotage.”

Natalie began to research alternative methods to see if there was any way she could control her symptoms as her GP’s suggested more pharmaceutical options as dopamine replacements.

She was very aware that this was not sustainable as the available treatments left her unable to function.

She explained: “There is ongoing research into what causes restless leg syndrome but so far they have no confirmation. They think it may be how dopamine gets distributed throughout the body. So those with RLS are missing something or it goes elsewhere or doesn’t do its job properly.”

RSL: Natalie from Empwr botanics

Restless leg syndrome and CBD

As Natalie was aware of the growing cannabis and CBD movement, she decided that she had nothing to lose.

“I tried CBD and it worked so quickly. I got a CBD vape which was quite strong with different terpenes and I can’t explain the relief that I had. I couldn’t believe this had never been suggested before and I literally had to guess. The vape kicks in quickly so I don’t have to sit there and wait for half an hour but it also doesn’t last long.”

Natalie kept increasing the strength of the vape as she needed faster results and to fall asleep more easily. However, she started to notice different things in her life improving such as her anxiety levels. As well as her anxiety, she noticed that her emotions were more balanced along with her temper. She felt it gave her the space to process the emotions rather than being reactionary.

Although Natalie noticed that the CBD she was taking had a very definite effect on her RLS. It was the anxiety relief she noticed that tipped her into becoming a business owner. As an Australian woman, during COVID, with a family on the other side of the world, CBD provided her relief from anxiety especially as she lived alone.

“It started to help with my anxiety. If I feel anxious or fearful and I’m on my own then my family is in the opposite timezone. If I was having an anxious day or teetering on the edge of a panic attack and I want to call my parents then its 4am where they are. I couldn’t do that so I would need to deal with it by myself.”

Developing a CBD brand

Natalie began to research how she could develop her own CBD brand which she named Empwr Botanics. She began with oils but plans to branch out into skincare in 2022 starting with bath salts. She is aware of the effect that skin problems can have on mental health.

“I’m not a fan of make-up and don’t wear it if I can get away with it. If you use CBD as oil and are naturally less stressed that shows in your skin. It’s the first place you see it.”

When Natalie announced to her family that she was moving into the CBD industry, there was a difference in opinion. While she was surprised at how receptive they were, she chose her words carefully.

“My dad was very receptive towards it. He is very abreast of what is happening in the world and he could see what was happening in the US with legalisation. CBD was available everywhere so he said go for it. He could see what a massive industry it would be.”

She added: “My mum is Jamaican but she didn’t want to know about it at first. It was only after she saw an article in the newspaper one day that mentioned how CBD helps anxiety that she got really excited.”

Natalie’s brother, a footballer, was already interested in CBD for muscle recovery following training or matches.

“My older brother is a footballer and when I told him, he started taking it more regularly. He swears by it for inflammation. He is now 34 which means he doesn’t recover the same way. Another brother has arthritis and he uses it for pain. It’s cool to see everyone you are connected to who has some form of issue using it and it just works.”

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