bars of soap

Q. I have severe periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD). I have used Sinemet and Mirapex separately during the last 8 years, but stopped each due to side effects.

I am currently unmedicated and miserable. The leg movements at night destroy my sleep, but I am waiting for the doctor to decide what to do next.

Someone mentioned Ivory soap, so I tried it in a wrap around my ankles and under my feet in double socks. I have also placed four bars across my lower bed under the bottom sheet. No matter where I move my feet, a bar of soap is near. If a movement wakes me, I move my foot to touch the soap, and fall right back to sleep.

This hasn’t been a cure, but it certainly has made the limb movements more tolerable and less sleep robbing. I would love to understand why it helps, but just having a degree of relief is good enough for me.

A. The medications you have taken, along with a new one called Requip, are sometimes prescribed for your condition or for a milder form called restless leg syndrome (RLS). As you discovered, the side effects can be quite hard to tolerate. We worry particularly about people falling asleep during normal daily activities such as driving. Yikes!

In that context, soap begins to sound pretty good. There are no studies and no one knows why it might help. But soap is inexpensive and unlikely to cause side effects. So many readers have told us that they have gotten relief from RLS or leg cramps with soap under the bottom sheet, we think it is worth a try. Even PLMD might be less troublesome. And soap won’t put you to sleep behind the wheel!

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  1. Janet

    By the way……I’ve used all different brands of soaps. I find that the soap is affective for about 1 1/2 yrs—then I need a new bar. AND this soap “fix” has stopped my husband’s Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD) too! His legs would twitch every 30 secs (or 20 or 40) regularly at night for sometimes up to an hour! He wouldn’t realized it but it really disrupted MY sleep. No more! The crazy soap treatment took care of that too ;)

  2. Janet

    SOAP!! For years I suffered through restless legs and actually didn’t even know what it was. But after reading what I thought were crazy blogs, I followed their suggestions and tried soap at the foot of my bed. OMG—it works so well. But….if I’m sitting up in bed with my knees bent, reading…..I can feel it starting to creep up on me once again. But once I get my feet down near the soap—BAM!–all gone. I’m very grateful to those blogs.

  3. E H C

    I have found that the heating pad calms my P L M D. The lowest setting. Wrap it around your leg. I too could not take requip.

  4. Lola

    I have suffered RLS ever since I can remember and still searching for a cure. I often come across people who say they have RLS and when asked to describe it, they say they have what I would call leg cramps. RLS is not a cramp or a pain even (just a big pain in the butt!) it’s a TICKLE, like a thousand ants inside your legs racing each other! Or like being tickled with a feather inside the legs and not being able to scratch the itch so to speak! The other symptoms are what I’d describe as Night Cramps.
    I just think its important to differentiate between the two, especially if trying to explain to a doctor, as you could end up on meds that are either dangerous or have no chance of working for your symptoms.
    I tried the soap thing, but realised this must be to help night cramps, as it doesn’t do anything for my RLS.
    I hate this syndrome….it’s like Chinese water torture, not an actual pain, but sends you crazy.

  5. susab

    I have used the ivory bars of soap in the bed for now almost a year… It really works. My doctor cannot answer how it does……I even rub it on my calves when the pain is throbbing….
    so it really works…

  6. MMS

    I too have suffered from RLS for years… ever since I was pregnant with my first child almost 13 years ago. I have tried Requip, Mirapex, folic acid, valerian root, etc and of course the Requip and Mirapex work but I felt drugged all day and tired. I was told to try Ivory soap under my fitted sheet and got 1 bar and tried it. Believe it or not I haven’t had restless legs in at least 1 week. I keep wondering if it is mental? Try it, it is cheap and worth a shot… so far so good for me!

  7. TM

    How much folic acid does your wife use? My multivitamin already has 800 mcg; do you need more than that?

  8. JWM

    Folic acid has cured restless legs in my wife, her doctor, and several others that they have told about it.

  9. Lance

    I was given Requip for my RLS but got very bad headaches so stopped taking it. I went to see my Dr to get something else and his nurse told me to use bars of Ivory Soap next to my legs. I didn’t even have to take them out of the wrapper. I haven’t kicked at all since I started using them.
    Believe me I have tried a lot of things, but this is the first time anything worked. My wife told me not to use the soap one night to see what happens and I started kicking again, so she put the soap next to me and I stopped. So believe me when I say it works. I’m not sure if just any soap will work. We are planning on trying it to see. I will let you know if I find out.

  10. mb

    I listen to your radio show at noon on MS Public Radio. I heard your comments on using soap under the sheets for nightly cramps in legs and feet while sleeping. I tried a small hotel bar of soap under my sheet near where my feet are. It’s been three weeks now and I haven’t experienced cramps since. I have had a few “starting” cramp and I’ll move my foot to find the soap and it very quickly makes the sensation go away.

  11. Cari

    I’m not sure if my husband has RLS or PLMD. He had a sleep study and found he kicked over 300 times a night. Needless to say I haven’t slept well in years. I tried the soap..but I’m not sure it was the right kind or if I had enough bars of it in the bed. Does it go under the fitted sheet? Do I wrap it in something? I am desperate and very tired. He is not well hydrated due to the amount of caffeine he drinks on a daily basis..maybe one bottle of water a day makes it into his system. I’ve started giving him magnesium and I’m willing to try anything that is not a prescription. HELP!
    Sleepless in Rockwall!

  12. Patricia

    Question: Does the soap have to be Ivory?

    • Janet

      No. But you will probably have to discard a bar every 1 1/2 yrs or so. Just make sure it is near your feet.

  13. Margaret Mason

    I asked my doctor about my restless legs several years ago, and he wasn’t any help. Then from the internet I found out about folic acid. The Dr. prescribed it, and I take 1 mg daily and it has helped a lot. Told the dr. about it, and it helped his RLS also.
    Hope this helps somebody. It sure helped me.

  14. VB

    My husband’s PLMD has improved greatly from a balanced 2:1 Cal/Mag. But the greatest improvement came when he eliminated all caffeine. Even 2 chocolate chip cookies at noon will jerk his legs and arms all night. Keeping well hydrated is also a help.

  15. J. Willis

    I have a mild form of restless leg syndrome. I have found that chewing 3 ultra Tums stops it in its tracks. It also puts me to sleep. No one believes me about this, but I never go to bed without my bottle of Ultra Tums beside me. Jane

  16. Ann S

    I found that taking 300mg of Valerian Root one hour before bedtime was very helpful in relaxing me and my restless legs. Then, just before getting in bed, I drink one half cup of non-fat milk. I also added a balanced calcium/magnesium drink each day to my diet.
    I cut out my one glass of red wine one hour before bedtime, which I suspected contributed to my RLS, especially since it contained sulfites.
    If I have any restless leg symptoms after going to sleep and awakening, I take one additional 150mg Valerian root. That is seldom necessary anymore.

  17. Jim Bordelon

    I have periodically suffered from RLS since my teens (now 70+). I get immediate relief that lasts for several hours by a simple excercise: with your feet at 24 to 30 inches from a wall, lean forward with your body and legs stiff, until your head or forehead touches the wall. Hold this position, stretching your calf muscles, for at least 30 seconds. Repeat once or twice. This is also a great way to alleviate leg ache while flying.

  18. Bob Saunders

    Usually I am not a believer in copper bracelets and other cures, but I was affected by something since I was about 12 years old with kicking at night and it lasted many years. Hearing about the soap for RLS, my wife said to try it. I did and she said it worked, as she was more affected than I was. She can now get some sleep.

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