a bar of soap at the foot of the bed, soap under the sheets, soap under your bottom sheet

Sometimes we come across a remedy or recommendation that, at first blush, doesn’t seem to make any sense. That certainly was the response from many of our readers when we wrote about putting soap under your bottom sheet to ease restless legs. Here is one typical response from 2010:

Q. Being from a science/medical background, it frustrates and irritates me to no end that a silly nonsense remedy, putting soap under the bottom sheet, actually WORKS. I’ve dealt with severe restless legs syndrome (RLS) for years. During the worst phases, I got NO sleep four or five nights a week because I just couldn’t stop moving my legs.

Desperation drove me to try the soap about six months ago. I haven’t had a bad night since. AT ALL.

I’ll actually have RLS symptoms in the living room watching television, and they abate as soon as I go to bed where my soap is. This actually makes me a little bit mad, because it makes NO SENSE! There’s no rational reason why this should work, but it does!

A. We can’t disagree with you. Putting soap under your bottom sheet makes no sense to us either. Nevertheless, hundreds of readers report benefit. Of course, others tell us it is worthless. But we think such an inexpensive, low-risk approach is worth a try.

Does Soap Under Your Bottom Sheet Really Help?

Many people have written to us about their success with this strategy, but not everyone benefits. And there are a few who wouldn’t believe it even if it were true:

Q. I read your newspaper column about using a bar of soap to curb restless legs. This is a fairy tale.

I do not have restless legs, but I used to wake up in the middle of the night with a charley horse. My heart doctor had recommended a bar of soap but it never helped with the leg cramp.

There Is Actually Some Science Behind This Remedy:

A. We have heard from hundreds of readers that soap under your bottom sheet can prevent leg cramps and even restless legs. It doesn’t work for everyone, but there is some science that supports the use of soap. A skin patch with soap-scented oil eased the pain of fibromyalgia and of menstrual cramps (Ough, Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare, Sep. 1, 2008; Ough et al, Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, July 2008).

One possible explanation for the soap effect is the fragrance. A chemist suggested to us that the most popular soaps all seem to have the fragrant compound limonene in their scent.

Another reader reported benefit with fragrance alone:

“Your comment on ‘smell receptors’ in the skin was great. I use my perfume roll on each calf at bedtime. Instead of nightly agony, I’ve only had a leg spasm once since I started. I simply reapplied perfume. What a difference!”

How Does Scent Work?

We don’t know for sure exactly how soap under your bottom sheet can help ease restless legs or muscle cramps, but we suspect that transient receptor potential (TRP) channels are involved. (Limonene activates TRP A1.) You can read more about the effect of these ubiquitous channels on nerves and muscles here, here and here. You may also want to listen to Dr. Bruce Bean explain how TRP channels affect muscle cramps, in Show 1054: The Scientific Explanation for a Weird Remedy.

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. Jeanne Collins
    North Carolina
    Reply

    I keep a small bag of slivers of soap of any kind by my bed and use when I have leg cramps. I’ve done this for years and it always works. Sometimes I’ll add a heating pad on top of the soap which is placed on the cramp spot. Many times I put small pieces of soap in my socks when I go to bed and never have toe or foot cramps. Now all my friends have found out the same relief. It’s wonderful.

  2. SARA
    Reply

    Is there any home remedy for Bursitis? Would the soap/fragrance work, perhaps? My grandson has bursitis with no medical help.

  3. Sue
    OH
    Reply

    I haven’t had a leg cramp in months since I put the soap under my bottom sheet. I don’t care how crazy a remedy sounds sometimes but I’m always willing to try it. Off subject but another thing that’s been a life saver is when I have a bad cold I rub vapo rub (doesn’t have to be Vicks, can be an off brand) on the bottoms of my feet, put socks on then go to bed for the night. It definitely shortens a cold.

  4. Patricia
    Reply

    I forgot to put the soap under to bottom sheet so I just put near the foot of the bed. It worked just the same.

  5. Patricia
    FL
    Reply

    I was taking potassium for muscle cramps for a few years, when my doctor noticed my potassium level was high on my blood tests. She asked me what I could be doing that caused that, and I told her I was taking potassium for muscle cramps. She said I could take magnesium for that, and I said I was also taking that. Then she said to stop the potassium, but I didn’t want to because of the cramps. So she said that quinine would prevent cramps. I said where can you get that these days? She thought a moment and said to buy tonic water with quinine and drink at least a half a cup a day. So I started drinking tonic with my orange juice every morning and haven’t experienced any muscle cramps since. Works for me, might work for other people suffering from cramps.

  6. Prunie22
    VA
    Reply

    We use a bar of ivory soap in our bed…….if hubby gets RLS while watching tv, he puts on socks, and we take a half bar and stuff in sock at the calf muscle.

    It also works for a spastic anal muscle which gets me once a month; very painful with a lot of pressure, sounds crazy, but I use my own personal bar of ivory that I keep in a baggie and I wear the soap in my underwear loosely at the butt. Bizzare maybe, but it gets rid of that awful pressure within 5 minutes. If one hurts enough, you’ll try anything!

  7. Zulema
    Portland, Oregon
    Reply

    I’d been keeping a small bar of soap under my bedsheet to quell nighttime leg cramps for some time; and after a bout of laryngospasm (a spasm in the larynx), I quickly grabbed a bar of soap and held it to the base of my throat — lo and behold, it worked! Ever since, I’ve worn a small piece of soap (which I whittled into a circular shape) in a bit of lace (which I fashioned into a small pouch), that I then sewed onto a silver necklace. I keep that soap necklace within easy reach every single day; and each time a laryngospasm begins to close my throat, I grab the soap pouch and hold it to my throat — it works every single time, within 2-3 seconds!

  8. Brian
    Lake View, NY 14085
    Reply

    RE:

    Soap under bed sheets.

    Listen up non-believers…this works. As crazy as I am called on this, it works.

    No soap = painful leg cramps

    Soap = no leg cramps

  9. William
    Barnhart, Missouri
    Reply

    How about hand cramps?

  10. sura
    Reply

    I used the PP soap bits, but the scent is so strong I couldn’t keep it in the house and had to throw them out. Make an unscented version. Everyone was coughing till I got rid of it.

  11. a
    pa
    Reply

    After reading your article about the scientific studies of why soap in the bed might ease leg cramps, I tried a small bar of soap beneath my bottom sheet at the foot of my bed a month ago. Yay! I haven’t had nightly leg cramps since!

  12. Jessica
    FL
    Reply

    I too have had RLS for years, as have my sister and mother. What I have found that works well is to press a spot just to the right of the middle of the top of my foot. My left leg is worse, and I attribute it to bad blood flow; 95% of the time it works! I am definitely going to add scents. What do I have to lose?

  13. Joseph
    Bellevue, WA
    Reply

    I have had leg cramps, especially the left calf for several years.
    I read about the bar of soap under the sheet remedy and tried it. It seemed to work. I now use two bars. I have been doing this the past few years. I am in my 80’s.

  14. Marie
    Reply

    Does it have to be real soap, or do the “beauty bars” or other bars that are not actual soap, but I’m guessing are detergent instead, work as well?

  15. Fran from Montreal
    Reply

    I would like to add that the soap can be rubbed on the skin for immediate relief. My daughter is a waitress and often get cramps so she tried it this way, and it works every time. Simply wet the soap, and rub away the pain.

  16. Stephanie
    FL
    Reply

    Putting apple cider vinegar on a leg spasm stops it within seconds.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.

Your cart

Total
USD
Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.