calm restless legs, trigger restless legs syndrome

People who experience restless legs syndrome (RLS) will go to great lengths to avoid it if they can. They describe RLS as a creepy-crawly feeling that is relieved only by moving the legs. It can be quite unbearable. This uncomfortable condition can make it difficult to relax. When RLS or the related periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) occurs overnight, sufferers and their bed partners have trouble getting a decent night’s sleep. Doctors can prescribe medications to treat RLS, but frequently they fail to warn patients about other drugs that could trigger restless legs syndrome. One reader made an independent discovery of such a drug.

What Drugs Might Trigger Restless Legs Syndrome?

Q. I never suffered before from restless legs syndrome, although it makes my daughter miserable. Last year, though, I had two episodes of RLS about a month apart. It took me a while to connect the dots, but eventually I recalled I had taken Benadryl both times right before bed to relieve hay fever symptoms. I haven’t touched the stuff since.

Does Benadryl Trigger Restless Legs Syndrome?

A. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, diphenhydramine (the antihistamine in Benadryl and “PM” pain relievers) may aggravate RLS symptoms. This is especially alarming because so many people take this over-the-counter medicine at bedtime to help them sleep. It may disrupt sleep instead for those who are susceptible to RLS.

Many other medications can also trigger these uncomfortable sensations. Antidepressants, antipsychotics and anticonvulsants can intensify this condition. Readers report that stopping some medicines, like aripiprazole (Abilify) or tramadol can also initiate symptoms.

Soap for Restless Legs Syndrome:

For those whose RLS does not appeared to be set off by a medication they can avoid, we suggest soap under the bottom sheet. It sounds crazy, but some people who have tried this remedy to ward off nocturnal leg cramps have found that it also eases restless legs syndrome.

Barbara reported:

“I had suffered with RLS for years on and off. I’d go a few weeks or months without symptoms but it always came back and lasted days or weeks. When it returned, it was like torture. I definitely knew I wanted no part of a prescription drug for it, so I tried creams, herbal supplements etc. Nothing worked. A friend told me about the bar of soap under the sheet and I tried it. It has been several months and NO SYMPTOMS at all. I didn’t even unwrap it!!!”

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  1. Abby L.

    I have had rls for 20 yrs. When people are mentioning leg cramps, I do not think that is rls….they are all together different.
    The best way I can describe itis, It is unbearable sensations that start uncomfortable and then keep increasing and increasing in your legs( not pain but a terrible feeling) and all you want to do is get rid of the feeling, by walking, moving your legs on the bed,punching or rubbing your legs. Oft times to no avail.
    In the past I have used the oral medications, but for the last 10 or so years I use a patch called Neupro. It is like a miracle . If I forget to put the patch on I pay for it. In addition I take 500 mg of Magnesium Also, at times I get the very same sensations in my buttocks and very low back..and then I cannot sit.My DR, dismissed it…another one did as well. Finally I found a link that it can be in other extremities.
    I feel so bad as my mom suffered greatly from this and I had no idea how horrible the suffering was until I had it.
    Soap did not work for me
    What is Emotional Freedom Technique?
    Thank you for this article’

  2. tracy
    buffalo ny

    going to try soap trick

  3. Judy

    I have been taking prescription meds for RLS for 45 years: clonazepam, sinemet, pramipexole, ropinerole, gabapentin. Currently I take 2 ropinerole and 1 gabapentin at bedtime. If I forget, I can be alert and working actively all night. I retired on disability and started collecting Social Security at age 59 due to severe RLS. If you don’t have it, you can’t know what it’s like.

  4. Mary Lou

    I have had great success with my nightly RL by rubbing Lavender Oil on my thighs. Sadly, the soap did not work for me as it would have been a lot cheaper.

  5. Naomi
    S. Florida

    Thanks to People’s Pharmacy, I’ve used soap (slivers of any brand, sample-size bars of any kind) under the bottom sheet, “sprinkled” (I use as many as I have) where my legs will be. It’s miraculous!!

    I also keep a bottle of sugar free Tonic water WITH QUININE (a tiny amount I imagine) in the master bath (handy in middle of the nite) and a swig or two will quiet the RLS . THE SOAP, AFTER A WHILE, PREVENTS THE RLS ! In a pinch (tonic water used up and soap used up too) a spoonful of mustard will do the trick. But try the SOAP for a while. I will never be without it !!!

  6. patsy

    I was told to take Benadryl for my rash by my doc. Couldn’t find the cause. My research concluded it was from angel trumpet plants. Thank goodness I didn’t bring them in the house. They are toxic to pets. Also the Benadryl I was told to take had my legs jumping sitting or sleeping. I have had rls for20 yrs. Ropinerol worked for a couple of months. Tramadol and pramipexole all had bad side effects. Soap didn’t work either. What causes it????? Help!

  7. Vera

    Maripex works well for me to control my RLS. The last time I took a cross country flight I took one mg. of Maripex about two hours before my plane took off and I had no problems with RLS during the flight. It takes nearly two hours for Mirapex to keep my RLS at bay.

  8. Paul

    I have not tried the soap but would if needed. But what does work for me is lying flat on my back in bed or on the floor and raising one leg at a time to as close to perpendicular as possible. Then loop a belt or towel over the toes and pull back as much as possible and count to ten. Do this 2 to 3 times for each leg. It works for me.

  9. Roy

    I have suffered from RLS for over 20 years . However my episodes are largely controlled by a cocktail of medicines. I found out the hard way that benadryl or other sedating antihistamines would cancel out my RLS medications. Newer non-sedating antihistamines fortunately do not have the same downside.

  10. Cathy

    I had RLS for about a year and tried taking 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar per day. It worked! No RLS for six months now. After a while, it was hard to swallow the apple cider vinegar and now I only do every other day and it still works! Give it a few days to work. Good luck

  11. Bob

    Soap and hydration will solve the problems

    • Bea

      You can get it in capsule form

  12. Steve
    Buffalo, NY

    I have been using soap for years to combat severe leg cramps at night. The soap works. I have under the fitted sheet at the middle of the bed.

  13. Louise

    I thought I had restless leg syndrome (RLS), PLMD or the beginning of Parkinson’s disease. It turned out to be akesthisia, a movement disorder that can effect the whole body, from having taken Paxil for 12 years and then stopping Paxil too quickly. I have since become sensitized to many chemicals which will bring on the creepy- crawly sensations. Benedryl is one of these. Antidepressants may cause akesthisia just as anti-psychotics do. Paxil did not just bring on RLS it damaged my nerves. I take Gaba Pentin, magnesium and epsom salt baths for akesthisia. Restless leg is benign and will not progress.

  14. Louise

    I thought I had restless leg syndrome (RLS), PLMS or the beginning of Parkinson’s disease. It turned out to be akesthisia, a movement disorder that can effect the whole body, from having taken Paxil for 12 years and then stopping Paxil too quickly. I have since become sensitized to many chemicals which will bring on the creepy- crawly sensations. Benedryl is one of these. Antidepressants may cause akesthisia just as anti-psychotics do. Paxil did not just bring on RLS it damaged my nerves. I take Gaba Pentin, magnesium and epsom salt baths for akesthisia. Restless leg is benign and will not progress.

  15. Al
    Tampa. FL

    I have been experimenting with Ivory Soap for a couple of months. When I feel the beginnings of an RLS episode I rub the bare bar on my legs and feet. Usually the symptoms go away in a few minutes. I also use the soap just before going to bed. Sadly, there are times when the soap doesn’t work well, so soap isn’t a “cure”, but it usually provides relief.

  16. m. john

    There is another ingredient used in certain OTC sleep aids called doxylamine succinate . Its on the shelf but is less common. It is also an antihistamine. In my case this one does not cause RSS and is much more effective. i have to use abou 1/4 of the tablet.

  17. Sims B.

    The vits./minerals above are helpful. Hydration is also needed. The Best is made by ‘Hylands’, labeled: Restful legs. It is homeopathic sub. Tabs. The Best!!

  18. Judith

    Soap didn’t work for me. What about the mustard? RLS I have doesn’t involve the feeling of ants biting or burning?? Just the awful feeling of ‘having’ to move your legs………What Betty F has is way different. Does she need to ask more people about her symptoms? Just hoping to help!

  19. Martha

    I suffered from this for years because I took it to help me sleep because I worked third shift. I can not take it at all any more.

    • Camille Hill

      Martha. You took what?

  20. Nancy
    North Carolina

    I’ve had RLS for more than 20 years and have been taken Ropinerole for it. I hate taking meds and I had venous ablation laser therapy and scleartherapy hoping that would solve my problem. Unfortunately, it didn’t, and I’m still taking the Ropinerole. When talking to my doctor recently about the problem, she asked me how long I’d been on cholesterol medication. When I told her 20 years, it was like a lightbulb went off in both of us! However, she said she’d rather I have RLS than a stroke or heart attack if I discontinued the cholesterol meds. Is there no solution? I’ve tried the soap, lavender cream, all to no avail. It’s frustrating.

  21. Gwen
    Oceanside, Ca. 92058

    I had restless leg syndrome for a long time. I talked to my doctor about it and she suggested I try drinking 6-8 ounces of Tonic Water before going to bed. I drink the no calorie and as long as I do this I have no problems at all. I have forgotten from time to time and my legs bother me, but I get a glass of it and 1/2 hr. later no problems.

  22. Linda

    The last time I had a long flight that included trying to sleep overnight I had the worst case of restless legs! My poor seat mate, I am sure I kept him awake, too, with my constantly moving around. Does anyone have a solution to this problem on flights? I am heading out on another long flight (11 hours) in a few weeks and I don’t want to repeat that unbearable situation!

  23. Wm. Tommy

    I am eighty-six years old, active and in generally good health. Two years ago I developed severe leg cramps which only occur at night. I have seldom had a good nights rest since. The soap thing does not work for me. None of the suggested vitamin supplements have any effect on my condition. Quinine is available from Canada. My doctor is opposed to me starting a quinine regiment. At my advanced age I would rather live a shorter life, if leg cramp free, than continue with the nightly pain. Any suggestions?

  24. Bill

    I play tennis several times a week and think the exercise helps. But I also sweat a lot and if I don’t drink water, I will cramp up. I try to drink a lot of water during the matches, but if not, then I continue to drink when I get home.
    I am currently taking pramipexole, 1 whole tablet in the afternoon and a half tablet at night before bedtime. And I supplement it at night with 1 tablet of calcium/mag/zinc + 1 tablet of iron + 1/2 tablet of potassium and then a sleep aid. This seems to work pretty well, but the legs will get restless during the afternoon and drive me crazy.
    A few years ago, I just took the over the counter remedy and it worked great, until the legs got real restless. I wish someone would solve the problem.

    • J.M.

      Acupuncture may help. So far (it’s early days) I have been cramp-free during the night.
      Good luck!

    • Georgia
      Normangee, Texas

      I have done two things to relieve charley horse pain during sleep: (1) take a potassium supplement of 550 mg. daily and use a bar of soap under my fitted sheet. I have found that touching a bar of soap stops my charley horses. My lower legs move about quite a bit at night so I place the bar of soap at about the thigh area so that I am always touching the soap. It works!

  25. Jane

    RLS only affects me before bed, not after, don’t know why. But sitting in a chair with RLS is not a very comfortable thing to do. I wouldn’t doubt if the cause is Benedryl because I’ve used it as a sleep aid for years. Hummmm Thanks for this article.

  26. Ruth

    I had rls for years. I was in the hospital for a hip replacement when a nurse came into the room & I was moving my legs. She ask what the matter was & I told her I had rls. She said to get some calcium, magnesium & zink plus vitamin d. My husband went straight to the pharmacy & got me some. I take 1 tablet at night & haven’t had rls since. Soap didn’t work for me. Mustard works for leg cramps.

  27. Janeen

    What brand of soap worked for you?!? Does it matter?

    • Trish

      After much research and many trials, the brand I settled on was Irish Spring because of the amount of limonene in it. I found it to be the most effective in eliminating nighttime leg cramps than any other brand I tried.

    • LJ

      Is there one pill for all of these or 3 different pills?

  28. Ken

    I read all the time about the soap under the sheets thing but nobody says whether to put it near the head of the bed or closer to the legs. Just wondering where under the sheets to try putting it.

    • Margaret
      west palm beach, fl

      I have used soap (both Ivory and Dial) for years now. My mom read about it here and she used it. I place the bar of soap under the bottom sheet, in the middle of the bed, near the bottom of the mattress. It has worked for my mom, me and my boyfriend at his house.

    • Jean

      I have read that one bar should be near the feet and a second bar next to the hips. I have tried this and it seems to help but not alleviate all the symptoms of RLS. Hyland’s Restless Legs product helps quite a bit but does not, at least for me, last more than 1 1/2 hrs.

  29. John W

    Emotional Freedom Technique: No matter what the source of the energetic discharge (whether imbalanced or over charged), EFT has worked fabulously for thousands.

    • Martha

      I did a bit of research. It says to place the soap underneath your fitted sheet. You can put the soap in a sock to keep the sheets clean.
      Replace the soap with a new bar once a month for optimal benefits.
      One website also said you can put the soap right on top of your sheets over your legs and that will help too. I’ve never heard of that though, just heard of placing the soap underneath your sheet near your legs. Hope this helps! Good luck

    • Cheryl

      Lower in the bed about where your legs rest. Also, hydration really helps, that’s why runners drink a lot of water before a race, also a glass of tonic before bed (careful with that if you are allergic to quinine tho.

    • Marci

      Just curious to know how many of the posters have RLS, unless you have it you don’t understand it. I have had it for at least 20 years and after research on my part I know pain anywhere on my body can trigger it. Soap under the sheets didn’t work for me, not a hot bath, not stretching, nothing. I take ReQuip and Gabapentin to help but at the end of the day when I’m tired it will start in. If I take meds I get very sleepy and am in a fog for a few hours but at least I get relief from RLS. Then to sleep I have to take more meds, it’s a terrible cycle.

  30. Betty F.

    I think. No, I know that my RLs is caused by lack of water in my system. The ‘pressure points’ in my legs are in misery. How to protect the pressure points? From the outside? Like softness, like springy mattresses? Keep moving them? No!! I do it from the inside, the INSIDE of my legs, by hydrating by making my tissues themselves be the cushion, the protector of the pressure points. When I am ‘attacked’ by the burning, the ants biting, a glass of water takes it away in a few minutes.

    • Bruce

      I have had RLS for at least 3 years. It’s exhausting. I tried the soap now for 3 days and I have had 10/10 sleeps since. Out the wrapper, right next to my legs. It has worked for me !

    • AJ

      Being well hydrated undoubtedly helps these annoying symptoms. In fact, I think in my case, being dehydrated is what causes it in the first place! If I drink plenty throughout the day my RLS is not an issue.

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