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Skeptic Reconsiders the Value of Soap in Bed for Restless Legs Syndrome

"I was one heck of a skeptic when I heard about putting soap in the bed to calm restless legs syndrome. Well, I had to eat a little humble pie."

We appreciate a skeptical attitude. It doesn’t make sense to believe everything you hear or read. That’s why trying out a home remedy for yourself makes a lot of sense. That is what this reader did in testing soap for restless legs syndrome.

Soap in Bed to Ease Restless Legs:

Q. I was one heck of a skeptic when I heard about putting soap in the bed to calm restless legs syndrome. In fact, I laughed at the person who told me about it. However, I have suffered with RLS for several years, so I decided to give it a try.

Well, I had to eat a little humble pie. Not only does soap work, it works in a matter of 30 seconds to a minute. I’m sure it will not work for everyone, every time. But it sure has helped me and a dozen people I’ve told about it. We may not know exactly how it works and there may be folks who think it is bogus. Well, they are just plain wrong.

I put my bar of soap in a pillowcase and rest my leg or legs on the pillow under the cover. This works to ease the restlessness every time.

A. Thank you for your story. We have heard from many other people who find soap helpful for restless legs syndrome but, as you recognize, not all benefit.

Other Readers Report Success:

Q. This is either an urban legend or a friend is playing a joke on me. She says that if you sleep with a bar of soap (not Dove or deodorant kind) the restless legs syndrome (RLS) will not occur.

She swears that she read this someplace and that it worked for a relative. Since it was non-invasive, I slept with a bar of soap for two weeks. No RLS, but I still had leg cramps.

Is this a placebo? Mind over-matter? It is NOT logical! Have you ever heard of such a thing?

A. Your friend may have read about the soap remedy in our column. We agree that putting a bar of soap under the bottom sheet is illogical. Like most remedies, it has never been tested scientifically. But we have heard from many readers that it helps prevent their cramps.

Here is one:

“I have had severe leg cramps for years. When I read about putting a bar of soap in bed, I got a bar of Ivory and put it under the bottom sheet near my legs. It’s been a month since I did that, and I have not had one leg cramp.”

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) differs from leg cramps in that the person feels the urge to move the legs frequently. It too can interfere with sleep.

Prescription Drugs for Restless Legs:

There are prescription drugs used to treat those with serious RLS, but the medications have some daunting side effects, such as falling asleep during the day while driving or eating. Dizziness, fainting, sleepiness, fatigue, gambling or other compulsive behaviors, indigestion, nausea, pain, swollen legs, dry mouth and hallucinations are other potential reactions.

Other Approaches to Easing Restless Legs Syndrome:

We offer some approaches to managing restless legs with supplements or measures other than drugs. Again, not every treatment will be effective in each case. There are more details in our Guide to Leg Pain.

One of the most promising approaches is to determine whether you are deficient in iron. This problem is associated with anemia and often disappears when the deficiency is corrected. Low folic acid may also contribute to restless legs.

If you are interested in lavender-scented soap that is flat so as not to disturb the legs when it is hiding under the bottom sheet, consider our Bed Soap. It is shaped especially for this purpose, though it also makes a lovely bath soap. Lavender oil seems to be helpful in easing RLS.

Revised 9/14/17

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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