We hate it when a leg cramp hits at night and wakes us from a sound sleep with a bolt of pain that does not let up. People have proposed many causes for these muscle cramps, and it is worth trying to see whether correcting a relative lack of minerals such as potassium or magnesium can help. Some people find that magnesium supplement that provides 400 mg of magnesium daily (or less) is beneficial. Others increase their potassium intake by drinking low-sodium V8 juice in the evening.
Stretching the calves before bedtime is a low-impact approach that can be useful and certainly won’t do any harm. That may be especially relevant when extra exercise during the day could increase the likelihood of a nighttime leg cramp.
We are also fans of the soap remedy. While it provides never-ending fodder for jokes, we find it helpful to slip a bar of soap under the bottom sheet before bedtime. Not everyone does, but this reader reports an encouraging success story in which failure really underscores the point:
Why Did the Soap Remedy Fail to Stop Leg Cramps?
Q. My fiancee had terrible leg cramps at night until she heard of the soap remedy. This worked exceedingly well for her.
Last night, however, she had foot cramps and was dismayed to find the remedy no longer effective. It turns out that the housekeepers had visited that day and had changed the sheets. They laid the bar of soap on the dresser rather than returning it to the bed. Hope is restored!
A. You are not the first person to report initial soap success followed by disappointment. This frequently happens when the soap is misplaced.
The wife of a physician surreptitiously placed a bar of soap on her husband’s side of the bed under the sheets. (She knew he would resist such a home remedy if he were aware of her plans.) For the next few nights he was amazed that his nighttime leg cramps disappeared.
When the cramps came back, he complained bitterly. Upon investigation she discovered that the soap had fallen on the floor. Once the soap was replaced, the leg cramps disappeared once again.
Needless to say, there are no placebo-controlled trials for soap under the sheet. Not everyone benefits from the soap remedy, even when the bar is placed under the sheets near the feet. For those who need other approaches, we offer lots of other simple remedies for muscle and leg cramps as well as other common ailments in our book, Quick & Handy Home Remedies.