Can a Bar of Soap in Bed Cure Restless Legs Syndrome?

The suggestion that placing a bar of soap in your bed could cure leg cramps or a sleep disorder such as restless legs syndrome (RLS) has risen from the status of old wives' tale to being discussed on popular television programs like the Dr. Oz show and in online forums.

Learn about this home remedy practice, the strength of evidence behind it, and whether it is something that can actually help you to sleep better.

Possible Causes of Restless Legs Syndrome

Laura Porter / Verywell

RLS vs. Leg Cramps

First, be certain to understand the difference between restless legs syndrome and nocturnal leg cramps. RLS is defined by an uncomfortable feeling associated with an urge to move that occurs most often at night when lying down.

It happens during wakefulness and is typically relieved by movement, especially by getting up and walking around or shifting the legs. It may be caused by iron deficiency and other medical conditions.

In contrast, leg cramps are characterized by a sudden and painful spasm of the muscles of the feet or legs. These generally last for seconds, but the pain can persist for longer. Leg cramps have different causes and may be relieved by stretching the muscles. They are increasingly common as people get older.


The causes of restless legs and leg cramps are complex and not fully understood. There is some evidence that low iron contributes to RLS symptoms. It may be due to problems with the neurotransmitter called dopamine.

There may also be a relationship to problems in the peripheral or central nervous system, as it can be seen to be associated with peripheral neuropathy and other conditions like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. It may be the final pathway of multiple causes.

Leg cramps are often thought to be due to low electrolytes like calcium, magnesium, and potassium and be brought on by dehydration or physical exertion, like prolonged standing. Medical conditions like diabetes, liver disease, or kidney failure requiring dialysis are associated with leg cramps.

Similar to RLS, the exact cause of leg cramps is not known and it may occur due to multiple disparate issues.

Soap as a Possible Treatment

As the scientific basis for these conditions is not well established, the gap in knowledge may be filled by traditional beliefs, personal anecdotal experience, and alternative medicine.

Television programs like Dr. Oz and The Doctors have discussed the use of soap to relieve these conditions. It is a popular topic in discussion forums and comment threads. But in reviewing the topic, there is little research accessible: only a single case series evaluating a soap-scented skin patch for use to treat cramps related to menstrual periods.

There is no clear rationale for placing a bar of soap in the bed as a means to treat either restless legs or leg cramps.

Some suggest that the soap somehow changes the chemistry of the legs, perhaps through the transfer of ions from the soap to the nervous system. As a general rule, our bodies do not work by osmosis—we can’t simply absorb “humors” from a bar of soap placed near us in bed.

The suggestions to put it at the foot of the bed, under the sheet, or even in a sock, reveal inconsistencies that undermine any rational basis for the remedy. How could soap in a sock work just as well as a bar placed beneath a sheet or one that is cradled between your lower legs?

What Evidence Is Needed

The gold standard for scientific research evidence is a randomized controlled trial. In this case, there would be two similar groups with restless legs or leg cramp complaints and half the subjects would use a bar of soap and the other half would use a placebo, like maybe a similarly shaped piece of plastic.

Then, the outcomes would be studied, comparing the symptom relief of each group. Ideally, the subjects would be blinded, not knowing if they used soap or the placebo.

These studies have not been done and it is rather unlikely that funding would be secured to do the research as there is no scientific basis to even consider that soap might work.

A Word From Verywell

While there may be no harm in placing soap in your bed, it is unlikely to produce any relief. If your symptoms persist, speak with your healthcare provider or a sleep specialist about additional (more proven) treatment options for restless legs or leg cramps.

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  1. NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Restless legs syndrome fact sheet. Updated March 17, 2017.

  2. Connor JR, Patton SM, Oexle K, Allen RP. Iron and restless legs syndrome: treatment, genetics and pathophysiologySleep Med. 2017;31:61–70. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2016.07.028

  3. Allen RE, Kirby KA. Nocturnal leg cramps. Am Fam Physician. 2012;86(4):350-5.

  4. Ough YD, Albert R, Bhaskar DD, Jones GT, Loftus K. Soap-scented skin patch for menstrual cramps: a case series. J Altern Complement Med. 2008;14(6):618. doi:10.1089/acm.2007.0819