August 29, 2019

What to Eat If You Have Restless Legs Syndrome

How a few easy diet changes could mean a better night's sleep

Restless Leg Syndrome diet

Ah, the blissful bed. You snuggle in under the toasty blankets, in a dark room, with the soothing sounds of white noise lulling you into a dreamy sleep. And then … your legs fire off like you’re performing with the Rockettes.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Not even counting how many bruises you may have given your bedmate, restless legs syndrome — or the ohmygawd leg cramps — can really disrupt sleep patterns. Wellness expert Michael Roizen, MD, says that’s a problem not only because of associated fatigue, but also because sleep disturbances are associated with all sorts of long-term and serious health problems, including cognitive decline.

Here, Dr. Roizen explains what foods to load up on and what to avoid:

What to eat: Lots of websites say that the easiest solution is to drink some diet tonic water because it contains quinine, an ingredient shown to decrease cramping. But the Food and Drug Administration has warned that this research is out of date, and there isn’t nearly enough quinine in tonic to help, so we don’t recommend it.

Advertisement

Up your D3 and potassium. The truth is, you may be deficient in certain vitamins and minerals like D3 or potassium, which have been linked to cramps. If this is the case, eating spinach and fish is a must to get your dose of these important nutrients.

Low iron may also be a culprit. Restless legs syndrome may also be an indication of a more serious problem: low iron. Spinach, seafood, most bean and whole-grain bread offer this critical nutrient without some of the potential detrimental qualities of other iron-rich options like red meat (which is filled with carnitine). You can also try adding folate and magnesium to your diet, which have been shown in small studies to help some with restless legs syndrome. Find these in lentils, beans, dark leafy greens, almonds and edamame.

Finally, one of the big keys to solving restless legs is to avoid alcohol and caffeine before bed. These can disrupt your sleep and make symptoms worse.

Advertisement

This article was adapted from the best-selling book “What to Eat When” by Michael F. Roizen, MD, and Micheal Crupain, MD, MPH with Ted Spiker (©2018 National Geographic Books)

Related Articles

man in bathtub relaxing RLS
October 13, 2021
The Best Home Remedies for Restless Legs Syndrome

Strategies for getting the sleep you need

A person in bed tangled up in the sheets
August 23, 2021
Is Restless Legs Syndrome Bad for Your Heart?

The short answer from an interventional cardiologist

Restless leg syndrome
March 30, 2021
Can Restless Legs Syndrome Affect Other Parts of Your Body?

The short answer from a sleep expert

Giseng root and ginseng tea on reed mat
February 16, 2024
Can Ginseng Boost Your Health?

Two types of ginseng work in different ways to help improve energy, immunity and heart health

Glasses of alcohol on wooden stump outside in the snow, with bottle nearby
February 16, 2024
Drinking Alcohol in the Cold? 5 Tips on How To Stay Safe

A cold one out in the cold can cause a false sense of warmth and increase your risk of hypothermia

Person relaxing in bathtub
February 2, 2024
How To Relieve Muscle Soreness After a Massage

The same things you do to treat sore muscles after exercise can help treat soreness after a massage

Healthcare umbrella is held over diverse group of people
January 18, 2024
What Is Health Equity and Why Does It Matter?

Inequality hurts our health at a personal, community and global level

happy female in yellow coat walking in woods
January 8, 2024
Tips to Reduce Cortisol Levels and Dial Down Stress

Certain activities, foods and supplements can help calm your body

Trending Topics

close up of keto gummies
Do Keto Gummies Work for Weight Loss? Are They Safe?

Research is inconclusive whether or not these supplements are helpful

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

Older person postioned sideways showing dowager hump.
Dowager’s Hump: What It Is and How To Get Rid of It

The hump at the base of your neck may be caused by osteoporosis or poor posture

Ad