August 30, 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.


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 But the Food and Drug Administration has warned that this research is out of date, and there isn’t nearly enough quinine in tonic to help, so we don’t recommend it.


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.


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 14, 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 24, 2021
Is Restless Legs Syndrome Bad for Your Heart?

The short answer from an interventional cardiologist

Young child coloring with crayons
December 8, 2023
Are Crayons Toxic? What To Do if Your Kid Eats One

They’re nontoxic, but crayons can cause an upset stomach and pose a serious choking hazard

Castor bean pods, castor beans and a vial of castor oil
December 8, 2023
No, Castor Oil Won’t Solve All (or Any) of Your Health Problems

The oil some TikTokkers swear by can actually cause stomach issues, skin rashes and eye issues

Baby receiving a shot in their leg by healthcare worker in pink
December 7, 2023
COVID-19 Vaccines for Kids: What To Know and Why It’s Important

Children as young as 6 months should get vaccinated

Pregnant person with yellow glow emanating from them.
December 6, 2023
Is Pregnancy Glow a Real Thing?

More radiant skin may appear due to physiological responses to pregnancy

Natural antibiotics, pills and herbs, displayed on bamboo spoons on wooden table.
December 5, 2023
Why You Shouldn’t Self-Treat With ‘Natural Antibiotics’

Natural doesn’t mean they’re safe or effective

Female swimmer in the water at edge of a pool
December 1, 2023
Can Exercise Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer?

Physical activity and weight management can minimize your chances of getting the disease

Trending Topics

group of hands holding different beverages
November 14, 2023
10 Myths About Drinking Alcohol You Should Stop Repeating

Coffee won’t cure a hangover and you definitely shouldn’t mix your cocktail with an energy drink

Person applies moisturizer as part of their skin care routine after a shower.
November 10, 2023
Korean Skin Care Routines: What You Need To Know

Focus on the philosophy — replenishing and respecting your skin — not necessarily the steps

glass of cherry juice with cherries on table
November 8, 2023
Sleepy Girl Mocktail: What’s in It and Does It Really Make You Sleep Better?

This social media sleep hack with tart cherry juice and magnesium could be worth a try