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Rest for the Restless: Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

Updated on May 11, 2009

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around Restless Legs Syndrome and came across something that is related to it as well as to many other things: Mighty Magnesium.

See, when someone has Restless Legs, they tend to have insomnia as well (who can sleep when their legs are pedaling an imaginary bicycle every few minutes?). While most insomnia cases are from protein deficiency (and can be helped by eating a small amount of protein before bed), restless legs syndrome is a little different. It’s muscular. It can be caused from iron deficiency uremia, diabetic polyneuritis Parkinson’s disease, chronic respiratory insufficiency, and post-gastrectomy. If you and your doctor have ruled out the diseases above, please consider iron deficiency, magnesium deficiency, and vitamin therapy so you can get some rest!

Here are some recommendations:

  • Test serum ferritin levels. If they are less than 100 ug/l, then consider iron therapy. Try 200 mg of iron three times a day for a few months.
  • Consider Vitamin E (300-800 iu / day) and folic acid (5 mg 3 x / day)
  • Consider Tryptophan or 5-HTP (50-100 mg at bedtime)
  • Ask your doctor about Xyrem (GHB) – a prescription for narcolepsy that has helped many people with insomnia and restless leg syndrome
  • Magnessium Postassium Aspartate capsules (can be found at Vitamin Research Products .com) are also helpful – magnesium and potassium are used to treat restless legs and hypertension!

Magnificent Magnesium

What is incredibly fascinating is the research on magnesium, though, which is what I really want to bring to your attention.

Magnesium is necessary to allow muscles to relax! Squirming and fidgeting are symptoms of this inability to relax and interestingly, are also symptoms of ADD and ADHD in children because they cannot sit still. What is actually happening is that their muscles will cramp or spasm if they try to sit still and so they squirm.

You might be low if...

.... you’re an American.
We have very low intakes of magnesium. While the RDA says we need 300-400 mg, we probably intake around 200 (women) or 250 (men). Just to compare, Asian diets contain 500-700 mg of magnesium a day.

Why so low?
Our soils are depleted. Rarely is magnesium added back in, not even in fertilizers. At the center of the chlorophyll molecule is magnesium, responsible for the growing of crops.

Then, we process foods. In the refining of foods (like sugar and flour), 99% of magnesium is lost. Another case for Whole Foods Diets.

Or, we cook them. Cooked vegetables lose 50% of their magnesium in the water. Lightly steam or stir-fry.

Animal protein and fats aren’t a good source for magnesium and this is the mainstay of our diets (combined with highly processed foods as mentioned above). And this type of diet will actually suppress the absorption of magnesium so that what you do eat, you don’t keep! Culprits that prevent absorption are: sodas, sugar, flours, oxalates (spinach, rhubarb, and chocolate), many grains, calcium supplements, seeds, and legumes.

A Brief Brush-Up on Kidneys

Our organs are amazing. They deserve to be honored and appreciated! Kidneys, for instance, are detoxifying organs. When magnesium goes into the kidneys, they remove it from the urine so that it can go back to the body where it is needed.

Why wouldn’t this happen?

Well, being an American is apparently a big factor here because alcohol, coffee, animal protein, sugar, stress, excessive noise, high sodium diets, high calcium intakes, candida yeast overgrowth (usually caused by antibiotic abuse), and some antibiotics are all factors that prevent the kidneys from recycling magnesium back into the body. Thus, it departs in the urine, wasted and leaving us Americans, severely deficient.

How do you know if you're low?

I’m assuming you are. I’m assuming I am too.
Testing is out of the question because magnesium levels can’t be tested by the blood.

So, to make sure there’s a deficiency, let’s look at the symptoms:

  • Hypertension: high blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Memory or concentration issues, learning disabilities
  • Weakness, fatigue, exhaustion, depression, apathy, irritability, nervousness, anxiety
  • Muscle tension, restlessness
  • Constipation

Now What Do I Do?

Yes, I believe that we could live supplement-free but that’s only if our diets make this possible, and the source of our foods are digestible and full of nutrients, if we aren’t taking antibiotics, or challenging our bodies with other substances (like toxins, alcohol, sugar, or flour). If that’s possible for you, Great! You are probably not deficient in magnesium or anything else!

For the rest of us, supplementation is our best bet. And when looking at supplements, please don’t run to your nearest drugstore. The quality of supplements continually degrades from Practitioner Quality (see your holistic nutritionist) to Health Food Stores (or Vitamin Shops) to Gourmet Stores (like Trader Joes) to large shopping centers (like Costco) and finally to drugstores (Walgreens, Wal-Mart, etc.) respectively. See my recommendations for high quality supplements you can buy affordably on Amazon!

How much?
Remember the kidneys? They really are good at flushing out excess magnesium, so we’re not looking at an overload here that could hurt us. The warning is that people who have a history of kidney disease or take magnesium for heartburn or laxatives, should seriously reconsider therapeutic supplementation. Try the range of 2.7 mg – 4.5 mg per pound of body weight. Start small and build up. For a 120 lb woman, try 300 mg.

Break it down!

Take magnesium throughout the day, not all at once.
Take it with meals. Hopefully this means you’re taking it three (3) times a day!

And back to the restless!

I want to turn this conversation back to those suffering from Restless Leg Syndrome and insomnia.

  • Experiment with magnesium.
  • Take 40-200 mg before bedtime.

I’m ordering Magnesium Malate Chelate tabs from Designs for Health. If you’re interested in ordering them directly from me at a discounted price, please let me know! And I encourage you, take responsibility for your health. Read the resources below. Subscribe to newsletters that will educate you. And question everything!

Be well.

Theresa Singleton, MA - Go to to get more free resources from Theresa!


1. Wester, P. Magnesium. Am J Clin Nutr. 1987, 45: 1305-1310

2. Lehminger, A. Principles of Biochemistry. Worth: N.Y. 1982

3. Passwater, R. and Cranton, E. Trace Elements, Hair Analysis and Nutrition. Keats: New Canaan, CT. 1983

4. Garrison, R. and Somer, E. The Nutrition Desk Reference. Keats: New Canaan, CT. 1995

5. Laragh, J. and Seelig, M. The Role of Magnesium Chloride Therapy in Clinical Practice. Tulane University Medical Center. No date, 3

6. Murray, M. Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements. Prima: Rocklin, CA. 1996.




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    • profile image

      rilform 5 years ago

      hello, is Magnesium Malate Chelate the right item for restless leg syndrome or is a different magnesium preferable.

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 6 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Thank you for an interesting hub. I have had no luck in getting rid of RLS completely, but have been prescrived Gabapentin and Ropinerole, but would like to be able to do without medication altogether. Diet should, but doesn't, right now, provide the answer.

    • Theresa Singleton profile image

      Theresa Singleton 7 years ago from Livermore, CA

      Thanks so much! What have you discovered in your investigations?

    • profile image

      InfoTell 7 years ago

      I've been investigating natural treatments associated with restless leg syndrome....I really appreciate the level of detail and the passion you put into your hub...thanks for the info