Restless Leg Syndrome and Magnesium

Restless Leg Syndrome and Insomnia Linked to Magnesium Deficiency

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a form of insomnia characterized by an overwhelming urge to move the legs when they are at rest, especially during sleep.  RLS affects about 10% of the people in the U.S. It runs in families and may have a genetic component. Recent research has found that people with restless leg syndrome are deficient in the mineral magnesium.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, almost six out of ten Americans report having insomnia and sleep problems at least a few nights a week. Other types of insomnia include sleep apnea, which involves interrupted breathing and snoring during the night; narcolepsy - which causes people to fall asleep throughout the daytime; insomnia from hormone fluctuations such as with menstruation or menopause; and insomnia from the use of medications, caffeine or alcohol.

Those who have restless leg syndrome experience unpleasant sensations in the legs described as creeping, crawling, tingling, pulling, or painful.  These sensations usually occur in the calf area but may be felt anywhere from the thigh to the ankle. People with RLS often experience chronic insomnia and sleeplessness due to the strong urge to walk or do other activities to relieve the sensations in their legs.

In one study from the Romanian Journal of Neurology and Psychiatry, researchers conducted biochemical and neurological tests in 10 cases of restless leg syndrome. The investigators reported important disorders of sleep organization.  They found agitated sleep with frequent periods of nocturnal awakenings and a decrease of the duration and percentage of the deeper rapid eye movement (REM) sleep – also found in other forms of insomnia caused by magnesium deficiency. (1)

Another study from the Journal "Sleep" had similar results. The study was titled "Magnesium Therapy for Periodic Leg Movements (PLMS) - Related Insomnia and Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS): An Open Pilot Study". Magnesium was administered orally in the evening over a period of 4-6 weeks. Following magnesium treatment, periodic leg movements associated with arousals decreased significantly.  In the 1998 study, the researchers concluded: "Our study indicates that magnesium treatment may be a useful alternative therapy in patients with mild or moderate RLS-or PLMS-related insomnia." (2)

According to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Research Center in North Dakota, “Magnesium plays a key role in the body's chemistry that regulates sleep. This may be why persons with long-term lack of sleep, or abnormal brain waves during deep sleep, often have low magnesium in their blood….Magnesium treatment increased deep sleep and improved brain waves during sleep in 12 elderly subjects. Magnesium treatment also decreased time to fall asleep and improved sleep quality of 11 alcoholic patients who often have a low magnesium status.”

Regarding the use of nutritional insomnia remedies containing magnesium for relief of restless leg syndrome and other sleep problems, certain formulas are more effective than others. The combination of minerals included and the presence of cofactors in the product are key.  Formulas should contain a 2 to 1 ratio of calcium to magnesium.  The original research on this recommended ratio appeared in 1935 in the Journal of Physiological Reviews (3) and is made on the basis of long-term metabolic studies in men and women.

One natural insomnia remedy showing good results is Sleep Minerals II, made by Nutrition Breakthroughs in Glendale, CA. This sleep aid contains six types of calcium, three forms of magnesium, boron, Vitamin D, Vitamin K and horsetail herb - all combined in a softgel with carrier oils. Oils such as evening primrose have been shown to increase mineral absorption, reduce calcium excretion, and increase bone density.

Sleep Minerals II has had beneficial results with relieving restless leg syndrome.  Ali M. of Istanbul Turkey says: “I have been a pharmacist in Istanbul Turkey for almost 40 years and I also work as a consultant in food supplements. I suffer from restless leg syndrome at night. I recently tried your Sleep Minerals II and it had an astonishing beneficial result. My youngest brother, who is also a pharmacist, also suffers from restless leg syndrome. He tried the Sleep Minerals II with the same result. My mother aged 92 was complaining of sleep problems and insomnia. She also tried it and the result was again successful.  If I hadn’t experienced it myself, I would have found it hard to believe."

Many people suffer from restless leg syndrome and some sources have called it an incurable disease.  Regular use of the right kind of mineral supplement just might provide the needed relief.


1: Clinical, EEG, electromyographic and polysomnographic studies in restless legs syndrome caused by magnesium deficiency. Rom J Neurol Psychiatry.1993 Jan-Mar; 31(1):55-61. PubMed PMID: 8363978.

2. Sleep. 1998 Aug 1;21(5):501-5.

3. Schmidt C.L.A., Greenberg D.M., Physiol Rev, 15: 297.

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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  The nutrients and products discussed here are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.  Site last updated 5/2/12.