This Is Why Your Legs Cramp At Night – and How To Stop It From Happening Ever Again

Night leg cramps, or nocturnal leg cramps are the pains that happen in your legs while you sleep. They usually wake you up and happen in the night time because of your inactivity during the day. The nocturnal leg cramps most frequently happen in the calf, but they can also occur in the thighs and the feet. The pain in the muscles can last from a couple of seconds to about several minutes. When the pain is gone, the muscles can remain sore for the rest of the night, and sometimes even until the next day. Leg cramps happen in both men and women, and mostly in those over the age of fifty.


Leg Cramps at Night, Different From Restless Leg Syndrome

The nocturnal leg cramps and the restless leg syndrome (RSL) mostly happen during the sleep, and this is the only resemblance between these two ailments. The remaining features of the leg cramps and the restless leg syndrome are mainly different, and here are some of the differences:

  • the RLS is more of a feeling of soreness or crawling feeling in the legs
  • unlike the nocturnal leg cramps, the RSL does not induce pain or cramps
  • if you move your leg while you experience RLS, you will be relieved, and if you move your leg while you experience a leg cramp, you will not, and instead moving, you should stretch it
  • the RLS makes you want to move the legs, and the night leg cramps make you avoid movement

Causes And Risk Factors of Leg Cramps at Night

What exactly causes the nocturnal leg cramps is still a mystery, but there are potential causes and some risk factors that might trigger the leg cramps, such as:

  • over-exertion of the leg muscles
  • sitting for a long periods of time
  • sitting inadequately
  • standing for a long time or working on concrete floors

However, there are also some medical conditions that might be the cause of the leg cramps, including:

  • alcoholism
  • pregnancy
  • dehydration
  • neuromuscular disorders
  • endocrine disorders (diabetes for example)
  • structural disorders (flat feet for example)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Statins, diuretics, beta agonists

Treatment And Prevention For Nocturnal Leg Cramps

How are you going to treat the nocturnal leg cramps depends on the reason that caused them in the first place. For instance, if dehydration is the cause of the night leg cramps, then you should make sure that you take in enough liquids throughout the day. However, here is a list of some other treatments and preventative methods that will relieve the night leg cramps:

  • place a heating pad on the area affected
  • use horse chestnut, because it has been proven to improve the blood flow in the body and in the legs
  • take a warm, relaxing bath before going to bed and release the tightness from the muscles
  • make sure you consume enough magnesium or potassium, because lack of these minerals can often cause leg cramps
  • you can also try acupuncture and loose the tightness from your leg muscles
  • make sure your shoes are comfortable and ergonomic, and avoid wearing high heals
  • stretch before going to sleep
  • participate in water exercises in order to build leg muscles

What to do When Cramps Occur

If a night leg cramp strikes you in the middle of the night, the chances that you feel almost paralyzed are great. That is why you should know how to handle them and how to find the relief and reduce the soreness afterwards. You can make use of some of these tips:

  • take a tablespoon of yellow mustard, since it helps in relieving the discomfort
  • get up from the bed and try walking around for some time. You should also shake your legs so that the blood starts flowing better
  • sitting on the floor, extend your legs in front of you, and flex your feet at the ankles. Then, point your toes toward your knees and pull your feet in order to get a better stretch
  • massage the affected area gently, making circular motions
  • see whether the blankets and the sheets are loose enough and they do not make the leg muscles contract