Nocturnal leg cramps, or night leg cramps, are a feeling of knotted stiffness in the legs that happen at night when you sleep. The feeling of tightness can last from a few seconds to several minutes, but the soreness from the cramp can last for days. Although night leg cramps are not dangerous, they can be extremely uncomfortable.
What Do Night Leg Cramps Mean?
The exact reason behind leg cramps at night is still unknown. It might be caused by the brain sending wrong signals to your leg muscles, such as to move while you are sleeping. This can confuse your leg muscles which results in cramping.
Some other causes of night leg cramps can be classified into three categories as follows:
- Standing on hard surfaces for a long time
- Not moving for a long time while sitting
- Overworking the muscles
- Age (if you are over 50 years old, you are more likely to get cramps)
Certain health problems:
- Poor blood circulation
- Nerve damage
- Nerve diseases like Parkinson’s
- Low blood sugar levels
- Lack of certain chemicals in your body, including potassium, calcium, and magnesium
- Alcohol abuse
- Hormonal ailments such as hypothyroidism
- Flat feet
- Kidney diseases
- Liver failure
Some medications can also cause nocturnal leg cramps. They include:
- Statins, which are used for treating high cholesterol
- Some drugs used for treating hypertension
- Certain medications prescribed for COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Specific oral contraceptives
How Do I Stop Leg Cramps At Night?
Some ways to prevent leg cramps at night include:
- Keep yourself hydrated Drink lots of fluid throughout the day, especially if you can manage isotonic drinks containing essential minerals like potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
- Wear good quality footwear that supports your feet muscles Wearing tight and uncomfortable shoes and standing for a long time can cause nocturnal muscle cramps. Try wearing supportive shoes that are gentle on your feet.
- Stretch your legs before bedtime Stretching your legs just before bedtime can help loosen your calf muscles and hamstrings and reduce the chances of nocturnal leg muscle cramps.
- Change your sleeping position Don’t put excessive pressure on your legs when sleeping. Make sure your toes and feet are upright and relaxed when you sleep.
If you are still experiencing leg cramps at night, try:
- Massaging the cramped leg to ease the muscles
- Stretching the leg to release pressure on the muscle
- Applying ice packs or heat to reduce soreness
- Take an OTC medicine, like ibuprofen, to reduce soreness
Nocturnal leg cramps are not harmful but can indicate some underlying problems. If you frequently experience leg cramps at night and want to get to the root cause, consult a doctor.
Our expert vein doctors at North Atlanta Vascular and Vein Center can treat your leg cramps with utmost care and attention. Schedule an appointment with us today!