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Scientists Explain Why Leg Cramps Occur at Night: And How to Stop Them

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Spasms can be a real nightmare! They can wake you up in the middle of the night and ruin your sleep. Nocturnal leg cramps are involuntary contractions of the calf muscles that suddenly appear in the middle of the night or during periods of rest.

Contraction can also occur in the soles of the feet or other muscles.

These cramps can last from a few seconds to a few minutes.

Even if intense pain may disappear, muscle aches can last for a while.

Anyone can get these spasms, regardless of age. However, they are more common in middle-aged or older people. Cramps can often occur in adolescents and people who sport in the evening.

Although the underlying cause of night leg cramps is not yet clear, there are various factors that can contribute to this painful problem.

  • Muscle tension
  • Sitting in the wrong position
  • Sedentary way of life

The following factors should also be taken into account:

  • Alcoholism
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Diuretics, statins, beta-agonists
  • Pregnancy
  • Dehydration
  • An endocrine problem like diabetes
  • Neuromuscular diffusers

The treatment of night cramps depends on the cause of the problems.

For example, if the cause of nocturnal leg cramps is the obvious consequence of poor hydration, simply drink more water throughout the day. Other methods for treating and checking night attacks include:

Drink plenty of water and other healthy liquids to prevent dehydration.

Consumption of sports drinks with electrolytes can also prevent the problem.

Avoid alcohol, coffee, and carbonated drinks, which can only increase the risk of cramps.

If you have spasms, massage your muscles with your hands for 10-15 minutes.

Always stretch your leg muscles before going to bed. This will relieve muscle tension and reduce the risk of cramping during sleep. According to a 2012 study, stretching before bedtime can reduce the frequency and severity of night cramps in adults.

Include more magnesium in your diet. Nuts and seeds are rich in magnesium. Pregnant women, however, are not recommended to take magnesium supplements and should consult a doctor.

Walking around and jiggling your leg may also help with leg cramps.

Try to include enough potassium in your diet. Dates, bananas, grapes, broccoli, fish, pork, lamb, orange, grapefruit, cabbage, and apricots are excellent sources of potassium.

Applying a hot compress on the “spasm” muscle may relax and weaken it, which in turn will relieve cramps.

What to do when problems occur

Leg cramps disappear on their own with home treatment, such as stretching or changing lifestyles, like drinking more water.

Call your doctor if your cramps cause particularly intense discomfort or if you notice swelling, redness or other changes to the foot or surrounding structures.

You will also want to schedule an appointment if cramps occur frequently and do not improve with changes to your routine.


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