Have you ever heard of nocturnal leg cramps?
These are involuntary contractions of the calf muscles, which happen suddenly in the middle of the night. Other muscles, as well as the soles of the feet, can also be affected by these contractions.
These cramps are extremely painful and normally last from a couple of seconds to several minutes. While they can affect anyone, they’re more common in middle-aged or older people.
What Causes Nocturnal Cramps?
The root cause of these cramps is yet to be known. However, several factors are known to contribute to this issue:
Proper hydration promotes the performance of the muscles. So, you should maintain proper hydration levels. Otherwise, you risk experiencing leg cramps at night. Water also plays an important role for proper circulation of nutrients in the body.
Without water, muscles will be deprived of essential nutrients, which can cause imbalances of electrolytes (potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium).
2. Nutritional Deficiency
Minerals such as magnesium, potassium, sodium, and calcium maintain the efficient function of the muscles. They’re also responsible for both muscle contractions and nerve impulses. So, if you lack any of these minerals, you have a higher risk of experiencing cramps and other muscle issues. Sodium is essential for maintaining a normal body-fluid balance, muscle contraction and nerve impulse generation.
Potassium works along with sodium and chloride to generate electrical impulses in the muscles and nerves. Calcium plays an important role in the generation of nerve impulses and muscle contractions.
Magnesium helps in stabilizing ATP – adenosine triphosphate, the energy source for muscle contractions. Moreover, it serves as an electrolyte in body fluids.
If you are deficient in any of these minerals, you are more likely to experience cramps and other muscle-related issues. In addition, certain B vitamin can impact muscle function, especially vitamin B12.
3. Prolonged Standing
When you stand for long periods of time while wearing high heeled or poorly fitting shoes, it can result in muscle fatigue or overexertion. This, in turn, causes nocturnal cramps.According to a 2012 study, prolonged standing at work can increase your risk of varicose veins and nocturnal leg cramps. In order to prevent these problems, you should implement interventions to interrupt or reduce prolonged standing at work.
Nocturnal leg cramps can be also caused by improper sitting or putting the legs in awkward and uncomfortable positions when sleeping.
Pregnant women are prone to nocturnal cramps, which can occur due to fatigue, increased pressure of the uterus on some nerves, or poor circulation in the legs from the pressure of the foetus on blood vessels.This starts in the second trimester and lasts through the third trimester.
These cramps can be different in their intensity, from mild to extremely painful.
Reduced thyroid hormone levels can result in muscle weakness and calf cramps at night. Thyroid hormones promote calcium absorption and utilization. On the other hand, calcium deficiency is associated with muscle weakness, numbness, pain, and cramps.
6. Uncontrolled Diabetes
Diabetes can lead to leg muscle cramping. In fact, it is a symptom of diabetic neuropathy, which is a kind of nerve damage. As a diabetic, you may experience sharp pain in your leg muscle, tingling, and numbness.Elevated blood sugar causes subsequent dehydration and excessive urination, which in turn leads to night leg cramps.
7. Alcohol Abuse
Consuming too much alcohol can lead to the damage of peripheral nerves, causing alcohol neuropathy, which is normally characterized by leg pain and muscle cramps.Alcohol has a diuretic effect, so the excessive drinking can lead to dehydration. Moreover, it can cause a magnesium deficiency.
Do not forget to mention that excess alcohol can increase the content of lactic acid in the body. Excessive lactic acid can cause pain and cramps.
8. Certain Medications
Some medications such as statins and diuretics can lead to loss of water and electrolytes from the body. This raises your risk of experiencing cramps.
How To Fix Nocturnal Cramps:
- Drink plenty of fluids to avert dehydration.
- Consume sports drinks with electrolytes to prevent the issue
- Coffee, alcohol, and soda beverages are not recommended. They raise the risk of cramping
- When you experience a cramp, simply massage the muscle with your hands for about 15 minutes
- Always stretch your leg muscles before going to sleep.
- Consider riding your stationary bicycle for about 10 minutes before bedtime.
- Always keep blankets and bed sheets loose around your feet.This ensures your toes aren’t distorted.
- Make sure your diet has plenty of magnesium. You can get this for seeds and nuts.
- Also, include sufficient potassium in your diet. You can get this from grapes, bananas, dates, fish, pork, broccoli, oranges, lamb, cabbage, grapefruit, and apricots.
- You can apply a hot compress to the affected muscle. This will relax and loosen it up, hence relieving the cramp.