Leg cramps that happen during the night, otherwise called nocturnal leg cramps, are torments that happen overnight when you sleep.
These pains are a result of the long stretches of dormancy and can be bad to the point that the individual is fundamentally compelled to wake up.
However, the pain, for the most part, happens in the calf, the thighs and feet can be likewise affected.
It ordinarily goes on for two or three seconds to a couple of minutes. Once the cramps leave, the muscle soreness may stay for the following couple of hours or until the morning.
Nocturnal leg cramps affect both men and women and individuals above 50 years old are most defenseless to this problem.
Leg Cramps at Night VS Restless Leg Syndrome
The main thing nighttime leg cramps and restless leg syndrome share for all intents and purpose is the way that they both happen during sleeping hours.
Be that as it may, there are numerous differences between them, including the following:
- RLS causes the desire to move the legs, while nocturnal leg cramps often prevent movement.
- Moving the leg in RLS offers relief – moving the leg in nocturnal leg cramps does not, instead of stretching is required.
- RLS does not cause pain or cramping, while nocturnal leg cramps do.
- RLS is more of a discomfort or crawling feeling in your legs.
Causes and Risk Factors of Leg Cramps at Night
Although the real cause of nocturnal leg cramps is not fully understood, the potential causes and risk factors are already known. They include:
- Standing or working on a concrete floor
- Sitting improperly
- Sitting for prolonged periods of time
- Overexertion of the muscles in the leg
Leg cramps at night can be caused by medical conditions as well, such as:
- Neuromuscular disorders
- Structural disorders like flat feet
- Endocrine disorders like diabetes
- Diuretics, statins, beta-agonists
- Parkinson’s disease
Treatment and Prevention for Nocturnal Leg Cramps
The treatment itself heavily depends on the underlying cause. For instance, if dehydration is the cause of your nocturnal leg cramps, you need to make sure that you stay hydrated during the day. Other preventive measures and treatments include the following:
- Stretch your legs prior to bed.
- Partake in water exercises to build leg muscles.
- Wear ergonomic shoes and avoid high heels.
- Use horse chestnut, which has been shown to increase blood flow to the legs.
- Take a relaxing, warm bath before sleeping to ease any muscle tightness.
- Apply a heating pad to the affected area.
- Try acupuncture treatment to loosen tight leg muscles.
- Ensure you are not deficient in magnesium or potassium – deficiencies in both minerals are linked to muscle cramping.
How to React When Cramps Occur?
Once the leg cramps set in, the person is nearly left paralyzed. Therefore, it is very important to know how to react so that you get instant relief and feel less sore afterward. Consider the following tips:
- Gently massage the area in a circular motion.
- Ensure blankets and sheets are not tight enough to make the leg muscle contract.
- Take a tablespoon of yellow mustard to relieve discomfort.
- While sitting on the floor extend both legs out in front of you. Now flex your feet at the ankles and point your toes toward your knees – you may want to tug on your feet to offer an even better stretch.
- Get up slowly and walk around a bit – shaking your legs can also improve blood flow.