Do you ever go to sleep in your cozy bed after a hard day and wake up with unexpected and painful leg cramps? This phenomenon is called Nocturnal Leg Cramps and Dr. Lisa Shives, from the Northshore Sleep Medicine in Illinois, says it's actually a very normal and common thing.
Nocturnal leg cramps are sudden, involuntary contractions that occur during the night or during times of rest. The cramping sensation may last a few seconds or minutes, but the pain from the cramps may linger for a much longer period. Nocturnal leg camps tend to happen to middle-aged or older populations, but people of any age can have them.
The exact cause of nocturnal leg cramps is not known. Some cases can occur without a triggering event, while others may be linked to prolonged sitting, dehydration or structural disorders. Research shows that about one third of the population above the age of 60 suffers from these cramps, with 6% reporting that it happens every night.
Here are some of the things that may cause this painful problem according to Dr. Shives:
- Medical conditions such as blood disease, diabetes, and muscle disorders.
- Changes in the hormone state due to pregnancy and hormone pills.
- A lack of calcium or a low ability to retain it in the body due to low levels of vitamin D.
- Weak and loose muscles that don’t move during the day are more likely to cramp at night.
- Electrolyte imbalance caused by dehydration and not getting enough potassium and magnesium.
What can you do about it?
- Start by eating foods that have more potassium such as nuts, avocados, almonds and potatoes. Many people say that eating a banana before going to sleep prevents the cramps and the hard pains.
- Hot salt baths with Epsom salt for your feet will help relax your muscles and blood pressure.
- Get more exercises for your legs like evening walks and do some stretching before you go to sleep.
- Consider taking food supplements high on vitamin D, potassium and magnesium.
If none of these work and you still suffer from night cramps nearly every day then you should go see your doctor.