Leg cramps are a pain no matter when they occur, but they can be especially unwelcomed when they strike when you’re just falling asleep, or even while you’re sleeping. We’re taking a look at what can cause leg cramps at night and seeing how they differ from another common complaint: Restless Leg Syndrome. Understanding what causes pain like this helps us to see what can be done to reduce the chance of leg cramps striking at night.
Nocturnal leg cramps most often occur in the calf muscle while you’re asleep. If this happens, it can be quite distressing, as the pain of the cramp will often wake you up unexpectedly. Finding yourself suddenly awake in the night and in pain isn’t an experience anyone would choose! If you’re a light sleeper, the disruption to your rest could spell the end of your night’s sleep, giving this issue a heavier impact than simply a few minutes of pain.
Leg cramps can also occur when you’re lying in bed drifting off to sleep, or shortly after you’ve woken up. The common factor is that they happen while your body is still and at rest – it’s when you sit or lie still for long periods of time that your muscles can seize up in this way. Similarly to other types of cramps the sensation caused is a sharp pain, leaving you with a muscle that feels tight and knotty due to it dramatically constricting. This type of cramps can affect anyone, but they tend to occur more regularly as you get older.
Leg cramps at night are not to be confused with Restless Leg Syndrome. While both are uncomfortable and affect your legs while you’re asleep, Restless Leg Syndrome is a painless discomfort that leads to an irresistible urge to move the affected leg. It can prevent you from getting to sleep and is a far from pleasant experience. The causes of Restless Leg Syndrome aren’t currently understood but if it does affect you, rubbing or massaging the affected area can help. If it strikes regularly you may wish to consult a doctor, cut down on the amount of caffeine in your diet and make sure you’re getting regular moderate exercise.
Causes of leg cramps at night
The causes of nocturnal leg cramps are better understood, though working out which cause is resulting in your cramps can be slightly more tricky. Leg cramps have been linked to long periods of inactivity, so they become a problem to anyone from office workers to those bed-bound by illness.
Although not normally at night, cramps can also be brought on by long periods of the same activity. So standing or walking for a long time on concrete and similar surfaces can cause similar discomforts, therefore cramps are often a problem for warehouse workers. Other causes of leg cramps include; poor posture, sleep position and poor diet.
Hydration and electrolyte depletion are common reasons why people suffer from leg cramps at night. As your body loses water, whether it’s because you’re suffering a fever, working through a heatwave or pushing yourself at the gym, you also lose the vital electrolytes that your body uses to keep lots of different internal processes running efficiently. Electrolytes are minerals such as; sodium, potassium and magnesium that are dissolved in your body’s water reserves, and they help to regulate the water levels in your cells, your mood, and, most relevantly the transmission of nerve impulses to your muscles.
If your electrolyte levels dip, you will find these processes start working less efficiently: you get headaches, feel mentally slow or irritable, and experience cramp. Simply drinking water doesn’t get you the electrolytes you need to restore these functions, and may leave you feeling worse, as you dilute the remaining electrolytes in your system.
O.R.S Hydration Tablets dissolve quickly in water, for a tasty drink that also replenishes these key substances to ensure you’re feeling your best and giving your body everything it needs to work at its peak. ORS uses the World Health Organisation’s formula for rehydration to ensure all the minerals for your wellbeing are included.
Aside from staying hydrated and replenishing electrolytes, there are some other preventative measures you can take if you regularly suffer from night time leg cramps. You may wish to start incorporating a gentle leg stretching exercise into your bedtime routine. This will help your muscles to relax and improve your chances of a pain-free night. You should also make sure you are wearing shoes with proper support for your feet during the day, this will help to improve your posture and avoid the additional stress that can bring on cramp.
Finally, making sure you exercise moderately can ensure your muscles are stretched and healthy, especially if you have a sedentary job and a long commute that sees you immobile for the majority of the day. If you take care of your body, and keep it hydrated, it will reward you with a long night of relaxing sleep.