Why Your Legs Cramp at Night (And How to Prevent Cramps From Happening Again)

Nocturnal leg cramps is a condition that causes pain in your legs during sleep. These leg cramps occur as a result of prolonged muscle activity that happened during the day. The most common place of their occurrence is in the calves, but they can also cause pain in the thighs and feet.

The pain can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. However, even after the pain has passed, you might experience soreness in your muscles that can linger until the morning after. Nocturnal leg cramps can occur equally in women and men, however they are more common in older people, over the age of 50.

Leg Cramps vs Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is another condition that occurs during night, however it is completely different then nocturnal leg cramps. Some of the differences between nocturnal leg cramps and RLS include:

– Nocturnal leg cramps cause pain, unlike the RLS.
– This syndrome is characterized by a sense of discomfort in your legs.
– While the main symptom of nocturnal leg cramps is the inability to move your leg(s), the restless leg syndrome is characterised by uncontrollable urge to move your legs.
– In RLS, leg movement can often offer you relief. On the other hand, with nocturnal leg cramps you need to stretch your legs to get a relief.


The science still hasn’t exactly figured out what the causes are the nocturnal leg cramps. However, some of the most common causes for this syndrome include the following:

– Long hours of sitting
– Sitting in an improper position for a prolonged period of time.
– Long hours of standing and walking on hard floors.


Nocturnal leg cramps can also be caused by some other medical conditions that include:

– Pregnancy
– Alcoholism
– Dehydration
– Parkinson’s disease
– Neuromuscular disorders
– Flat Feet
– Diabetes
– Consumption of diuretics, statins, beta agonists.


Nocturnal leg cramps can be treated in different ways, depending on what caused them. If the syndrome is caused by dehydration the best course of action would be to be stay hydrated. In other cases you can use the following treatments and preventive actions:

– Consume horse chestnuts. This food increases the blood flow in your legs.
– Relax you muscles before sleep with a warm bath.
– Heat your legs with a heating pad.
– Massage and acupuncture may help you loosen your muscles.
– Increase the magnesium and potassium intake.
– Stretch.
– Increase muscle strength with leg exercises.

Nocturnal leg cramp attacks can be severe, leaving you nearly paralyzed. That’s why you need to be prepared to handle them. Taking proper actions on time will not only help you during the attack, but will also reduce the resulting soreness.


– Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Start flexing your feet at the ankles and point your toes point toward your knees – you may want to tug on your feet to offer an even better stretch. If you are unable sit in this position immediately, slightly bend your knees.

– When you find yourself in a seated position for a prolonged period, get up and take a walk. This will improve your blood flow.

– Apply a gentle circular massage to your limbs.

– Make sure that your clothes are not too tight.

– You can also consume a tablespoon of yellow mustard to relieve discomfort.

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