There are many things that can keep you awake at night and of course lead to bouts of insomnia.
One of these is night cramps
These usually occur in the calf but the discomfort can affect the thighs and feet for a few seconds or for many minutes - with lingering muscle pain for longer periods. Leg cramps are more likely in men and women over the age of 50.
The first action to take when suffering from leg cramps is to ensure you are not dehydrated. Apart from not drinking enough water, dehydration could mean that you are eating food that is high in sodium and low in potassium. Potassium is particularly important because it combines with any excess sodium to take control over the liquids you are consuming while also helping to lower the pain of leg cramps.
How to prevent them from happening?
It you can eat a food containing potassium the minute you experience leg cramps - a good example is a banana
- you could feel the relief within a few seconds.
Another important mineral is magnesium. There are many foods rich in magnesium, including fish, nuts, lentils, potatoes, spinach, quinoa and dark chocolate.
Further natural ways to treat or prevent leg cramps?
After you have made sure you are not dehydrated, you can try these different remedies…
- Use horse chestnut, which has been shown to increase blood flow to the legs or take a tablespoon of yellow mustard to relieve discomfort.
- Enjoy a relaxing, warm bath before bedtime to ease any muscle tightness. Stretch your legs before getting into bed.
- Apply a heating pad or a hot water bottle to the affected area or gently massage in a circular motion.
- Ensure blankets and sheets are not too tightly tucked in, making the leg muscles contract.
- Try acupuncture treatment to loosen tight leg muscles or take part in water exercises to build leg muscles.
- A reminder to ensure you are not deficient in magnesium or potassium – deficiencies in both minerals are linked to muscle cramping.
- While sitting on the floor, extend both legs out in front of you and flex your feet at the ankles, pointing your toes toward your knees. For an even better stretch, tug on your feet at the same time.
- Get up slowly and walk around for a while before shaking your legs to improve blood flow.
Leg cramps can be confused with restless leg syndrome or RLS
But there are differences…
RLS does not cause pain or cramping, while nocturnal leg cramps do.
- RLS is more of a discomfort or crawling feeling in your legs.
- RLS is all about having the desire to keep moving your legs while nocturnal leg cramps often prevent movement.
- While moving the legs in RLS gives you relief, moving the leg in nocturnal leg cramps does not. You need to stretch instead.
Apart from being dehydrated, what leads to night time leg cramps?
- Sitting for prolonged periods of time or sitting badly.
- Over-exertion of the muscles in the leg.
- Standing or working on concrete floors.
Medical and other conditions can also contribute to leg cramps
- Parkinson’s disease
- Neuromuscular disorders
- Flat feet
- Endocrine disorders like diabetes
- Drugs such as diuretics, statins or beta blockers
A final word of advice
Every person is different and, if you are experiencing more frequent leg cramps and nothing is helping, it is always advisable to consult your doctor.