Cramps can be a real nightmare! They can wake you in the middle of the night and ruin your sleep. Nocturnal leg cramps are involuntary contractions of the calf muscles that occur suddenly in the middle of the night or periods of rest.
Contractions can also occur in the soles of the feet or other muscles.
These cramps can last from a few seconds to several minutes. Even though the intense pain may disappear, muscle soreness may remain for some time.
Every person can get these cramps, regardless of the age. However, they are more common in middle-aged people or older. Cramps can often occur in teenagers and individuals who exercise at night.
Even though the root cause of nocturnal leg cramps is still unclear, there are various factors that can contribute to this painful problem.
Check them out!
Proper hydration is essential for a healthy body and mind. It also has an impact on the performance of the muscles. Water comprises 75% of muscle tissue and helps them contract and relax.
So, if you do not maintain proper levels of hydration throughout the day, you are more likely to experience legs cramps at night. Water also plays an important role for proper circulation of nutrients in the body.
Without water, muscles will be deprived of essential nutrients, which can cause imbalances of electrolytes (potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium).
2. Nutritional Deficiency
Any kind of imbalance of mineral electrolytes – potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium in our body can lead to nocturnal and exercise-related cramps.
These minerals maintain the proper work of your muscles and are responsible for both nerve impulses and muscle contractions. Sodium is essential for maintaining a normal body-fluid balance, muscle contraction and nerve impulse generation.
Potassium works along with sodium and chloride to generate electrical impulses in the muscles and nerves. Calcium plays an important role in the generation of nerve impulses and muscle contractions.
Magnesium helps in stabilizing ATP – adenosine triphosphate, the energy source for muscle contractions. Moreover, it serves as an electrolyte in body fluids.
If you are deficient in any of these minerals, you are more likely to experience cramps and other muscle-related issues. In addition, certain B vitamin can impact muscle function, especially vitamin B12.
3. Overexertion or Prolonged Standing
Prolonged standing and standing while wearing poorly fitting shoes or high heels can lead to muscle fatigue or overexertion, which in turn causes leg cramps at night.
According to a 2012 study, prolonged standing at work can increase your risk of varicose veins and nocturnal leg cramps. In order to prevent these problems, you should implement interventions to interrupt or reduce prolonged standing at work.
Nocturnal leg cramps can be also caused by improper sitting or putting the legs in awkward and uncomfortable positions when sleeping.
Pregnant women are more likely to experience leg cramps at night. This starts in the second trimester and lasts through the third trimester.
These cramps can be different in their intensity, from mild to extremely painful. They can occur as a result of fatigue, an increasing pressure of the uterus on certain nerves, or reduced circulation in the legs from the pressure of the baby on blood vessels.
A low level of thyroid hormones can contribute to muscle weakness and calf cramps at night. The thyroid hormones affect calcium absorption and utilization. The deficiency of calcium is related to muscle weakness, pain, cramps, and numbness.