Nocturnal leg cramps are a painful condition which occurs overnight. Just like the name suggests, the cramps affect the leg muscles and can last from a few seconds to a few minutes. If you ever got one, you know how painful it can be – the longer the cramp lasts, the bigger the chances of sore muscles in the morning.

Nocturnal leg cramps are caused by a variety of factors and differ from the so-called restless leg syndrome. RLS doesn’t cause cramps and pain and won’t restrict your movement like leg cramps do. Moving your legs around will relieve RLS, but if you experience nocturnal leg cramps, you won’t be able to move.

Here are the main risk factors for nocturnal leg cramps:

  • Sitting for a prolonged period;
  • Dehydration;
  • Alcoholism;
  • Neuromuscular problems;
  • Endocrine problems;
  • Pregnancy;
  • Flat feet;
  • Diabetes;
  • Parkinson’s disease;
  • Taking diuretics, statins or beta-blockers;
  • Bad sitting posture.

Treatment and prevention

The treatment of the condition depends on the factor that caused it – if it’s dehydration, you need to start drinking more fluids and pay attention to your electrolyte levels.

Other methods that can help are using a heating pad overnight, taking a relaxing bath or massaging your legs before going to bed. Acupuncture has been known to help, as can stretching your legs before sleeping.

Make sure to stay hydrated in order to prevent the nocturnal leg cramps from occurring, and pay attention to your magnesium levels. Finally, wear ergonomic shoes which will provide better support for your muscles and legs.

When a nocturnal leg cramps occurs, you will feel paralyzed and in pain, but there are things you can do to relieve the cramp quickly and prevent muscle soreness in the morning.

You can stand up from your bed and move around a bit, or sit down on the ground and extend your legs in front of you, then flex them and point the toes upwards. Therapeutic massages can improve the blood flow to the area. To prevent the cramps from occurring, make sure to sleep in a bed with loose sheets, as tight bedsheets can increase the risk of muscle cramps.