Night cramps almost always occur when the muscles of the leg contract involuntarily. In most cases, the night cramps come on suddenly and they can be quite painful. Most commonly, the calf muscles are the muscles that cramp, but some people may experience night cramps in their thighs or feet as well.
In most cases, night cramps happen for no apparent reason. Common, unalarming causes for the cramps include fatigued muscles, flat feet, pregnancy, old age, dehydration, and even tucking the covers at the end of the bed in too tight. In other cases, the reasons behind the cramps may be more serious. For example, cirrhosis of the liver, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, hypothyroidism, peripheral artery disease, and other potentially life-threatening ailments may be to blame.
Some research studies have indicated that leg cramps are a result of a deficiency of potassium in the body. One of the easiest ways to boost potassium levels and prevent or reduce night leg cramps is by eating foods that are high in potassium. These foods include bananas, beans, grapes, oranges, pork, lamb, corn, tuna, and tomatoes. A multivitamin or supplement may help as well.
In some cases, a person may choose to consult with a medical provider. Specifically, if a person experiences persistent and severe cramping, a doctor should been seen immediately. In addition, if a person suspects she has been exposed to a harmful chemical or toxin, such as lead, she should seek medical attention quickly. Some people may not need immediate medical attention, but they may choose to set up an appointment with a medical provider just to be sure. An appointment may be necessary if the night cramps affect the person’s performance during the day or if her leg muscles begin to weaken.
In some cases, night cramps in the legs can be prevented. For example, drinking a glass of water before bed may prevent dehydration, one cause of the cramps. In addition, people with flat feet may select shoes that have adequate arch support. Some people notice that stretching or mild exercise before bed lessens the likelihood of cramping during the night hours. Simply untucking the sheets at the end of the bed may prevent cramps as well.
When night cramps do occur, there are a few things that may help lessen the duration of the cramps and ease the pain associated with them. For example, massaging the cramped muscle may help relax the muscle and ease the pain. Walking may also help stretch the muscle, easing the duration and pain of the cramps.