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Leg Cramps while Sleeping

Medha Godbole Jun 18, 2019
Leg cramps are not unusual and many people experience them at night. A cramp occurs when a muscle contracts too hard. It is most often experienced in the calf muscles, behind the knee. Read on to know more about this painful condition.
Have you ever experienced that searing pain in your calf muscle when you are at the peak of a good night's sleep? Well, if you have, let me tell you that it is called a leg cramp. It occurs very commonly while sleeping and as such, many of us do not pay a lot of attention to it.
Unless of course it gets unbearable beyond tolerable limits. Then, such a situation demands serious corrective measures.
Nocturnal leg cramps are involuntary contractions which occur in the calf muscles and soles. They are extremely painful and last from a few seconds to several minutes. One can feel a distinct soreness in the muscles even after the cramp subsides.
Although experienced by individuals of all age groups, older people experience it more often. Muscle cramps can be categorized as smooth muscle cramps, skeletal muscle cramps, menstrual cramps, and a few others.

Probable Causes

» One of the theories for explaining leg cramps is that a muscle gets the stimulation to contract when it is already in a shortened position. The position in which we sleep, i.e., with knees slightly bent and feet pointing slightly downwards is likely to trigger this problem.
» The other causes may be consumption of diuretic drugs, overexertion of muscles, and loss of balance of salts in the bloodstream (either low or high sodium or potassium levels).
» Some other causes include later stages of pregnancy, untreated hypothyroidism, excessive intake of alcohol, cirrhosis of the liver, lead poisoning, sarcoidosis, nerve disorder, and peripheral vascular disease.

Treatment Options

Whenever you get an inkling that you might experience a leg cramp, immediately stand up and put some pressure on the affected leg. This will help in relieving the contraction. Long-term solutions include massaging and stretching.

Stretching Exercises

Indulging in regular stretching exercises is a good option to prevent this problem. Focus on exercising the calf muscle while performing the exercises. Try this out for a month or so and you would probably start seeing the difference.

Sleeping Posture

A change in your sleep posture can also prevent this problem. Keep a pillow under your calf if you are lying on your back. Letting the feet hangover the edge of the bed is another way to relax that muscle and avoid cramps at night.


Inadequate amount of fluids in the body, i.e., dehydration, could be a cause of cramps. So, make sure you drink lots of water and juices.


Quinine is the last resort if none of the previous solutions work for you. One tablet at bedtime is the normal dose, and it is an effective remedy to reduce incidence and severity of cramps. However, the contractions may not stop altogether with quinine. Please note that you should not take quinine tablets if you are going to be pregnant or are pregnant.
Most of the time, athletes, pregnant women, and people with sedentary lifestyles are prone to cramps. They either overexert or do not exert their muscles at all. Pay attention if you are getting frequent cramps, and do not delay in visiting a doctor. Stretch your calf muscles and sleep well!
Disclaimer: This is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.