If you’re battling painful leg cramps at night, getting enough sleep can be downright impossible. They often strike without warning, and they can happen to anyone. That’s why sufferers often look for any and every solution. A good night’s rest is on the line, after all!
Fortunately, there are a few tips for treating that familiar muscle tightness in your calves and for preventing nocturnal leg cramps in the first place! Most of them are pretty simple—and all of them will change the way you sleep forever.
People tend to think of leg cramps as the result of overexerting yourself during exercise. No one is all that surprised that heavy exercise—like running—can lead to cramping, of course. But rarely do you expect it to happen in a far less active environment: your bedroom.
If you’ve ever been struck by terrible leg cramps in the middle of the night, you know how painful they can be. Almost everyone has experienced them. They’ll come on without warning, too!
As the name suggests, nocturnal leg cramps are simply muscle cramps that occur during the night. You might be familiar with their other nickname, charley horses, which refers to cramps that can occur during any hour of the day.
You’ll usually feel them in your calf muscles, but sometimes these pains strike the thighs, too. In fact, severe cramping of your leg can actually be felt all the way to the tips of your toes.
These cramps occur in spasms that can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes, and the discomfort can range from mild to extreme, depending on the level of muscle contraction. So, what can we do about them?
When you’re experiencing a painful leg cramp, all you want is for it to stop. You probably aren’t thinking about what you can do to prevent them in the future, but maybe you should be! As such, it’s important to know the causes of these cramps.
Leg cramps can be caused by practically anything, from sitting too long during the day or standing too long. That’s why it’s good to mix it up wherever possible—stagnation is no bueno! To do so, a convertible standing desk might be a great option, even a DIY one!
There are plenty of other factors that can cause nightly leg cramps, too. They include overexertion of muscles for prolonged periods of time, which typically comes from heavy exercise, or even just sitting with poor posture!
However, there are other reasons you might be getting leg cramps. So if you made it through that list and didn’t see anything that applies to you, keep going—leg cramps are a very common symptom of all sorts of other conditions, too.
If you’re pregnant or you suffer from diabetes, alcoholism, or Parkinson’s disease, you might experience nocturnal leg cramps more frequently. If you fall into this group, it might be wise to talk to your doctor as soon as possible…
Muscle spasms like these could also be a sign that you’re dehydrated. If your hydration levels have reached this point, you might need to go to the doctor and get a fluid drip—sipping a glass of water just won’t cut it.
Now that you know what causes leg cramps, let’s talk about what you can do if you feel one coming on. Here are a few simple suggestions that will surely put a stop to those excruciating late-night wakeup calls that have you looking like Will Byers from Stranger Things…
Start by gently massaging the area where the muscles are cramping. Sit on the floor and extend both legs in front of you. Don’t race through this: the key to the massage and the stretch is that you work gently. If you have a foam roller lying around, that’s even better!
Once you’ve extended both of your legs in front of you, flex your feet, resisting the urge to let your toes point while the muscle contracts. Don’t worry if you can’t hold this position for long. That will come with time!
Another solution to these leg cramps is a little bit of light exercise. That’s right—just get up and walk around a little. It might sound somewhat contradictory, but putting those cramping muscles to work really helps.
Walking isn’t the only thing that should help loosen up those tight muscles. If the cramps persist, riding a bike will redirect that painful energy to the given task rather than to the contractions.
You should also be sure to check that your blankets and sheets are not so tightly wound around your legs. This isn’t always obvious, so look carefully. If they are, they might actually be forcing your muscles to contract!
If all else fails, try swallowing a tablespoon of yellow mustard. No, this isn’t a prank! Believe it or not, there is really a valid reason to turn to this trusty sandwich condiment when it comes to curing cramps…
Yes, it might sound odd, but the high magnesium content in the mustard is thought to replenish any deficiencies in your system that could be contributing to your cramps. Who knew?
This is often why people suggest eating a banana when cramping, as it also contains magnesium. So if you aren’t a mustard fan, don’t worry about it. Just grab a banana as quick as you can!
Pinpointing the reason why you’re getting nocturnal leg cramps is the best way to prevent them in the future. Take a look at your daily activities and see if anything you’re doing can be changed to avoid these painful sleep-stealers.
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