May 5, 2009

Home Remedies for Leg Cramps While Sleeping at Night

Posted in Category : Bone, Joint & Muscles Disorders

Leg cramps while sleeping can be extremely painful and can ruin a good night’s sleep. They can also cause soreness or a stiffening of the affected muscles the next day. These Nocturnal cramps are caused by the sudden contraction or over-shortening of the muscles.

Nocturnal leg cramps occur without warning and come as a rude shock to most people. They occur when you’re least expecting them, often in your sleep and without any prior discomfort or uneasiness. The pain caused by nocturnal or sleeping leg cramps can be so intense and excruciating that it will jolt you out of your sleep. Nocturnal leg cramps usually occur while sleeping and they involve involuntary contractions of the muscles in the calf, possibly in the foot or even the hamstring muscles. Nocturnal leg cramps are excruciating and will leave the victim completely incapacitated for the duration of the attack. They cannot be confused with muscle spasms that are a lot less severe.

If you suffer a nocturnal cramp in the leg while sleeping the muscle remains cramped or rather in a contracted state for the duration of the cramps and this accounts for the severe pain. The cramping or contraction is in fact very intense and if you do touch the affected area you would find that muscles feel extremely hard and rigid, almost like concrete. Any efforts at movement or towards straightening out the leg can severely accentuate the pain, or trigger another bout of nocturnal cramps. The only option is to remain motionless and relax completely, while waiting for the cramps to subside completely.

Investigations into the occurrence of night cramps has revealed increases in electrical activity in the muscles that are affected, but the causes for such leg cramps at night while sleeping remain elusive. There are however speculations and theories as to the causes of nocturnal leg cramps, and there are a number of possible influencing factors, some that may apply to certain people, while there may be other causes for other groups. For example fluid imbalances or vitamin deficiencies are thought to be a common cause for nocturnal leg cramps while sleeping, but mineral deficiencies or over exertion and dehydration are also other very plausible causes.

No matter what the cause of leg cramps while sleeping it should be pointed out that the only form of treatment that exists would be directed towards immediate relief and towards controlling or reducing the frequency and severity of such nocturnal cramps. There are no real medical treatments for the condition but nocturnal cramps can be treated quite effectively at home and with the advice of a doctor. A leg cramps home remedy would however again simply address the symptoms of intense pain, the primary aim being swift relief. Long term treatment plans to control, limit or prevent night cramps could involve lifestyle and diet changes and nutritional supplements.

Nocturnal leg cramps are not a serious health risk, but they can be completely debilitating when they occur and if not treated appropriately or aggravated, or extremely severe the contractions could even worsen, causing the muscle to tear.

Causes Of Leg Cramps

The precise cause of nocturnal cramps is not completely understood. There are several factors that definitely contribute to this type of cramping. One of the main factors linked to nocturnal cramps is dehydration. Dehydration is the lack of an adequate amount of water or fluids in the body. Water is essential for the transport of minerals, vitamins and other essential nutrients. Dehydration starves the muscles of nutrition which results in cramps. A nightcap of coffee or alcohol will only aggravate this condition as they are diuretic in nature and promote dehydration. Low levels of minerals such as calcium potassium, magnesium, and sodium are also thought to contribute to nocturnal cramps. People with poor blood circulation too are at a higher risk. In rare cases, nocturnal cramps may be caused by drug abuse or a serious medical ailment.

Although medical investigations into the causes of nocturnal or sleeping leg cramps may be inconclusive, it is most likely that the problem does not originate in the muscle itself, but in the nerves controlling them, although this again is not necessarily the case in all instances.

Some scientists and researchers speculate that the problem may stem from problems in the transition from wakefulness to sleep or vice versa, while there is also a trend for the leg cramps to strike most often when dreaming. This gives rise to speculation about a possible malfunction in the system that separates our brain from our bodily movements whilst dreaming. The prospect of a brain disorder being responsible for nocturnal cramps is however not widely accepted.

Over exertion of the muscles is on the other hand one of the most obvious causes of leg cramps in some individuals. Structural or biological disorders such as flat fleet may aggravate or contribute to the problem because of the increased stress on the region. Maintaining inappropriate leg postures, particularly while seated or reclining, or simply being seated for extended periods can also contribute to the occurrence of muscle cramps while sleeping.

At times the cramps may be caused by some other underlying condition like diabetes, thyroid disorders or anemia, and also on account of certain medications, particularly diuretics.

Electrolyte imbalances, dehydration, and deficiencies in certain essential nutrients like vitamins or minerals can also contribute to the occurrence of nocturnal leg cramps. Deficiencies of minerals or electrolytes like magnesium, potassium, calcium and sodium are probably most responsible for nocturnal leg cramps.

A sedentary lifestyle with little or inadequate physical activity can also contribute to or increase the occurrence of cramps while sleeping.

During pregnancy, leg cramps while sleeping are not uncommon, and are most probably caused due to the increased stress and pressure on the muscles, from the weight gain, and also due to increased or changed nutritional needs.

Circulatory problems could also cause leg cramps while sleeping because of the poor or reduced supply of oxygen to the muscle and tissue.

Nocturnal cramps can affect anyone from any age group. However, in most cases, it affects people with poor circulation in their limbs especially pregnant or elderly women. One of the few effective drugs used to treat nocturnal cramps is quinine. However, the usage of this drug is often debated due to its side effects; the most prominent being tinnitus. However, a change in lifestyle will yield similar or superior results over a period of time. Since dehydration is considered to be a key factor, make sure that you drink plenty of water and fruit juices during the day. Fruit juices contain various essential vitamins and minerals. It is very important that you follow a healthy lifestyle and this would include both diet and exercise. Cut down on the amount of fat in your daily diet as it hinders magnesium absorption. In addition to this, try to include at least one or two servings of salads and fruits.

The treatment of nocturnal leg muscle cramps while sleeping should quite naturally be determined by the cause. As we may not always be certain of the causes, try and identify the most likely cause or trigger considering your general health, nutrition and other factors like lifestyle and fitness levels. It would be best to address all the possible causes as very often it may not be a single factor that contributes to the occurrence of cramps in the legs while sleeping.

Exercise daily and concentrate on exercises that will strengthen but not stain your muscles. If you are not used to it, do not jog or run, instead spend more time brisk walking. You can also cycle slowly for short distances to tone your calf and thigh muscles. Include Yoga and Pilates in your daily exercise program as these are non strenuous exercises that help to strengthen the muscles. Wear comfortable loose clothes while sleeping and if possible practice a few Yoga meditation techniques. These will help the muscles of your body to relax and will promote deep and peaceful sleep.

If you’re afflicted with nocturnal leg cramps while sleeping, a leg cramps home remedy that involves consuming some food or exercising will not do you much good or offer any relief from the excruciating pain. Instead try using a warm compress or a gentle massage. Make sure you simply lie back and relax your body completely. Deep breathing exercises can help greatly in this regard. To cure leg cramps at night while sleeping during pregnancy, try and give your legs a chance to rest periodically through the day, and consult your doctor and nutritionist about any supplements if necessary. Make sure to keep yourself well hydrated.