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Overview

Night leg cramps are involuntary leg muscular contractions or spasms that happen throughout the night, frequently referred as nocturnal leg cramps, are distressing ailment that often happens as you sleep. Leg cramps at night are most frequently caused by calf muscles, although they may also develop in the foot or thighs. To reduce the pain, the stiff muscle must be extended.

The gastrocnemius (calf) muscle, which runs the length of each leg from ankle to just below the knee, is a common cause of leg cramps. They may, however, impact the muscles at the front of the thigh (quadriceps) and the rear of the thigh (tibialis posterior) as well (hamstrings).

It makes no difference whether you are awake or sleeping when you have a leg cramp. In the majority of cases, muscles relax in less than 10 minutes. Sleeping might be tough if you have frequent calf pains at night.

Leg or calf cramps at night strike women and the elderly more often than any other age group.

Leg cramps that occur during the night might be a result of improper foot position. Plantar flexion is a frequent sleeping position in which the feet and toes are stretched away from the rest of the other body. As a consequence, the calf muscles are shortened, making them more susceptible to cramping.

If you often get cramps that disrupt your sleep, make an appointment with your doctor. They may give a muscle relaxant to prevent cramping. If your cramps are the result of another medical condition, they may also help you manage that condition.

Typically, they do not signal a serious problem. Preventing nocturnal leg cramps may be as simple as stretching the calf as well as hamstring muscles before bed.

Causes

Often, there is no evident cause for nocturnal leg cramps. Muscular exhaustion and nerve problems are the most common causes of leg and foot cramps at night.

The probability of suffering nocturnal leg cramps increases with age. Pregnant women are also more prone to have nighttime leg cramps than non-pregnant women.

Night leg cramps are thought to be caused by a variety of conditions, including renal failure and diabetic nerve damage. Nevertheless, if you have one of these disorders, you are most likely aware of it and suffering symptoms in addition to night leg cramps.

Individuals who take certain medications, such as certain diuretics, may be more prone to night leg cramps.

Other medical conditions that may be associated with night leg cramps and muscle twitching in legs include diabetes, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia.

Additional factors that may contribute to the onset of night leg cramps include the following:

Sedentary lifestyle: Muscles need stretching on a regular basis in order to function properly. Leg muscles may become more susceptible to cramping if forced to sit for extended periods of time.

Muscle overexertion: When a muscle is overworked, it may result in painful muscle cramps.

Incorrect sitting posture: Calf muscles are shortened as a consequence of prolonged sitting with legs crossed or toes pointed. This may cause cramps.

Standing: those who stand for extended periods of time at work are more likely to have night leg cramps.

Nerve activity: Leg cramps are associated with abnormal nerve firing in the lower leg.

Shortening of tendons: Tendons, the connective tissue that connects muscles and bones, eventually deteriorate with age. Muscle cramping may occur as a consequence of this.

Following is the list of different health conditions that are associated with night leg cramps and pain:

·         Structural disorders including spinal stenosis and peripheral artery disease

·         Metabolic issues such as anemia, cirrhosis, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism and diabetes

·         Medicine and procedures like dialysis, blood pressure drugs, diuretics, oral contraceptives and cholesterol-lowering drugs

·         Conditions such as dehydration, diarrhea, nerve damage, muscle fatigue, osteoarthritis, and Parkinson’s disease

When to see a doctor

For the majority of people, leg cramps at night are only an annoyance, causing them to awaken only on rare occasions. However, in rare instances, you may be required to visit a doctor.

Severe and persistent cramping should be addressed immediately following exposure to a toxin such as lead. Consult your physician if you are experiencing difficulties functioning during the day as a result of leg cramps that are interfering with your sleep.

Seek immediate medical assistance in case of leg cramps that weaken the muscles, which might result in muscle atrophy.

Leg cramps that last all night might lead to a variety of additional problems. They have the capacity to interrupt sleep and a person’s sleep cycle, leaving them feeling tired or sluggish the following day. Leg cramps may make it difficult to fall asleep, and if not addressed, can lead to sleep problems including insomnia.