Night leg cramps typically occur in the calf muscles but can develop in the thighs and feet as well. Although their cause is unknown, these cramps have been associated with dehydration, improper sitting for long lengths of time and muscle over-exertion. Because night leg cramps can be painful and disrupt sleep, it is important to understand how to prevent them.
Drink between six and eight glasses of water every day. The Cleveland Clinic explains that this can prevent dehydration, a common cause of nocturnal leg cramps.
Move your leg muscles for a few minutes each night before bed. MayoClinic.com suggests walking around or riding a stationary bicycle.
Eat a variety of potassium-rich foods such as apricots, bananas, cabbage, grapefruit, grapes, pork, saltwater fish, corn and tomatoes. Dr. Max Hirshkowitz explains that a potassium deficiency can lead to leg cramps. In this case, eating a potassium-rich diet can completely eliminate night leg cramps.
Stretch your legs every night before bed. While lying on your back, lift your legs and toes toward the ceiling and then slowly flex them in the direction of your calf. For a deeper stretch, hold onto your toes and pull your legs toward your knees.
Untuck your blanket at the bottom of the bed and be sure that your sheets and blankets are loose. According to MayoClinic.com, this can prevent your feet and toes from becoming distorted during sleep, resulting in leg cramps.
If you do get a nocturnal leg cramp, the Cleveland Clinic suggests walking around your bedroom and jiggling your leg to stretch out the muscles in your calf. If this doesn’t work, take a warm shower or place an ice pack on the leg as you massage it.
People that are pregnant, taking diuretic medications or suffering from diarrhea or vomiting can experience night leg cramping due to low phosphorus and calcium levels. Consult a doctor, especially if leg cramps are resulting in muscle weakness or are interrupting sleep and causing you to have trouble with daytime activities.