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Legs Cramps At Night: Know Its Causes, Treatment & Preventive Measures

Cramps can result from sitting or lying in a way that prevents blood flow or movement to the legs.

Sushmita Sharma
Written by: Sushmita SharmaUpdated at: Jan 08, 2023 18:00 IST
Legs Cramps At Night: Know Its Causes, Treatment & Preventive Measures

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Nocturnal leg cramps, also known as muscle spasms or Charley horses, are cramps that affect your feet, calves, and thigh muscles at night. It can affect you while you are asleep or awake and disrupt your sleep. It causes moderate to severe discomfort or tightness in the area as the muscle tenses up. Read this article to learn what our expert Dr. Rabi Kumar, Orthopedician, said about the causes, treatment and preventive measures for leg cramps.

Causes Of Nocturnal Leg Cramps

Though the exact cause is not known, there may be certain factors that may cause leg cramps at night. Some of them are as follows:

  • You may have nocturnal leg cramps due to muscle fatigue or nerve dysfunction. Athletes are most likely to have leg cramps after strenuous or extremely intense activities that cause muscle overexertion.
  • Inactivity during the day, like sitting for an extended period, can also cause leg cramps at night. This causes your muscles to shorten, which increases the risk of cramps. It's possible that people who exercise regularly are less likely to experience leg cramps.
  • Your body’s position is also a factor in causing leg cramps. Cramps can result from sitting or lying in a way that prevents blood flow or movement to the legs.
  • Most women get cramps during pregnancy due to hormonal changes or a rise in nutritional demands in the body.
  • There may be certain health conditions involving the nervous system, metabolism, hormones, and circulation. Chronic kidney failure, thyroid disease, hormonal problems, diabetes, vascular disease, hemodialysis, etc are some of the health conditions that may cause nocturnal leg cramps.

How To Treat Leg Cramps

  • You can massage your leg that has a cramp by rubbing the affected muscle.
  • Stretching can also provide you relief from cramps. Straighten your leg if the cramp is in your calf. Lift your foot up and point your toes towards you as you do this.
  • You can also supply heat to your legs that have cramps, which will help to soothe your muscles.
  • When leg cramps hit you, try walking on your heels. This will relax your muscles by activating muscles that are opposite to your calf.

Preventive Measures

  • Drink plenty of water to promote the smooth functioning of your muscles.
  • Practice stretching exercises like calves and hamstring stretches before going to bed. This may prevent leg cramps from occurring at night.
  • If you have frequent leg cramps, try changing your sleeping position. Sleeping with your feet pointing downward should be restricted, instead, put a pillow behind your knees and sleep on your back.
  • You should wear suitable shoes and support your legs to promote better muscle functioning.

Also Read: Add These Foods In Your Regular Diet To Prevent Muscle, Leg And Joint Cramps

When To See A Doctor

Nocturnal leg cramps are painful but not a serious health condition. However, it can indicate an underlying disease. If you have frequent and severe leg cramps, you should visit your doctor for treatment and examination. Your doctor will give you tests to help find the cause of an underlying disease.


Leg cramps aren’t serious and usually go away with simple stretches. However, if it disrupts sleep and occurs frequently, you should visit a doctor.