9 Causes of Leg Cramps While Sleeping

If you are experiencing leg cramps while sleeping at night, they probably wake you up from a deep, restful sleep. They can be very painful like a Charlie horse, though fleeting, and sometimes feel as though they just won’t go away. It is possible that several different causes of leg cramps.

Aside from any possible medical condition, like a blood clot or atherosclerosis issues, or possibly even an exacerbated spider vein, it could be from increased physical activity, pregnancy, a change in medications, or dehydration.


What Are The Main Leg Cramp Cause?

With the movements in the body, like that of arms and legs, muscles voluntarily contract and relax alternately. The muscles supporting our head, neck and trunk are also synchronized similarly to hold out posture.

Any involuntary contraction of muscles which is forceful and sustained causes a cramp. Therefore, a forcibly contracted muscle that does not relax is the primary leg cramps cause.

Highly uncomfortable and painful in the calf, these can last for anywhere between a few seconds to sometimes even fifteen minutes. What causes our muscle or several of these muscles to contract involuntarily are discussed below:


Though involuntary, in times of accident or injury to the bone (like fracture etc.), a muscle spasm can be the body’s protective mechanism. By going into a spasm, the muscle restricts movement and helps to stabilize the area of injury.

Physical activities

Another leading leg cramps cause is sudden physical activity. Hasty movements, muscle fatigue in sports or unusual strenuous activity can result in leg cramps. These maybe occur during the activity or sometimes much later.

Bad posture

Prolonged bad posture can also cause muscle fatigue which can be the reason for muscle cramps in any part of the body. Several experts agree that these cramps are caused by hyperexcitability of the nerves which stimulate the muscles.

In Elderly people

Leg cramps in elderly people can be caused by strenuous activity even when performed for a short period of time.

Nocturnal leg Cramps may be caused by the involuntary contraction of muscles in calves feet or sole, while the body is resting.

Erroneously believed to occur more frequently in older people, these happen frequently in teenagers and those who exercise at night. Soreness may last even after the cramp has ended.

In Pregnant women

In the case of pregnancy, varicose veins, or just a long day standing on your feet, you can try placing your legs up a wall, like sitting in reverse. This is actually a yoga pose, so you can look it up to see what it looks like.

Essentially, you lie on your back with your buttocks as close to a wall as you can get them and then let your feet rest against the wall.

Having your heart below your legs in this way really helps to let the old stagnant blood drain down from the legs and back to the heart to be re-oxygenated. It helps tremendously with swollen and cramping lower extremities.

Although the exact leg cramps cause remains unknown, other potential reasons may include dehydration, low levels of certain minerals in the body (like blood calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium) and low blood flow through muscles involved in prolonged sitting or lying down.

The decrease in the level of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) may also cause constant spasms in the muscles.

Causes of Leg Cramps While Sleeping at Night

Another thing that can cause leg cramps at night is diabetes or an artery disease. Other causes can be metabolic in nature, such as Hypothyroidism or even failing kidneys.

If you try increasing water, and potassium as well as elevating your legs above the heart, and your leg cramps don’t go away, you should consult your doctor to make sure there are no other health concerns.

Sometimes it is not a health concern but a hormonal issue, such as when you are pregnant, taking birth control pills or blood pressure medications.

After Exercises

Leg cramps occur most frequently post physical activity or exercise when the body may be dehydrated, tired or over-heated. Dehydration can also cause nocturnal leg cramps which affect muscles in the calves, feet or sole.

Usually, walking a small distance (which puts pressure on the affected limb) relieves the muscles. If severe, a leg cramp may leave behind soreness in the limbs.


Although common in occurrence, sometimes leg cramps cause concern as these can be symptoms of intermittent claudicating (a form of atherosclerosis).

This disease affects the supply of blood to the legs and causes frequent spasms or cramps.

Statin intake

Prolonged intake of Statins may also cause Myalgia i.e. muscle pain and cramps. Other side effects include a substantial lowering of blood glucose concentration.

Other factors which increase the possibility of leg cramps are age, female gender, history of cramps and hypothyroidism.

Medical journals state that up to 80% of athletes who use statins are at the risk of suffering unfavorable muscular effects, including leg cramps. Although these can be controlled by switching to a different statin, if however, the symptoms persist, these should not be ignored.

Chemical imbalance

Other leg cramps causes include a chemical imbalance in the body. Deficiency of magnesium, calcium, potassium, and sodium are supposed to be responsible for constant muscle cramps.

Leg cramps may also occur due to electrolyte disturbance. In the long run, this may even cause hypokalemia and hypocalcemia. Loss of interstitial fluid (mainly water and salt) through sweat causes this disturbance.

Relieving the causes of leg cramps while sleeping

Effective ways to counter leg cramps cause include drinking lots of water and stretching before and after exercise. For relief from any pain a warm towel or heating pad may be used.

No matter what is causing your leg cramps at night, you want a way to stop them as fast as possible. The best form of treatment, though, is prevention instead of a cure. Start by increasing your water intake.

Muscle cramping is much more common in people who lack enough water. You also need to increase your potassium, which may be found in bananas or spinach.

By increasing your intake of both water and potassium, you allow your muscles to relax more easily at the end of a day.

Gentle exercise can be very beneficial if your leg cramps are not caused by excess physicality. Try going for an evening walk or swimming if you have joint problems.

This can be a great relief for a stiff sore body and helps to move blood through the pelvis and legs, decreasing leg cramping. Also, try bathing in a warm bath before sleeping at night and add Epson or chamomile, to help soothe worn out or swollen extremities.

Above all things, be gentle with yourself and do visit a doctor if your leg cramps return after trying the things listed herein. They are more than likely just fatigued or dehydrated muscles, but it is better to rule out any other health conditions if your leg cramps at night persist.

One thought on “9 Causes of Leg Cramps While Sleeping

  • August 22, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    I have dibettis for more then ten years I cut the the grass after that I couldn’t walk I was in a lot of pain my legs get cramps still when I sleep when I walk the same


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