There’s nothing quite as scary as waking up from a deep sleep to find yourself in the midst of what feels like one of the worst “charley-horses” you’ve ever had in your life. Nocturnal leg cramps usually affect the muscles of the legs and feet and usually happen when a person is sleeping. They’re very common amongst pregnant woman and the elderly, but women of any age can experience them.
Nocturnal leg cramps have been known to occur in conjunction with other sleep disorders or illnesses but often wreak havoc on their own. There are several reasons why someone without any other disorders might suffer from these severe cramps.
Let’s start by taking a look at your water intake. We all know that water is important because it keeps us hydrated, but is the explanation really that simple? What most women don’t realize is that water is important because it helps your body to transport vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients and because it supports proper function of the muscles. If your muscles themselves become dehydrated they will respond by twitching or cramping.
A lack of essential minerals can lead to nocturnal leg cramping as well. Most women think of potassium when they have cramps, but there are a number of other minerals to consider as well. Calcium, for example, is important not only for your bones and teeth but for your muscles as well. The best type of calcium is one that does not contain phosphorus because it does not necessarily absorb into the body effectively. Magnesium is yet another mineral essential to the proper function of your musculoskeletal system.
There are several lifestyle habits you should review if you begin to experience nocturnal leg cramping. Make sure you’re drinking the recommended daily amount of water, make sure you aren’t drinking too much caffeine (caffeine does dehydrate you and counteracts the water you drink); and make sure you are adding plenty of potassium-rich foods to your diet (cantaloupe, bananas, potatoes, etc).
Nocturnal muscle cramps may be uncomfortable but they’re certainly not something you need to live with forever. Make sure you consult your physician or health care provider if you need guidance regarding vitamin supplementation or nutrition changes. He or she will be able to best help you design a program that suits the needs of your ever changing body!
Deborah Dera is a full-time freelance writer, massage therapist, martial artist, and student of life. She spends most of her time studying the human body, musculature, nutrition, and both traditional and alternative therapies.