Here's Why Your Leg Cramps at Night

Dr. Richa Agarwal    01-04-2022 Consult

Up to 60% of adults experience the occasional nocturnal leg cramp, which can feel like a painful spasm, tightening or twinge. They develop when the nerves that carry signals to your muscles fire off too many messages at once. This causes your muscles to contract in an uncomfortable way.

1. Sitting or lying down for a long time - like when you're sleeping - can trigger the nerve malfunction. That's why you tend to get cramps in the middle of the night. 

2. It might be because you have higher levels of vitamin D in the summer, thanks to increased sun exposure. The nutrient plays a role in regulating the growth and repair of your muscle fibres, says Dr Richa.

Nocturnal leg cramps become more common- and painful - as you age, says Dr Richa. After you hit 50, you start losing more of the nerve cells that send messages from your brain to your muscles. The cells that are left have to work harder, which experts speculate might cause cramping.

Stretching your calves, hamstrings and quads before bed will stop cramps before they start. In fact, a 2012 study, found that older adults who suffered from these cramps experienced fewer, less severe spasms when they stretched their legs for three minutes prior to hitting the sack.

If a spasm does strike in the middle of the night, ease the pain by using the same stretches. Your usual first line of defense - hopping out of bed and walking around for a minute - will help relieve tightness, too.