Have you ever been drifting off to dreamland when suddenly the muscles in your leg begin to seize? If it’s happened to you, you definitely know what we’re talking about, it’s hard to forget the pain of a muscle cramp once you’ve had one. The pain that comes from muscle cramps is all-consuming and blinding. Thankfully, leg cramps tend to last only a short amount of time. But if you are prone to them, it can be a stressful condition, since they often happen at night and can have a really negative effect on your ability to get a good night sleep.
Leg Cramp Causes & Solutions
There are a few root causes that are linked to leg cramps. The good news is that there are simple solutions to each of them!
When your body is dehydrated, the likelihood of getting painful leg cramps at night increases. Dehydration gradually happens throughout the day, and is made worse with beverages like coffee and alcohol.
To combat this, it’s important to make sure you are getting enough fluids throughout the day. If you feel thirsty, that is your body’s way of telling you that it is in need of water. While sports drinks can give you a boost and some electrolytes, plain old water is the best substance to quench your thirst and to make sure that your body is functioning optimally.
Minerals and nutrients
A lack of proper nutrition, especially minerals like potassium and magnesium, can affect the functioning of your muscles. The result can be painful muscle cramps.
The solution is easy – ensure that your diet is well balanced and includes nutrient dense food. Try increasing your intake of fruit, especially bananas for potassium, and foods that are dark green like kale and broccoli for magnesium. To keep your muscles functioning well and not prone to cramping at night, also try eating avocados, seeds and nuts. And for a treat, feel free to indulge in some dark chocolate from time to time.
When we overwork our muscles and don’t give them time to rest and rebuild, we increase our risk of having leg cramps at night. This can happen if you go to the gym too often, or if you push yourself past your limit, especially if it’s been a while between exercise sessions.
To prevent muscle fatigue and the leg cramps that come with them, it’s a good idea to do some stretches pre- and post-workout. Gentle stretching before bed at night is also a great way to get the mind and body relaxed and ready for sleep. Another important tactic is to listen to your body—it’s good to challenge yourself but it’s important pay attention to when your body is telling you that it’s had enough.
If you have made these lifestyle changes and find that your leg muscles are still cramping at night, apply heat to the affected area to help to ease the muscle out of its spasm. A hot water bottle or warm towel should do the trick.
It’s important to do what we can to keep our bodies healthy and functioning properly, and that includes staying hydrated, eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables that are nutrient dense, and resting our bodies between workouts. And getting a good rest each night is extremely important, too. So take care and be good to your body, you (and your muscles) won’t regret it.