What Is Causing My Night Muscle Cramps? | Carson Tahoe Health

Has this ever happened to you?

You’ve had a long day and want nothing more than to get into bed, you lay down, are just about asleep and BOOM- leg cramp!

If you have suffered this before and wondered why, we’ve asked Carson Tahoe’s Dr. David Eisenhauer to help you figure it out!


What are muscle cramps? Muscle cramps are strong, painful contractions or tightening of a muscle that comes on suddenly and lasts from a few seconds to several minutes. Nighttime leg cramps are usually sudden spasms, or tightening of the muscles specifically in the calf. They are also common in the thigh or foot and occur just as you are falling asleep or waking up.


What causes muscle cramps?

  • Exercising, injury or overuse of muscles
  • Pregnancy-cramps may occur because of decreased amounts of minerals such as calcium and magnesium, especially in the last trimester
  • Exposure to cold temperature, especially cold water
  • Other medical conditions such as blood flow problems (peripheral arterial disease), kidney disease, thyroid disease and multiple sclerosis
  • Standing on a hard surface for long periods of time
  • Sitting for a long period of time
  • Putting your legs in awkward positions while you sleep
  • Not having enough potassium and calcium in your blood
  • Being dehydrated
  • Taking certain medicines such as antipsychotics, birth control pills, diuretics, statins, and steroids


How to stop muscle cramps when they happen:

  • Stretch and massage the muscle
  • Take a warm shower or bath to relax the muscle. A heating pad is also helpful
  • Try using an ice or cold pack
  • Take over-the-counter pain medicine such as an acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen (consult your doctor before using)
  • Drink plenty of fluids, sport drinks like Gatorade can also help with leg cramps, but be aware of your sugar intake


If you find you cannot get rid of one right away, try walking around, stretching and jiggling your leg until the cramp releases. If you sit down, try straightening out your leg and pointing and flexing your foot repeatedly until the cramp lessens- wrapping a towel around the bottom of your foot and pulling it towards your body can also help stretch out the cramp. If you have repeated cramps and cannot get rid of them, call your general practitioner and schedule an appointment to make sure there are no serious underlying causes.