Leg Cramps while Sleeping
Involuntary muscle contractions suffered while sleeping or resting can be extraordinarily uncomfortable or painful and may affect the muscles the next day, causing them to be sore or stiff. Although there have been many studies into why these happen while sleeping, no conclusive reason has been found. However, there are a few factors that can contribute to these occurrences, the most major of which being dehydration. Dehydration robs the muscles of proper nutrients that they require for good functioning. Caffeine and alcohol typically exacerbate dehydration, as well as low levels of various essential minerals like magnesium, potassium, sodium and calcium. Restricted blood circulation can also be a contributing factor to cramping, as can serious illnesses or drug abuse in rare situations.
Some theories suggest that certain leg positions, such as the positions the legs are in in a typical sleeping position, are more conducive to leg cramps than other positions. Other possible causes include an imbalance of salts in the blood, use of diuretic drugs and overexertion of muscles.
How to Prevent Cramping
Cramps while sleeping may affect anyone at all, although it is pregnant women and older people who typically display the factors explained above. A lifestyle change can help in some cases, since dehydration and poor diet are common causes of nocturnal cramping. A balanced diet and regular exercises are essential to maintaining one's health in any case, and will definitely help prevent abnormal cramping. Training the leg muscles in ways that will strengthen them rather than strain them is beneficial in this case. Even using yoga or Pilates as additional exercises will help limber up the muscles to prevent cramping.
Dealing with Leg Cramps
When experiencing a leg cramp, one must not remain lying down, but should rather stand up and exert pressure on the cramping limb, trying to gently stretch the contracting muscle back out. Do not place too much pressure on the muscle, as this can cause pain and possible muscle damage from tension. Changing one's sleeping position can help, as well as certain stretching exercises designed to relax the legs. Massaging the affected muscle will help it to release the built up tension and relax.
Frequent leg cramps that are not helped by the above advice can be cause for concern and should be taken to a medical professional as soon as possible. The leg may potentially have become damaged in a certain way that led to cramping and this must be diagnosed and treated by a physician before the problem worsens.