Night Leg Cramps Causes

Sleep is a process that rejuvenates and refreshes us. But for many people who suffer from insomnia, depression and other mood disorders falling asleep does not come easy. Night cramps and other neurological disorders can also make it hard to get the rest we need. One of the most common causes of insomnia is a dysfunction in the production and release of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.

Depression and insomnia can both result from imbalances in serotonin, a neurotransmitter synthesized from L-tryptophan. This chemical messenger is important in the production of the sleep hormone melatonin and, among other functions, plays a major role in regulating sleep, alleviating depression, controlling mood, appetite, and sensitivity to pain. Serotonin regulation is the basis for the action of anti-depressant medications like Prozac, Paxil and Effexor.

Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, is an essential nutrient that plays a crucial role in the production of serotonin. A profound malfunctioning of the central nervous system, neurologic disorders, muscle weakness and insomnia can result from a deficiency of this crucial nutrient. The effect of Vitamin B6 deficiency on sleep is similar to the effect of serotonin depletion, in terms of decreased deep body temperature, altered REM patterns and shortening of the periods of deep sleep.

Vitamin B6 has been found to be effective in the treatment of night leg cramps. One study showed significant remission and reduction in frequency, intensity and duration of leg cramps in 86% of patients taking B complex capsules. The study concluded that B complex supplements are a relatively safe and effective alternative to prescription drugs in the treatment for nocturnal leg cramps.

Although this nutrient can be obtained from food sources such as chicken, eggs, fish, yeast, carrots, avocados, bananas, brown rice and whole grains, a supplement containing 10 to 75 mg of vitamin B6 is often recommended for those suffering from sleep disorders.

Since this is one of the few vitamins that can have toxic side effects, such as irreversible neurological damage, when taken in high doses above 2 grams per day, it should be consumed after consultation with your physician. It is contraindicated for use in those with Parkinson's disease who are on L-dopa treatment as it can reduce the effectiveness of the drug.

Other Nutrients That Can Help

Although Vitamin B6 is can relieve insomnia, it is best taken in combination with other B-vitamins that affect brain and neurotransmitter function like B12 (cobalamin) and B1 (thiamine). Vitamin B12 promotes sleep and modulates the circadian rhythm and brain temperature. It has been used to successfully treat serious circadian disorders. B12 is best consumed as methylcobalamin, a form that supports and maintains the nervous system and promotes healthy levels of brain chemicals.

Thiamine deficiency can also cause sleep disturbances. Folic acid (Vitamin B9) is also very important for maintenance of nervous system integrity and, when taken along with other vitamins, can regulate serotonin production and mood. Calcium and magnesium are important for regulation of nerve and muscle impulses and supplementation can prevent muscle cramps, and promote relaxation.

Besides these nutrients, there are a number of herbs that reduce anxiety, nervous tension and promote relaxation. Taking all these elements in a well-formulated sleep supplement can help you avoid addictive prescription medications that cause side effects and substance dependence.

About the Author:
Prevent insomnia and night cramps by taking a supplement formulated with herbs, minerals and B complex vitamins for sleep. Check out for a high-quality formula designed to give your body what your diet cannot.


Frequently Asked Questions

    What causes night leg cramps?
    What causes night leg cramps? What can you do about them? would like to know if it's a vitamin deficiency?

    • ANSWER:
      Try a Yahoo search for "leg cramps" + causes + "natural remedies".

    Is there a good way to prevent or treat night leg cramps? What causes them?

    • ANSWER:
      Besides dehydration and too much caffeine and too much booze it could also be a deficiency of potassium, calcium, magnesium or vitamin B6.

      A potassium deficiency is often caused by an overload of table salt (sodium chloride). Most of us have far too much sodium in our bodies from consuming too much salt and that can cause a potassium deficiency.

    what causes night leg cramps?

    • ANSWER:
      Here's a great fact sheet on muscle cramps which may be of some help.

    what causes night-time leg cramps?

    • ANSWER:
      The exact cause of night leg cramps isn't known. Some experts believe they may be due to abnormal processing of electrolytes — essential elements and chemical substances your body needs for basic functions — by muscles. Almost everyone has occasional leg cramps. But they occur most often in older adults. Common causes of night leg cramps include:

      Muscle overexertion
      Prolonged sitting
      Decreased potassium levels
      Neuromuscular disorders, such as Parkinson's disease
      Certain medications, such as albuterol, niacin, diuretics, and some calcium channel blockers and antipsychotic medications
      Alcohol use

      If you do get a leg cramp, you may be able to make it go away by:

      Walking on the affected leg
      Massaging the affected muscle
      Straightening your leg and flexing your foot toward your knee until you feel the calf muscles stretch
      Applying a cold pack to the affected muscle
      Taking a hot bath

      To help prevent night leg cramps:

      Drink plenty of fluids during the day
      Stretch your leg muscles before bedtime

    I get leg cramps just about every night. What causes them and what can I do to prevent them?
    I have heard taking potassium helps. It didn't. I heard eating a tablespoon of yellow mustard stops them, it didn't either.

    • ANSWER:
      Besides dehydration, too much caffeine or too much booze it could also be a deficiency of potassium, calcium, magnesium or vitamin B6.

      As you have tried extra potassium and that made no difference perhaps a calcium and magnesium supplement might help. If that doesn't work perhaps a vitamin B6 supplement might help or a vitamin B complex.

    what causes leg cramps at night? and how can I get rid of them? (I am not pregnant)?

    • ANSWER:
      Leg cramps, or muscle spasms at night, are nearly always relieved by large doses of magnesium. The Mg is a muscle relaxant, and often the spasms indicate a deficiency of certain elctrolytes, most of which are easily replaced with food in a regular diet. All but magnesium. Even if you are not deficient, the natural relaxation provided by that mineral is usually all that is required for the condition. It's best taken in it's citrate or chelate (Key-late) form, and with calcium. You can't overdose on the mineral, and it's safe for any age.

      Perscription and over the counter drugs can also deprive you of minerals, as can caffine, smoking, and other substances.

      Leg cramps may seem severe and difficult to be rid of, but most ppl experience relief on Mg in a few days, and a few bottles later, almost never have a recurrance.

    What causes "Charlie Horses" (leg cramps) during the night?

    • ANSWER:
      Charlie's horse of course

    What could cause leg cramps in the middle of the night?
    My husband experiences this after 3-4 hours sleep. Not every night though.

    • ANSWER:
      An abscence of healthy salts in your system could be causing the leg cramps.

      Try drinking 1 tblspoon of sea salt in a tall glass of distilled water three times a day.

    My 5 year old son is having bad leg cramps at night. Is this seriouse? What causes this?

    • ANSWER:
      Probably potassium or calcium deficiency. Give a multivit (just good practice anyway.) But call your MD. They should get you in pretty quick. A simple blood test will tell exactly. You absolutely do not want to give potassium supplements until you know for sure what his levels are. It can have an affect on the heart (since it is a muscle). In the meantime, give some bananas and milk.

    What cause leg and foot cramps in the middle of the night?
    I feel like I'm getting an electric current running through my legs and feet and then have bad cramps when I try to sleep. What causes this and how do I make it better or stop it all together?

    • ANSWER:
      Could be a lack of potassium, that causes leg cramping, especially in pregnant women.

      It could be sciatica as well or a pinched nerve, you may be putting pressure on the nerve when lying down. Alternating heat for ten minutes and then cold for twenty helps. I use a microwave magic bag for my pinched nerves in my neck when I have a flare up.

      I would call your doctor first though, before you do anything because they'll need to find the source of the pain first.

    what causes cramp in the leg and toes during the night.particularly when lying down?
    when the leg is stretched during the night the outside of the leg and toes get very tight and painful. What is the cause ?

    • ANSWER:
      There is more than one factor that would bring on cramps. If you overexert yourself, you might get a buildup of lactic acid around the muscles. That will bring on cramps. Excess calcium in your myocytes will do it too because calcium stimulates myocin contraction. If you are suffering night cramps, raising your water and potassium intake will help prevent it. Bananas and kiwi fruit are excellent sources of potassium. You can eat them as an afternoon snack.

    legs cramps, 'charley-horses', in the middle of the night, what causes them and how can they be stopped?
    my boyfriend gets terrible leg cramps in the middle of the night, they wake him up from a dead sleep. what causes this and is there anything he can take to help stop them from coming on? it seems like i remember someone telling me it was due to a vitamin deficiency, but, i don't remember which vitamin it was! can anybody help me on this?

    • ANSWER:
      this treatment will help your boyfriend.

      'Charley-horses' is the first place your body targets when you are dehydrated. Drink lots of water! I recommend purified water and Mineral Water mixed 50/50. The Mineral Water is going to put back into the muscles the minerals they are losing on a daily basis. You must drink beyond your thirst to get the benefits of hydration.

      I suggest that adults and children drink 40 ounces of water per 100 pounds of body weight every day. Realize that exercise, ambient temperature, and state of health affect the water needs of your body.

      In the evening take a hot bath with 2c. of dissolved Epsom salts and soak for 30 minutes. Afterwards, if you have something shaped like a cylinder and made out of hard material (think of a large rolling pin you would use for pizza dough or something) place it under your leg and push down and roll it back and forth...this should massage the spasms out of your leg. It will hurt while you're doing it, but more so the type of pain that actually feels good, in the long run. Afterwards massage an analgesic cream into the area. You will start feeling better very quickly.

    I am having many night leg cramps?
    I'm 14 and I've been having leg cramps, like every night then they stop for some time and again with the leg cramps. Last night I woke up seriously crying because of the pain and it didn't pass quickly. I have no idea why... what can be the cause? And how can I prevent them please?

    Thanks :)

    • ANSWER:
      i have the exact same problem. at night before you go to bed take warm bathes to soothe the pain then lay under your blanket to keep the warmth in. also potassium can relieve this pain. i take prenatal prescribed from the doctor. or you can just buy potassium from the drug store. it could either be growing pains or juvinile arthuritis. i hope this helps. it helps me :)

    What causes night cramps?
    Many a sleepless night , or at least I think I do , because I get very sore calf muscle cramps in my legs lying in bed and forced to wake up from dreams and jump out of bed to relieve it. Does anyone have ideas as too what is causing this?

    • ANSWER:
      For most cramps, stretch. If a spasm strikes the calf (by far the most common cramp site), pull the front of the foot up toward the knee. Since cramps usually result from muscle fatigue, you may be able to prevent such spasms by gently stretching before you exercise your calves. Stand a few feet from a wall, brace yourself against the wall with your hands, and lean forward, keeping your heels on the ground until you feel a pull in your calves. This maneuver before bedtime can also help prevent unexplained nighttime spasms.
      If the cause isn't muscle fatigue, your physician may find other, possibly treatable causes. These can include circulatory problems, hyperventilation, an underactive thyroid, and low blood levels of calcium or (rarely) magnesium, potassium deficiency.
      I hope this helps you. And good luck.

    causes for leg cramps?
    twice now in the last week i've woken up at night with painful cramps in my calves. Last night it was my left leg but the last time it was my right leg. Any suggestions on what it might be? I know its not my potassium.

    • ANSWER:
      Same with me, i increased the salt in my diet, now i dont get them anymore.. I always thought i had a lot of salt anyway because its already in food, but it did work

    I wake up in the middle of th night with cramps on my leg?
    I've had them on and off since I was a child. What's causing them? They are unbelievably painful and they feel as though someone is tightening my muscles in my leg (calve). What causes them? Is there anything I can do to prevent them?

    • ANSWER:
      Could be restless leg syndrome. They have medication for that. Or blod clots. Sometimes when people are int he hospital or are going to be bed ridden for a while, they put these things around their legs to help keep the blood circulating. You should probably see a doctor. If it's blood clots, it could be a real problem.

    what would cause leg cramps in a 62 yr. old man, he takes potassium?
    my brother in law had bladder cancer recently< they got it all > but he is having lots of leg cramps at night, anyone know why ? please give info if you have a clue

    • ANSWER:
      Hello My Name is Rose

      I hope this information helps you.

      Leg cramps can be caused by many thing,

      -muscle fatige
      -electralyte imbalance

      If he is taking potassium, that is a good thing, but what is his dose. We used to give 10 mg doses IV to some patients. You can check to see if he is takeing a proper dose.

      Is he drinking adiquitly. I find Older people don't drink enough as it is but if he has just had surgery he might be feeling tired or depressed due to the recent bladder cancer. If he isn't as active as he used to be he wouldn't be drinking prperly.

      Last of all check the side affect of his medication. I now that prednisone is one of the medications that have leg crams as a side affect.

      Also you don't mention if he had leg cramps prior to the surgery.

      Restless leg syndrom feels like bugs running up and down the leg.
      You would have to discribe his cramps and tell us if he has alot of pain with the cramp.
      I hope this is helpful to you and your brother inlaw. You don't mention if the 62 year old man is you brother in law so I am not able to say if this is related..