Nobody likes leg cramps. Especially, when they’re trying to sleep. Unfortunately, night time leg cramps are a common complaint leading to sleepless nights and fatigue the following day or days. Unfortunately, leg cramps become more common as people age as the tendons connecting the bones and muscles shorten. There are numerous causes, but in general the cause of leg cramps at night are related to hormone or nutrition imbalances which may come as a consequence of stress, overwork, or alternatively as a result of inactivity constricting blood flow.

In this excerpt from the book Real Cause, Real Cure by Jacob Teitelbaum, MD and Bill Gottlieb CHC the authors discuss the causes of leg cramps at night and the changes you can make to mitigate or prevent them.

Nighttime Leg Cramps

Real Causes

Nutritional Deficiencies. Low levels of muscle-relaxing minerals such as magnesium, calcium, and potassium can cause muscle cramps.

Hormonal Imbalances. Low levels of thyroid hormone can fatigue muscles, leading to cramping.

How did that monster in my nightmare get hold of my legs? That’s how you might feel when you have nighttime leg cramps—when your calf and other leg muscles (and sometimes your foot) go into spasm while you’re sleeping, waking you up. What’s causing those nighttime leg and foot cramps? There are five main causes, and you can have more than one of them.

Tight calf muscles. When you shift position during sleep, you further contract those muscles and stretch their tendons. This sends a signal back to the spinal cord that tells the calf muscles to contract even more, triggering spasms and cramps. It’s an exaggeration of a muscle’s normal reflex—like a shout when it would be fine to talk in a normal tone of voice.

Nutritional deficiency. Low blood levels of muscle-relaxing minerals such as magnesium, calcium, and potassium can contribute to muscle.

Hormonal imbalance. Low levels of thyroid deprive your entire body of energy, and a low-energy muscle is more likely to cramp. (Hypothyroidism can cause leg cramps and other types of muscular cramps.)

Circulatory problem. Peripheral artery disease—blocked arteries in your legs—can cause nighttime leg cramps, just as it causes calf pain when you walk (a condition called intermittent claudication)

Fibromyalgia. If you have tight calf muscles and tight, painful muscles all over your body, you may have fibromyalgia. (For more information on this problem, see Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia.)

Real Cure Regimen

What to do about the cramp? You can always walk it off, of course—though who wants a painful stroll in the middle of the night? No, it’s better to prevent the problem. And prevention is easy. Start with nutrition.

Potassium. You can ask your doctor for a prescription supplement. Better: Boost your daily intake of potassium by eating a potassium-rich banana every day, and drinking a daily 12- to 16-ounce glass of potassium-packed V8, tomato juice, or coconut water.

Calcium. Take 500 milligrams to 1,000 milligrams at bedtime (with the magnesium described below).

Magnesium. Take 200 milligrams daily. (If diarrhea isn’t a problem when you take this laxative mineral, higher doses might be more helpful.)

B complex. Take a high-potency B complex. Or, for your magnesium and B vitamins, simply take the Energy Revitalization System or Clinical Essentials by Terry Naturally, which includes 150 milligrams of magnesium and high levels of B vitamins. Take the supplement at bedtime rather than in the morning.

Warm your calves at bedtime. Apply a heating pad to your calves for 10 minutes before you go to sleep. And wear socks to bed—cold feet sometimes trigger the problem.

Stretch at bedtime and during the day. Stretch your calf muscles before you go to sleep: Just sit on the bed with your legs out in front of you and pull your toes toward you. As for a daytime stretch, here’s an easy one that really works: the wall pushup. Stand eight inches away from a wall. Put your palms on the wall. Now, lean your chest into the wall. You will feel your calf muscles stretch. Push yourself away from the wall. That is one pushup. Do three to six pushups, three times a day. Do them slowly and deliberately. Take about 10 seconds with each. Over time, as your muscles release and lengthen, you can get more stretch by starting the pushup a bit farther from the wall—up to 16 inches.

Consider quinine. The antimalarial medication quinine is very effective in preventing and treating nighttime leg cramps. Quinine should never be used during pregnancy, and too much is toxic for anybody. Work with a holistic practitioner to determine safe dosing. Another option: At bedtime, drink four ounces to eight ounces of tonic water, which contains quinine.

For more ways to fix root causes of common health problems, purchase Real Cause, Real Cure from

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