Nocturnal leg cramps can occur at any stage of the night, regardless of whether you are sleeping or awake. In most cases, the cramps occur as the patient is waking up in the morning. They may straighten their legs, and experience a slight tightness occurring in the calve muscle. As they relax after the stretch, the calve muscle aggressively contracts, causing the onset of a spasm that leads to a painful cramp.
These nocturnal cramps can affect people of all ages and genders, but they are most common in people over the age of 40-years old, and in individuals that lead sedentary lifestyles. It’s challenging to identify the causes of night-time cramps, but medical experts believe it has links to lifestyle factors and behaviors that increase tension in the legs.
If you experience night-time cramps, look through these eight causes of the condition to see if any of these factors could be responsible.
1. Peripheral Artery Disease
PAD typically occurs in seniors and people with weak circulatory systems. The condition describes a narrowing on the arteries that service the peripheral areas of the body, such as the fingers and toes. People who are living with PAD find that their extremities often feel cold, and they have sensations of numbness or weakness in the limbs.
People who are living with the effects of PAD don’t receive enough oxygenated blood to their limbs – especially when lying down. The body is not a pressurized vessel. Therefore, the heart does not have to work as hard to pump blood around the body when you are lying in bed.
However, people who are living with PAD have a narrowing of the arteries that makes it more challenging for the heart to pump blood to the extremities, even when lying down. The constricted arteries place pressure on the heart, and the patient may find that they develop leg cramps as a result of weakened circulation.