Foot cramps can strike at a moment’s notice, but for a lot of people, these cramps tend to happen in the middle of the night or when they wake up in the morning. In today’s blog, we explain why cramps commonly occur during the night and what you can do to help prevent them or treat them once they start.
Reasons For Nighttime Foot Cramps
A cramp occurs when a muscle involuntarily or forcibly contracts and does not relax for a brief period. This leads to pain and tightness in the area even after the muscle has relaxed. But what factors can contribute to the onset of a foot cramp? Some common factors include:
Inactivity – Being inactive for an extended period of time puts your muscles at a greater risk for cramping. This explains why nighttime foot cramps are so common, because sleeping involves an extended period of rest for your foot muscles. Inactivity can make it hard for healthy blood to circulate as easily, and this inhibited blood flow can contribute to the involuntary contraction of a foot muscle. Obviously you need to be inactive while you’re sleeping, but slowly warming your muscles up upon waking can sometimes help prevent cramping (as opposed to big stretches that can trigger a cramp).
Dehydration – Dehydration also plays a significant role in your nighttime cramp risk. When your body gets low on electrolytes and fluids, your muscles don’t move as smoothly and this puts them at risk for cramps and spasms. You lose fluids while you sleep, so if you were already low at bedtime, you may be setting yourself up for a nighttime cramp. Make sure you stay hydrated leading up to bedtime.
Vitamin Deficiency – Vitamins and other nutrients help to keep our muscles running smoothly, so if you’re lacking Vitamin B-12, thiamin, folate, magnesium or potassium, you may be prone to leg cramps. If you routinely get cramps as a result of a nutritional deficiency, talk to your foot specialist or primary care physician about supplement options.
Medication Use – Some medications taken to help control blood pressure or prevent pregnancies can increase your risk of muscle cramps, so adjust your medication as necessary if you notice an uptick in cramps when taking your prescription.
Abundant Alcohol Use – Excessive alcohol use can make you more dehydrated, which as we mentioned above, can contribute to muscle cramps in the foot. It can also cause nerve damage in the feet, which can lead to muscle weakness, numbness or cramping in the foot.