Nocturnal leg cramps are contractions of the calf muscles and/or cramping of the soles of the feet that occur while you are sleeping or at rest. Middle-aged and older people most commonly get them, but it can happen at any age. The cramps can affect persons in any age group, but they tend to occur in middle-aged and older populations.
There has not been any clear research results that have shown the cause of what causes nocturnal leg cramps. It has been hypothesized that nerves controlling your muscles cause the contractions. It is common to have leg cramps during dream sleep. This is why some researchers think these cramps are because of a malfunction in the nervous system. Our brain is not sending the proper messages to our muscles when we are dreaming.
Often, nighttime cramps are caused by overexertion of the muscles, having flat feet, standing on hard surfaces, long periods of sitting, improper leg positions while sitting, or dehydration. Muscular individuals get leg cramps much more often than lean body types. This can be because tight muscles do not get the proper blood supply and tighten the nerves, which then irritate them. Keeping your calves loose can often prevent night cramps. Applying heat to your calves may help because this will increase the blood flow.
Low levels electrolytes (magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium) can contribute to cramps. Vegetables and fruits contain electrolytes and there are many lists online to follow. Please look them up and add some to your diet. Here is a brief list to get you started:
Potassium: Beef, liver, fish, fruit (esp. bananas), apricots, cantaloupe, grapefruit, peas, bean, potatoes. The daily recommended amount (DRA) is 3500mg.
Magnesium: Beef, poultry, fish, nuts, grains, legumes, and green vegetables. DRA is 400mg.
Calcium: Milk products, leafy, green vegetables, soybeans, broccoli, and tofu. DRA is 1000mg.
Sodium: Table salt. DRA is 2400mg
When cramping happens, walking on the affected leg or elevating it may help. Take a hot shower or warm bath; this may help relax your muscles.
To keep cramps at a minimum or get rid of them for good, I would suggest drinking a lot of water, eating foods with electrolytes in them. You may be surprised by the results.