Legs may cramp at night for a variety of reasons, including too much exercise, sitting for a long time or sleeping in an awkward position, according to WebMD. Underlying conditions of night leg cramps include pregnancy, peripheral artery disease and kidney disease.
Nocturnal leg cramps are sudden, painful and involuntary muscle contractions, and are usually harmless, notes Mayo Clinic. While the cause is often unknown, muscle fatigue is often a factor, and the risk increases with age. Pinched nerves, a herniated disk or spinal cord injury can also cause legs to cramp at night, states MedlinePlus. The painful condition is also known as a charley horse.
Taking certain medications, including birth control pills, antipsychotics, steroids and diuretics may cause leg cramps at night, reports WebMD. They may also be caused by dehydration or low levels of minerals such as calcium and potassium in the blood.
Relieve leg cramps by massaging the muscle, flexing the foot, walking or taking a warm bath, recommends Mayo Clinic. Avoid leg cramps by stretching before going to bed and drinking plenty of fluids. Stretching the calf muscle may also relieve leg cramps at night, notes WebMD. To stretch, lean forward against a wall with the cramped leg straight, heel on the floor and the other leg bent.