What Causes Severe Leg Cramps At Night? Understanding The Roots

Almost everyone must have experienced some or other form of leg cramps when one retires for the night. Sometimes, these cramps are so intense that they become hard to bear, not to mention the difficulty of sleeping.

It is on this pretext that the current article has been prepared to explain what nocturnal leg cramps mean. The overall purpose of this article is, thus, to identify and offer possible solutions to relieve the pain caused by the same.

Explaining Severe Leg Cramps At Night

Leg cramps have been described as sudden, painful, and involuntary contractions of the leg muscles with a duration that may last for several seconds to minutes. They are severe and debilitating enough to affect one’s daily routine, sleep, and quality of life.

Severe Leg Cramps At Night

Though they do not have a particular cause to explain their occurrence as stated above, these severe leg cramps can be triggered by multiple risk factors, which will be detailed in the upcoming section.

The reason why leg pains or cramps happen during the nighttime can be attributed to the fact that the worked-up leg muscles, those being the thighs, calves, and feet during the entire day, suddenly begin to contract during those hours when one is either resting, sleeping, or doing nothing.

In other words, leg cramps happen during hours of inactivity. This means that it is during the night that these symptoms come on because people are generally asleep or are preparing to be.

Despite the fact that most leg cramps happen during the night, there are some medical risk factors that make them happen at any time, night or day.

Also Check: How To Drain Edema Fluid From Legs? Know All About The Condition

What Causes Severe Leg Cramps At Night?

Leg cramps that occur at night do not have a single cause other than the strains and hard work of the day. However, there are cases in which some underlying comorbidities can manifest as nocturnal leg cramps.

Of note, these are potential risk factors giving rise to the condition. To this end, I have listed below some of the major risks in this regard. It must be added here that, based on the severity of the presentation of the leg cramps, one of the following listed below can be ascertained:

  • Tired Muscles And Nerve Problems: Being up and about for the whole day without having a bit of rest can significantly work up the muscles, thus manifesting as those severe night leg cramps.
  • Age: Generally speaking, leg cramps increase with advancing age.
  • Pregnancy: As one advance in pregnancy, the growing baby bump has the potential to cause severe leg cramps and even swelling. These typically occur when one is in the second or third trimester. Almost three out of ten women suffer from this issue. However, severe leg cramps at night are rare in pregnancy, given the prevalence mentioned there.
  • Medications: There are certain medications that can cause leg cramps as a side effect.
  • Acute Kidney Failure: This happens to be one of the risk factors for severe leg cramps at night. A condition characterized by one of the kidneys completely ceasing to function can cause severe leg cramps. But there is no specific time for the occurrence of these leg cramps.
  • Problems With Blood Circulation: Certain underlying heart conditions can likely put one at risk of developing vascular disease. Since this issue causes problems with blood circulation, it is evident that people suffering from the same can feel leg pains and cramps even when they are active or resting.
  • Diabetic Nerve Damage: The nerve damage resulting from diabetes mostly presents as varicose veins, which, in turn, causes leg cramps. However, like poor circulation, these cramps can occur at any time, night or day.

How To Resolve Nocturnal Leg Cramps?

The following measures have been identified to gain resolution from leg cramps instantly:

  • Stretching
  • Massaging
  • Standing
  • Walking
  • Applying heat or cold
  • Taking pain medications
  • Elevating the legs after cramps starts to feel better

For leg cramps caused by the aforementioned risk factors, it is better to seek medical intervention to determine the exact reason(s). Following these, appropriate steps can be taken by the professionals involved in the treatment.


The current article could only present some of the major risk factors causing severe nocturnal leg cramps. Though there are umpteen risks to present with such an issue due to space constraints, they could be limited to the above. However, those listed above are enough to suggest or incite concerns and prompt necessary interventions to treat the condition.

Read More: Causes Of Restless Leg Syndrome: Are You Ignoring These Hidden Triggers?

About the Author

Nicole Carter is a dedicated and passionate nutritionist, committed to helping individuals achieve their health and wellness goals through the power of proper nutrition. With a Bachelor's degree in Nutritional Science and years of practical experience.

Leave a Comment