We’ve all woken in agony due to those dreaded night cramps one time or another during our lifetimes. If you’re unlucky, this phenomena happens on a regular basis. Night cramps typically involve calf muscles, although people can also experience them in the feet and thighs, too. Most cases of night leg cramps are entirely harmless, albeit very painful and inconvenient. Usually all it takes is some straight forward stretching to move the muscle out of the cramp, and a few self-care steps to prevent it reoccurring.
If you find that night cramps are occurring on a regular basis and are causing severe discomfort and pain even after the cramp is over, combined with muscle weakness, swelling or numbness, you should definitely see your doctor.
The problem with most cases of cramps, is that it’s damn difficult to pinpoint the exact cause. Night cramps, unfortunately, seem to occur for no known reason. Though we can’t say for sure what the exact cause is, we do know that certain circumstances can promote their onset. If you know that you’re vulnerable to their harsh awakening, it could well be due to one or more of the following:
- Prolonged sitting
- Prolonged standing, in unsupportive foot ware
- Mineral deficiency in: potassium, calcium or magnesium (this is common during pregnancy)
- Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures
- Medications including beta blockers, diuretics and blood pressure tablets.
Try these holistic tips to help your body keep your muscles relaxed, your sleep restful, and your mind calm:
1-Constantly replenish your mineral levels with healthy eating
Eating foods rich in essential minerals, particularly potassium, magnesium and calcium is the first step in maintaining tissue hydration and functionality.
- To keep your potassium levels high, go for bananas, spinach, sweet potato, avocado, salmon, pomegranate, white beans and dried apricots.
- To keep your magnesium levels healthy, go for spinach, pumpkin seeds, natural yogurt or kefir, almonds, avocado, black beans, figs and bananas.
- To keep your calcium levels sufficient, eat spinach, almonds, broccoli, oranges, cheese, kale, Chinese cabbage, white beans, figs and milk.
2-Stay hydrated throughout the day
This isn’t just a few sips of water throughout the day when you remember. Make an effort to regularly intake herbal teas, coconut water full of electrolytes, natural fruit juices and water at room temperature. Stay off diuretic drinks such as coffee and black tea as much as possible, and choose from so many other wonderful flavours that hot herbal drinks provide. We love mint, green chai with a dash of milk, ginger infusion and rose hip. All with a teaspoon of wild honey, of course. Remember that when you’re not properly hydrated the tissue cells start shrivelling, losing their mineral reserves and making it far more likely for muscles to cramp up.
3-Adopt a gentle stretching routine
The body loves tensions to be released, and joints along with muscles to be taken through their full range of motion. If you can manage a 5 minute wind-down routine before going to bed every night, it’s a wonderful habit to keep. Stretching is just another preventative measure to stave off cramps and keep muscles healthy and feeling relaxed. An easy way to ensure you’re doing things properly is to follow along as an expert leads the way. Thanks to YouTube, we have all the inspiration and follow-along videos we could possibly imagine.
Juliana from Boho Beautiful writes: “This yoga sequence is perfect to add to the end of your workout to help your muscles stretch out and prepare to recover. I designed it to focus on your lower half: glutes, hamstrings, and core muscles/abs. It’s crazy how often students or friends of mine admit that they don’t stretch or wind down at the end of a workout when it really is a vital step for not only the safety but also the development of the muscles that you are targeting. Workout, stretch, lots of water, and clean eating. That’s how you make the world go round!”
4-Direct attention to the affected areas
Focus soothing treatments on the muscles that are most affected. Massage and hot soaks do wonders for tense or cramped muscles, and help to remove any toxins that have built up in the area that may be causing issues. Many health and exercise professionals also recommend magnesium on the outside of your body, in the form of Epsom salts. This old-school remedy can be applied to a wet cloth and pressed onto a cramped muscle, or you can add some to a hot bath.
5-Deal with stress and anxiety
We know that stress makes everything worse, but just how badly can anxiety affect us? Turns out, it can pretty much be causing any unpleasant symptom you’re currently experiencing. When we feel stress and anxiety, we invite tension and stiffness into our bodies, created by our minds. When we sleep, this can present itself as bruxism (teeth grinding/jaw clenching), nightmares, restlessness and cramping. The body cannot be well if the mind is not, so having a wholesome understanding of ourselves, and being aware of our mental state will shed light on a few issues.
Take some time to really step back and assess yourself honestly. Dealing with any issues at the core source of the problem, rather than attempting to cope only with the symptoms, may bring you to a different conclusion.
We recently wrote a blog on anxiety – check it out here: Recognising the symptoms of anxiety
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