ZocdocAnswersWhat causes tight calves during sleep?

Question

What causes tight calves during sleep?

When I sleep, I have to make a concerted effort to relax my calves, or else they get so tight they cramp... which is extremely painful. Is this a sign of some sort of underlying medical condition? Are there exercises I can do to make sure my calves are loosed when I go to sleep?

Answer

There are a number of possible explanations for leg cramps during sleep. You should probably talk to your primary care doctor so that with a thorough understanding of your symptoms in mind, you can work on a diagnostic and therapeutic plan. With all of that said, a number of possibilities come to mind. The most common is probably an electrolyte disturbance, such as low potassium or magnesium. These electrolytes are commonly found in healthy foods such as bananas, which are very rich in potassium. Simple blood tests can determine if you have a deficiency in one of these nutrients. In some people, painful leg cramps can indicate dehydration, and the problem can be solved by having a glass of water or two before bed. Another possibility is restless leg syndrome, though this is not as likely or as common. It is typically not painful and cramping, per se, but rather consists of an indescribable urge to move the legs. It is a good idea to see your doctor. Depending on your other medical history, other diagnoses may be likely, and different therapies may be indicated. Also depending on your history, it may not be a good idea to suddenly ingest a large amount of bananas or drink a lot of fluid. Together with your doctor, you should be able to come up with a likely cause, and start therapy to help you feel better.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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