Why Do I Get Nighttime Foot Cramps?

September 27, 2021 • • foot carefoot pain
Why Do I Get Nighttime Foot Cramps?

Nocturnal foot cramps can cause discomfort at night, negatively impacting your sleep habits. Here’s why they happen, and how to help.

Foot cramps — also known as “charley horses” — can strike out of nowhere in the middle of the night. While they generally last a few seconds or minutes, the discomfort can range from being uncomfortable to extremely painful. About 60% of adults report experiencing these nocturnal leg cramps, so let’s dive into the details!

What are Foot Cramps?

Nighttime foot cramps happen when the muscles in your foot suddenly contract, causing a sharp or intense pain in your foot. The muscle itself could feel tense or hard, and sometimes a charley horse can result in intense foot spasms or twitching. You could have lingering soreness for hours or even days as a result. Very intense charley horses often interrupt your sleep habits — sometimes, the pain is so intense that it wakes you up in the middle of the night. Other times, it can prevent you from falling and staying asleep. Lack of proper rest can lead to a host of larger issues, including the worsening of your existing nighttime foot cramps.  

Why Do They Occur?

Nighttime foot cramps tend to happen to people over 50, those who are pregnant, and people with diabetes or hypothyroidism. People on particular medications for blood pressure, as well as those who use diuretics and dialysis, are also prone to charley horses. Most other cases stem from these reasons:
  • Inactivity, particularly of the legs and feet
  • Overexertion of your foot muscles 
  • Poor footwear and standing on hard surfaces
  • Dehydration and nutrient deficiency
  • Excessive alcohol use or smoking
If you’re experiencing nocturnal foot cramps, consider making some changes in these areas.

How to Reduce Foot Cramps at Night

There are many ways you can reduce the pain and discomfort associated with nocturnal foot and leg cramps. 
  • Stretching and exercise. Stretching, exercising, and moving your feet and legs every day — especially right before bed — can help prevent nighttime cramps from occurring. If you’re having a charley horse in bed, here are some movements for instant relief: 
    • Raise your legs and feet up in bed. Pull your toes towards your nose, then point them away from you.
    • Lift your affected leg off the bed, then wiggle or jiggle it around.
    • Get out of bed and stand up slowly, putting weight on your cramping foot. 
    • Topical healing. Apply ice or heat, using a heating pad or warm towel, to target any pain from cramping. You can also take a hot shower or bath, or soak your foot in warm water with epsom salt.
    • Internally target pain. Take over-the-counter pain medication, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to address cramping from the inside out. Drinking more water, improving your diet, and cutting out unhealthy habits can also go a long way in preventing nighttime foot cramps.
    • Check your shoes! Wearing shoes that fit properly, replacing them when they’re worn, and choosing the right kind of shoes for your job could ward off nocturnal foot cramps.

    Talk to Your Doctor

    If nothing seems to help your nocturnal foot cramps — and they continue to happen frequently, interrupting and negatively impacting your sleep — speak with a healthcare professional. At Alamitos-Seal Beach Podiatry Group, we can work with you to find the targeted pain relief you need. Schedule an appointment with us today!

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Fill out the form below to reach Alamitos – Seal Beach Podiatry Group, or call Los Alamitos: (562) 203-6151 or Seal Beach: (562) 242-1559 for immediate assistance.

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