What are the causes of foot & leg cramps at night?

Updated February 21, 2017

Nearly everyone knows the sensation of waking up to a leg or foot cramp in the middle of the night. Although doctors do not fully understand why cramping occurs most commonly at night, there are some common causes that make them more likely.

Common Causes

Dehydration may be the most likely cause of nocturnal leg cramps. They can also be caused by a deficit in certain minerals, including calcium, potassium, and magnesium.

Activity during the Day

Leg cramps may sometimes be a result of activities during the day. For example, those who exercise heavily, stand for long periods of time, sit improperly, or wear unsupportive shoes are more prone to cramping.


Cramping in the legs and feet is also very common among women who are pregnant or take an oral contraceptive.


In order to alleviate night time leg cramps, you may want to increase your water consumption, take a supplement, or stretch your calves before bed. If you still wake up with a cramp, you can help relax your calf muscle by straightening your leg and pulling your toes toward you.

Consult Your Physician

If these suggestions prove unhelpful and the cramping continues for an extended period of time, consult your physician. On rare occasions, cramping in the legs can be a sign of more serious health conditions.

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About the Author

Tiffany Bennett is a recent graduate from Toccoa Falls College. While earning her degree in counseling and psychology, she discovered that she enjoys various forms of writing. She is currently living in Athens, Ga., and looking forward to beginning a graduate degree program in international affairs at the University of Georgia.