Many people experience the pain of nocturnal leg cramps at least once in their lifetime. These cramps are also known as charley horses and are brought about by a variety of reasons. Dehydration is one major cause. If you often experience these leg cramps at night, there is a good chance that you may have a mineral deficiency, specifically potassium or calcium. Certain medications, such as antipsychotics or birth control pills, can also contribute to these calf cramps as well. There are a number of things you can do to prevent them.
Stay hydrated. Drink water and other fluids throughout the day to ward off any potential cramps. Alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, though, should be avoided, because they tend to cause dehydration more quickly. Drinks that replenish electrolytes, such as Gatorade or Powerade, are recommended.
Eat healthy foods rich in calcium and potassium. A good source of potassium is bananas, so keep some handy, and eat one daily to keep up your potassium levels. You can also drink a glass of milk or vegetable juice if you experience cramps.
Take potassium or calcium supplements if, despite eating more mineral-rich foods, you still experience cramps. If the cramping continues, see a doctor. Usually, these supplements are taken twice a day, once in the morning and once before bed. You can also work in magnesium supplements to help as well.
Introduce herbal extracts into your diet to ease spastic muscles. Black cohosh is an herb that is said to help ease cramping. Take three black cohosh pills per day to help with your cramping. Ginkgo is another herb which helps, so if you can't find black cohosh, use ginkgo. If these options don't work, you may need to see a doctor to figure out just what is causing your cramps.
Sometimes, simple leg stretches before bed can help. This will loosen up muscles which may be tight for whatever reason. However, avoid too much exercise, as this can cause leg cramps too.
Do not take black cohosh supplements during pregnancy, and avoid taking these pills for more than six months at a time.