Sleep is extremely important for our bodies. The time we spend asleep is time our body uses to regenerate and repair itself. Many of us already don’t get the amount of sleep we need, so it’s in our best interest to minimize possible sleep disturbances whenever we can!
50-60% of adults have reported nocturnal leg cramps. Anyone can experience nocturnal leg cramps, but they are prevalent with the elderly and with pregnant women. 40% of pregnant women experience them. There is no exact cause for nocturnal leg cramps, but some possibilities include prolonged sitting, improper posture, and over-exerting muscles in the lower body.
What Can you Do for Better Sleep and Leg Cramp Prevention?
Hydration is key!
Water is involved in every biological and physiological process in our body. If we don’t give our body the water it needs, we won’t be able to carry out these processes and function at optimal levels. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine stated an adequate fluid intake level for men is about 15.5 cups a day, and for women it’s 11.5 cups.
Add in a simple pre-sleep stretch routine! You can even do these after you wake up to get your day started right!
- Pelvic Tilt – Find your hip bone and tilt it forward and back. Don’t lift/bridge your hips up, only tilt!
- Open Book – Don’t just reach your hand to the bed. Focus on trying to get your shoulder blade as close to the bed as possible.
- Pec Stretch – Place your elbow at a 45 degree angle with your foot on the same side taking a step in front. Gently push your chest forward to feel a stretch. Hold for 30 seconds.
- QL Stretch – With your limbs in position (see video), lean away from the doorway to feel the stretch in your low back.
- Click this link for video examples for each of these stretches!
How do you sleep?
- Sleeping on your stomach can cause issues in the low back, since your spine is put in an unnatural position. If you can’t avoid stomach sleeping, place a small pillow under your pelvis to correct alignment.
- Consistent side-sleeping can put your hips out of alignment. You can place a pillow in between your knees to lessen pressure on the hips, but think about transitioning to a better sleep position.
- The best way to sleep is on your back! This position keeps your spine in neutral and distributes your bodyweight evenly. If you feel any pressure in the low back due to natural curvature, you can always place a pillow under your knees
Check your neck!
If you’re a side sleeper, be cognizant of your neck position. The height of your pillow should allow your neck to be in neutral alignment (see picture). The neck is not directly connected to the legs, so why should that affect anything? Cervical spine alignment impacts alignment for the rest of the spine, and the lower spine has more of a direct impact on the leg muscles.
My Leg is Cramping – Help!
If you experience a nocturnal leg cramp, typically the best thing to do is stretch it out. Some other things you can do are walk around, shake your leg, or massage the leg muscles.
Keep these tips and tricks in mind for nocturnal leg cramp prevention! Sleep is very valuable, so let’s make sure it’s not interrupted by pain!