We know that many people suffer from insomnia due to restless leg syndrome, but we've recently learned that leg cramps are actually a separate condition and may be more common than once thought.
Those suffering from restless leg syndrome (Willis-Ekbom disease) often experience a steady, uncomfortable feeling in their legs that can last for hours, making sleep difficult. Those suffering from leg cramps are more likely to experience sudden, intense pain that's often relieved only by getting out of bed and stretching the affected muscles.
Apparently, leg cramps are particularly common in those with diabetes, peripheral vascular disease and neuromuscular disorders. The pill has also been associated with leg cramps and 40% of pregnant women suffer from the condition, which will often resolve itself after birth.
Various theories have been put forward as to the cause of leg cramps. Some suggest the condition is down to dehydration. Others suggest magnesium and potassium deficiencies may be to blame. Unfortunately there is little research to support any of these claims.
Perhaps the most credible theory put forward suggests that leg cramps are due to our modern habit of sitting throughout the day, rather than squatting (as our ancestors would have). Therefore, leg strengthening exercises may help.
In any case, if leg cramps are preventing you from sleeping, don't ignore them - speak with your doctor.
Source: CNN Health
Last updated: October 4, 2011