Sleep-related leg cramps

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Introduction Leg cramps are defined as involuntary painful contractions that usually occur in the calf, but may sometimes affect the thighs or feet. These episodes can last anywhere from a few seconds to 10 min and then remit spontaneously. Tenderness and pain can last for several hours after the cramping. Although cramps can occur during the daytime, they are more frequent at night. Most people experience leg cramps at some time in their life, but they are usually very sporadic. While the cramps may be painful at the time, because they are infrequent, there is usually little concern about the episodes. However, occasionally patients have frequent nocturnal leg cramps causing much distress and night-time disturbance. The simplest remedy that is often discovered by the patient is forceful stretching. Painful cramps and remedies used to relieve the pain can delay sleep onset and awaken the patient from sleep. The discomfort that persists after a cramp can delay subsequent return to sleep. Epidemiology Nocturnal leg cramps are common, especially among the elderly. Naylor and colleagues studied 218 subjects and found the overall prevalence of cramps was 37% among patients 50 years and older. The cramps increased with age, with those over age 80 having a prevalence of 54%. No significant difference in prevalence was noted between men and women.The above study also describes the clinical features reported by these patients. Those patients who reported leg cramps described symptoms in their leg, foot or thigh muscles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Parasomnias and Other Sleep-Related Movement Disorders
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9780511711947
ISBN (Print)9780521111577
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Sleep-related leg cramps'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this