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Foot and Leg Cramps at Night (Nocturnal Cramps)

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 04/10/2024

Ever woken up in the middle of the night with your leg or foot cramping painfully? It's not just a nuisance, it can mess with your sleep and leave you groggy all day.

Learn about what causes nighttime cramps and how you can avoid them.

Understanding Nocturnal Leg and Foot Cramps

Nocturnal leg and foot cramps can be a nuisance, causing sudden, intense pain that abruptly wakes you up in the dark of night. These are sudden, involuntary muscle contractions that happen primarily when you're at rest.

What are nocturnal cramps?

The term "nocturnal cramps" refers to a sensation of intense pain radiating from your calf or foot muscles. This spasm will occur during the night and disturb your sleep.

Electrolytes and nocturnal cramps

Electrolytes such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, or sodium could be considered charge carriers, crucial for maintaining proper bodily functions.

A deficiency in any of them may lead to disruptions like muscle contractions during rest periods.

pH imbalance and muscle cramping

If your body gets too alkaline, this can hinder mineral transportation, leading to nightly cramps disturbing your sleep.

Natural Remedies for Nocturnal Cramps

When nighttime cramps occur, natural remedies can offer much-needed relief. Let's examine a few options that have proven successful.

The Effectiveness of Quinine

Quinine, derived from the bark of the cinchona tree (Cinchona officinalis), has been used effectively to relieve leg and foot cramps. However, due to potential side effects, it should be taken under medical supervision.

Tonic water, which sometimes contains quinine, might also help alleviate nocturnal cramps when consumed in moderation before bedtime.

Yellow Mustard Before Bed

You may find it surprising, but taking one tablespoon of yellow mustard before bed could relieve night-time muscle spasms. The science behind this is still unclear; however, anecdotal evidence suggests its effectiveness.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is known for its health benefits, but did you know it could also help reduce nocturnal cramps? Its acidic nature helps your body absorb minerals more effectively into the muscles.

This improved mineral absorption aids in reducing muscle spasms and discomfort.

To drink before bed, mix two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with water. Consume about an hour before bedtime for improved sleep and no more kinks in the morning.

Everyone's body reacts differently. Don't lose hope if drinking apple cider vinegar doesn't reduce your symptoms after a week. Plenty of other natural remedies for nocturnal leg and foot cramps.

Why Electrolyte Supplements May Not Always Work

Many people don't find relief from nocturnal leg and foot cramps despite taking electrolyte supplements. The problem isn't necessarily with the supplement itself but rather with how the body processes it.

Your body needs to maintain an optimal pH balance for adequate mineral transportation. If your body is too alkaline, this process gets hindered, which might result in persistent cramping despite the consumption of electrolyte supplements.

The Role of Diet in Managing Nocturnal Cramps

Let's explore the connection between what we eat and how it impacts nocturnal cramps. Certain deficiencies can cause these pesky nighttime nuisances, but diet changes may offer relief.

Dietary choices can affect our body's electrolyte balance. If you're a keto or intermittent fasting diet follower, don't worry; there are still ways to ensure your body gets the necessary minerals.

You might need to pay more attention to your critical minerals, magnesium and potassium. For adequate magnesium and potassium, consume dark leafy greens, avocados, nuts, seeds, and fish.

If you often experience night cramps, try incorporating more protein into your meals. Also, add apple cider vinegar to your routine, as it aids mineral absorption, which could be a game-changer for muscle health.

If changing up food options doesn't help out enough on its own, though – hydration matters too. So, drink plenty of water throughout the day alongside healthy eating habits because dehydration also contributes to leg cramping during sleep.

Magnesium-rich foods

Magnesium and Cramps

Magnesium and iron are essential minerals in the body's functioning. While magnesium primarily supports muscle and nerve function, iron is crucial for carrying oxygen in the blood. It's critical to strike a balance between these minerals in your diet.

When considering the best types of magnesium supplements, it's wise to choose varieties like magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate that offer excellent absorption without interfering with iron absorption.

Balancing magnesium and iron intake is essential because excessive magnesium intake, especially from supplements, can interfere with iron absorption. This balance ensures you receive both minerals' benefits without compromising your health.

Consulting with a healthcare professional can help tailor your mineral intake to your needs.


Nocturnal leg and foot cramps can disrupt sleep and leave individuals feeling groggy the next day. Understanding the underlying causes, such as electrolyte imbalances and pH levels, is crucial for effective management.

Natural remedies like quinine, yellow mustard, and apple cider vinegar can provide relief, but individual responses may vary. Additionally, dietary changes, including consuming magnesium and potassium-rich foods, and staying hydrated, play essential roles in preventing nocturnal cramps.

Maintaining a balance between magnesium and iron intake is vital for overall health, as excessive magnesium supplementation can interfere with iron absorption.

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