A common cause of senior nighttime waking
Waking up because your senior needs help at night is exhausting and frustrating. We’ve discussed possible reasons for senior sleep issues before. Here, we’ll focus on one common cause of nighttime waking, leg cramps.
What are nighttime leg cramps?
Nighttime leg cramps are when muscles suddenly tighten up. This is common in calf, thigh, or foot muscles. It’s very painful and can jolt somebody out of a sound sleep. Another term for leg cramps is “charley horse.”
How do I know if it’s happening?
When your senior wakes, calmly ask what woke them up. You may need to wait patiently for them to think before answering. Don’t distract them by being annoyed or angry — they might forget the real reason.
If your older adult can’t communicate what’s wrong, an obvious sign is if they look like they’re in pain and they grab, point, or massage a certain part of their leg. Another sign is if they can’t successfully stand until their leg muscles are able to relax. You may even be able to see or feel a super-tight muscle.
What can I do during the night?
Here’s how to soothe a leg cramp so your senior can relax and go back to sleep.
- Help them gently stretch and massage the muscle. Be gentle or you could trigger another spasm.
- Try a heating pad or cold pack on the tight area. Always keep a cloth between their skin and the heat or cold.
- Give them a small cup of water or electrolyte drink, like Gatorade. Fluids may help ease leg cramps.
Important: Before you go back to sleep, write down the time, date, and what woke your senior.
How do I solve the leg cramp problem?
Leg cramps could be caused by dehydration, medication side effects, or serious health issues. If it’s happening regularly, it’s important to let your senior’s doctor know.
Because you’re writing down exactly when and why your senior wakes, you’ll be able to share details with the doctor. Specific information like that helps doctors figure out what’s going on and fix the problem.
There are many issues that could cause your senior to wake at night. Be patient, take good notes, and communicate with their doctor. Most importantly, don’t give up! Taking these steps will get you closer to a sleep solution.