I hadn't had a charlie horse in the middle of the night for years; then I got pregnant. Starting in the middle of my second trimester I noticed that all of a sudden I was getting cramps in my calves around 4am. OUCH!!!
Muscle cramps/twitches are typically related a mineral deficiency (sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus) or dehydration. Whenever I work with clients struggling with night time muscle cramps, I almost always recommend they start taking a high quality magnesium supplement. Why start with magnesium? Studies have found that almost 1/2 of the population does not consume adequate levels of magnesium; and since it's used in over 300 metabolic reactions it's easy to become deficient. While some people find relief taking magnesium oxide which is easy to find at Walgreens and GNC, the oxide form just isn't as absorbable as the glycinate form. For this reason, many people will tell me, "I tried magnesium and it didn't help." First, if you cant absorb it, your body cant use it. Second, they may not have taken enough for their body. My favorite brands of magnesium glycinate are Metagenics tablets and Ortho Molecular Reacted Magnesium which you can purchase in capsules as well as a strawberry lemonade powder. The powder is great for kids (and adults) who cannot swallow capsules/tablets. It's also a nice way to get in some extra H20 before bed since muscle cramps can also be caused by dehydration; it's a two-for-one special.
Muscle cramps are just one symptom of a magnesium deficiency other symptoms include: anxiety, depression, ADD/ADHD, low bone density, high blood pressure including preeclampsia during pregnancy, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, headaches/migraines, insomnia, and chocolate cravings.
As much as I like to simply pop 2-4 tablets before bed, I have found that like many women, pregnancy has made me severely constipated. This is where taking a different form of magnesium, the citrate form, is very helpful. Not only does it address the muscle cramps, but it also draws water into the colon which keeps things moving along. As long as I'm consistent in taking 1-2 tsp of Natural Calm magnesium powder at bed time things are good. I pair it with 2-3 Ortho Molecular reacted magnesium capsules to prevent charlie horses. This adds up to about 400-525mg of total magnesium. This might sound like a lot when you consider the RDA for magnesium is 360mg/day for pregnant women. In practice though, I find that many people need much more. Think 600-800mg/day. Now you don't want to supplement with that amount long term, but supplementing with 400mg and also eating a diet high in magnesium is certainly a great way to prevent or correct a deficiency.
Now that I'm working with more families and pediatrics I'm finding that many kids are taking miralax for chronic constipation. This is no good, and many of these families have not been given any alternatives. Thankfully Natural Calm also comes in gummies, and several families have found them useful in weaning their child off the miralax as well as helping with sleep.
For a more in-depth dive into magnesium check out the Linus Pauling Institute. Now go out and get yourself some magnesium! Unless you have a chronic kidney condition in which case definitely talk with your nephrologist first.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
I'm a dietitian with a passion for good nutrition, bold flavors, playing in the dirt, and being with my family.