5 reasons for muscle twitches at night

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S.A.C. Dip (Diet, Exercise & Fitness), Advanced Human Anatomy & Physiology Level 3
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22 January 2021

Why do my muscles twitch at night?

Muscle twitches that occur at night can often be attributed to some simple dietary and lifestyle habits such as:

  1. Stress and anxiety
  2. Caffeine levels
  3. Restless leg syndrome
  4. Exercising late at night
  5. Nutrient deficiencies

Let's take a look at these in more detail.

1. Stress and anxiety

Perhaps one of the most pertinent issues at this time, stress and anxiety could be leading to muscle twitches at night. The reason for this is that stress puts the nervous system in a state of flux, meaning that nerve impulses, which control the muscles, begin to behave out of character. The result of this is harmless, but no less frustrating, night twitches.

What can you do?

  • Relax in the evening – fall asleep over the pages of your book, try some bedtime yoga, or get crafty with the likes of knitting or drawing.

  • Connect with others – go for a walk, talk on a video call or pay a doorstep visit to neighbours and friends.

  • See daylight – get outside for at least fifteen minutes a day, even if it is just to stand on the doorstep with a hot drink or to nip to the shops.

  • Exercise regularly – pick an activity that appeals to your interests or stick to something simple like walking more regularly

2. Caffeine levels

If you are relying on coffee or energy drinks to see you through the day, this too could contribute to muscle twitches at night. This is particularly likely if you drink coffee late in the afternoon or immediately after your evening meal, as there will still be a high quantity of caffeine lingering in your system when your head hits the pillow.

The problem with caffeine is that it is just a bit too much for the nervous system to handle. This may lead to cramps, twitches and even hypnic jerks, the latter of which occur just as we are about to fall asleep and may cause the body to wake.

Note: Caffeine isn't the only stimulant that contributes to twitches, nicotine can also be a factor.

What can you do?

  • Try a caffeine-free drink such as Bambu which is made from a healthy mix of chicory, malted barley, Turkish figs, Greek acorn and more.

  • Drink more plain water.

  • Don’t drink coffee in the afternoon or evening.

  • Try herbal teas, especially nettle.

3. Nutrient deficiencies

Diet also has a part to play in muscle twitches, which become more likely if you are stocking up on lots of processed foods that don't provide the body with the same level of nutrients that fresh foods do.

A few particular nutrients that can cause muscle twitches when levels fall too low include magnesium and calcium. Twitches occur when magnesium levels fall too low in comparison to calcium levels, as this over-stimulates the nervous system.

Also, low levels of vitamin B12 and vitamin D are often attributed to muscle twitches. Your doctor will be able to look into your vitamin D levels if you think this might be useful.

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4. Restless leg syndrome

Restless leg syndrome is a sleep movement disorder that causes symptoms such as a tingling and crawling sensation in the legs. It may also lead to muscle twitches and the urge to move the legs. All of this makes good sleep more challenging.

Unfortunately, there is no clear reason to explain why this problem occurs. Genetics, gender (it is more common in women), medication and stress are some factors that are likely to contribute to the issue though.

What can you do?

  • Try massage – this stimulates circulation and may ease stress. 

  • Get some more iron and magnesium in your diet – fresh foods like spinach, avocadoes, wholegrains and lentils will help you top up your intake. 

  • Relax before bed – the heat from a bath, keeping your mind busy with some reading, or a simple bit of stretching are all thought to help ease the symptoms of restless legs. 

  • Drink more water! 

5. Exercising late at night

Exercise stimulates the muscles and nervous system. This means that if you do a vigorous activity right before bedtime, the muscles and nervous system may not get enough time to relax before you head to sleep. This may, in turn, result in muscle twitches.

If you are experiencing these kinds of muscle twitches on a regular basis, it will drain the body's energy reserves and make it harder to both fall asleep and stay asleep. The result is usually a feeling of lethargy that persists throughout the day – definitely something we would wish to avoid!

What can you do?

  • Avoid intense activity late in the evening – stick to a little gentle stretching if you do feel like getting a bit of movement in at this time.
  • Aim for a morning workout to set your body up for the day ahead!
  • Avoid doing vigorous household chores late in the evening too – these are just as likely to stimulate the nervous system as exercise.

And remember…

If muscle twitches worsen or occur regularly day and night, arrange a consultation with your doctor to discuss the matter further.

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