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He Shook Me All Night Long

There was yelling. There was moaning. The sheets were tangled and the bed was shaking all night long. No, this is not going to be a post reviewing 50 Shades of Grey nor is it going to be a post about a wild night of sex. (Sorry if that disappoints you.) This is what an average night of sleep is like in my bed now that Oregano is training for his first 5K run.

Oregano has always been athletic. He was a competitive swimmer in college and his strength lies in his upper body. Despite knowing this about himself, he decided it was time for a fitness challenge, so he signed up to participate in a 5K run. My husband, the man who breaks a sweat scooping out the litter box and has refused to go to the pool on summer days because it was “too hot to go swimming” has decided to run his first 5K race in the heat and humidity that is mid-July in New Jersey. While I admire his enthusiasm for setting a goal, I am seriously concerned about his lack of self-awareness.

He began his training regimen a month ago and I have noticed a disturbing trend. I can’t get a good night’s sleep on the nights he works out. Taking up running has put a new stress on Oregano’s legs causing him to get calf cramps. After he falls asleep, he twists the sheets so that his feet are sticking out and scooches down to the bottom of the bed. He puts his toes against the footboard and repeatedly flexes them causing the bed to shake back and forth.

I know there is a legitimate medical condition called Restless Leg Syndrome, but I am suffering from a different disorder that I refer to as “rest-less” leg syndrome. His legs are making me rest less. If the shaking was consistent and rhythmic, I wouldn’t be complaining because it would gently lull me to sleep and keep me sleeping like a baby in a cradle. Unfortunately, these shakes occur at odd intervals and last for several minutes. They stop just long enough for me to drift off to sleep only to be startled awake by another wave of shaking. Trying to be a supportive wife, I tolerated this new behavior thinking it was only temporary while his body adjusted to the new workouts.  When a week passed without me having a solid night’s sleep, my cheerful, supportive disposition disappeared faster than a person with narcolepsy nods off.

One night he fell asleep before me and the shaking started. I couldn’t take it anymore so I gently woke him up by rubbing his back. “Honey, slide up toward the top of the bed. You’re feet are on the footboard and you’re shaking the entire bed.”

Without opening his eyes he responded, “No, I’m not. I don’t feel anything.”

“Sweetie, you’re asleep. You don’t know you’re doing it and you don’t feel it. I’m sitting here watching House Hunters International; the bed is shaking back and forth and you are the cause. Trust me. I’m the one who’s conscious right now.”

He wiggled up towards the head of the bed and the shaking stopped. When my show was over I fell asleep only to be awakened an hour later when the bed was shaking.

I woke him up again, but not so gently this time. “Move up! You are shaking the bed again!”

The voice from the bottom half of the bed said, “I’m stretching my calves. They’re sore from the cramps. This makes them feel better.”

“If you need to stretch, get out of bed. The floor is a lovely place to stretch and it won’t disturb my sleep,” I yelled and rolled back over hoping to fall asleep before the bed started rocking again.

The next morning, still groggy from my fitful night’s sleep, I told Oregano he had 2 options: speak to the trainers at his gym to see if they have any suggestions about reducing calf cramps or start sleeping in the guest room. That night he returned home limping after his workout and said, “I spoke to the trainer. She told me that there are several things that could be causing my cramps. We’ve narrowed it down to bananas and shoes.”

“Bananas and shoes?” I asked.

“She said that I may not be getting enough potassium and suggested eating a banana a day.” He stood there stretching his calf muscles against the door frame and continued, “The trainer also told me that there is a runners’ shoe store about 45 minutes away. They have a treadmill I can run on that will analyze my stride and the structure of my feet then tell me which sneakers are best for my running style. She warned me that the sneakers would be expensive.”

“With all that technology being used, how could the shoes not be expensive?” I asked. “Why not try the banana option first? A dollar’s worth of bananas could solve this problem. It’s an inexpensive and tasty solution.”

“Well, I don’t really like to eat bananas,” he said.

“You’d rather spend $200 on a pair of sneakers than eat a banana?”

“Let’s just say that when I eat a lot of bananas, there are intestinal ramifications.”

“Oh, I understand. Too many bananas means the runners can’t leave the starting blocks,” I said and winked at him.

“Exactly! So, you can see why buying new sneakers is a more appealing option.”

“There is one more option to consider. It doesn’t have any intestinal side effects and it won’t cost any money.”

“Really?! Were you doing some research, too? What’s the solution?”

“Stop running. You can still do the 5K, but jog or walk, don’t run. The cramps are your body’s not so subtle way of telling you it doesn’t enjoy running. The sleep-stretching you do every night is a subliminal message. Why not listen to your body? You’ll stop getting cramps. I’ll start sleeping through the night again. It’s a win-win situation.”

The race is less than a month away and Oregano has continued his training. He hasn’t eaten any bananas and didn’t go to the high-tech sneaker store, but he does have a new pair of more supportive running shoes. I am looking for a screwdriver and a way to remove the footboard from the bed. Compromise is a key ingredient to a successful marriage.

** post-script – 6/29/12 **

Thank you to all of the readers who took the time to leave comments with helpful information about preventing leg cramps by staying hydrated,  proper stretching techniques, timing of workouts, drinking pickle juice, slipping soap under the sheets and the health benefits of bananas. I think together we may be weakening Oregano’s resistance to bananas. Just this morning, he found this little surprise on his desk from Yerba Buena, one of his co-workers who is also a reader. 

About Paprika Furstenburg

I was born with an overly developed sense of humor and poor coordination. The combination of these two character traits has taught me humility and given me the perspective to find the funny in everyday experiences.

71 responses »

  1. Lizeth Samland

    Leg cramps, also known as night leg cramps, especially calf-muscle cramps, are fairly common. Some people experience cramps in the muscles of their feet, as well as their thigh muscles. In most cases these types of cramps occur while the individual is sleeping or resting. ”

    Check out our blog as well

  2. Potassium is very important for the regulation of blood pressure. I always regulate my potassium intake at optimum levels. “:”`”

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  3. Reblogged this on Kholar Choate Pad.

  4. I’m late to this party, but why not combine it with your ice cream post and give him a banana split? Of course he might just waddle to the finish line.

    • You’re always welcome to the party, Elyse. Actually, the banana split idea did cross my mind, but I won’t need to employ any covert potassium interventions. As of this past weekend, when shin splints made an appearance in addition to the leg cramps, Oregano decided that he isn’t going to run the 5K. He’s going to walk it instead. I’ve been sleeping like a baby ever since 🙂

  5. I did hear that bananas were a good solution for runners’ leg issues — hope the other suggestions help as well. Holy moly, your search engine referrals will be interesting after this post!

    • Oregano did actually eat a banana the other day and he bought some Gatorade this weekend. He also said he was going to take some of the stretching advice readers offered. Let’s hope something works.

      I never thought of the search engine referrals that would come up because of this post. Yikes! I can only imagine how disappointed those people will be when they discover the post is really about leg cramps.

  6. All I can say is “oh you poor thing !” My son is a runner & big believer in bananas but he does lots of strange things that seem to only work for him…

  7. I would suggest regularly scheduled his&her massages until the 5K event is completed. In my mind that’s almost like running with Oregano.

  8. I would suggest regularly scheduled his&her massages until the 5K is over…. that would almost be like training with Oregano, wouldn’t it?

  9. “Too hot to go swimming.” Still chuckling at that one! Paprika, I sympathize with you both. This post was so relatable because I am a light sleeper, and I suffer terrible leg cramps when I play competitive tennis. I know you’ve gotten a lot of great advice already, but I do want to share what worked for me. My doctor advised me to take calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin D, a salt pill, and drink plenty of water. Only after I did this for weeks did I stop getting cramps. It is so worth it because the cramps were so bad, I’d fall on the court in agony when they started. Hope it works for Oregano!

    • I’m glad you found something that helped your leg cramps. As much as I joked about the cramps in my post, I truly do sympathize with Oregano because I can see how uncomfortable he is. Of course, that’s the rational, well-rested side of my brain typing this because I slept last night. Catch me on a morning when I haven’t slept and I’m not quite so sympathetic.

      I will definitely pass that information on to Oregano Thanks for sharing 🙂

  10. I think the bananas are something you must try. My husband read somewhere that bicarbonate of soda was good, and he swears that it cured a few of his cramps. Probably a similar effect. Personally, when I get foot cramps I know I’ve either over-exercised (walking, not anything more extreme) or my thyroid medication needs adjustment.

    Finally – the bed frame is a mistake. When I have a foot cramp, it wakes me and I have to put my foot outside the bed, on the floor, to recover. If I had a footboard, I’d use it and cause great disturbance.

    • As I sit here responding to your comment it is midnight on the east coast and I’ve been shaken awake yet again. I’ve been hounding Oregano about the bananas since before he began training for this 5K because he would occasionally have night leg cramps. He was skeptical that they would help, but I’ve been sharing all of the great comments from readers like you. I think I’m beginning to see a crack in his banana resistance.


  11. What an interesting blog. I wonder what each of us would be if we were herbs. I invite you to visit my blog.

  12. If Oregano can get over his objection to bananas, they really are a great source of potassium. It has other benefits as well. When I wake up in the middle of the night, I eat a banana and I’m convinced it does act as a sleeping aid. It protects agains high blood pressure, helps fight infection, and it is a good source of vitamin C which is needed to help fight infections. (Prevention Magazine’s “Nutrition Advisor,” The Ultimate Guide to the Health Boosting and Health-Harming Factors in your Diet by Mark Bricklin.)
    Paprika, I hope you both get a good, complete night of sleep soon.

    • Thanks for so much great info on bananas, Judy. I love them and eat them every day. I didn’t know about the sleep aid angle so I may have to try having one as a bedtime snack. I will keep trying to convince Oregano to give them a go, especially now that you’ve armed me with scientific data.

      If the bananas do work as a sleep aid, maybe they’ll help me sleep through all the shaking 🙂

  13. squirrel circus

    Hilarious! Not for you of course, but thanks for sharing it in such a humorous post. 🙂
    I actually kicked Scott in the head the other night, as,unbeknownst to me, he had moved to the end of the bed to snuggle with the dog!

  14. LMAO!!!!!!!!! Do they have potassium supplements in pill form? That Oregano, he makes for an interesting bedfellow……………

  15. This entire situation sounds to me like a full blown mid-life crisis–the perceived last chance to grab for the brass ring. (I didn’t sleep in a Holiday Inn last night, but I am a psychologist.) Forget the bananas, forget the expensive sneakers, and definitely forget the running. The real solution is a new BMW. I know….been there, done that !!! The silver coupe with a black leather interior will do just fine….. ;-))

  16. More water! No exercise after 3:00 in the afternoon…they say late work outs cause bad sleeping patterns! I know I find it to be true. I figure it’s a win win for most men, yes dear you should keep working out but you have to wake up, drink a large water and get the work out done EARLY in the morning. Either it helps that the work out has been done early and they have had all day to stretch it out or they give up on waking early! Good luck to you both!

    • We never considered that the time of day might be an issue. He always works out after work. I’m not so sure he’ll want to switch to mornings, but it is definitely something he should consider. Thanks so much for sharing your advice 🙂

  17. What follows is a very strange suggestion…I work for hours on my feet as a competitive figure skating coach,,,and as I get older it’s not exactly getting easier…so I get/got terrible leg cramps…until…

    My step-mother told me about this and didn’t believe her but I tried it and it seems to have helped…


    Put a bar of soap under the fitted sheet on his side of the bed! I have no idea how this works, but it seems to and there is some documentation on the good ol’ internets…yes, there’s a little lump under there, but I don’t even notice it anymore…worth a try! 🙂

    • You are right. That was a very strange solution, but if it works, who cares how strange it is? I’m completely intrigued by this option. Does the type of soap matter? Should the soap be down by his legs?

      Trying to get him to do this might be a hard sale and it’s not likely I could slip this one past him. I just want to give it a shot to see if it works. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  18. I don’t remember reading about this problem in any of the romance novels I read as a teen.
    Where would we all be now if we HAD read about not sleeping once you’re married a few years?

    I fear that there are no answers to this question, short of running home to Mom’s for a few days…

    • You are absolutely right, Ronnie. I didn’t read a lot of romance novels, but the ones I did never mentioned the snoring. Right now, for me, a romantic gesture would be him moving to the other room before he wakes me up, not after.

  19. Why didn’t they tell us these things in the romance novels we read as teens? Would it have broken the spell? Messed up the mood? Scared us away from the Bridal trail (no, not a horse’s bridal trail: keep focused!) Moon, June, Spoon, SNORE? Sorry, Oregano, it isn’t too romantic.

  20. Alternative solution: Tell him you’re going to start giving him protein shakes. Blend together one cup of frozen fruit (strawberries go with everything), 1/2 cup of vanilla or plain yogurt, a scoop of whey (25 grams of protein!), a banana, and one cup of something else (watermelon, an apple, an orange, or whatever). Just don’t tell him about the banana!

    • A protein smoothie is a great idea, but I think he’d be suspcious when the bananas start disappearing from the counter. I figure if the cramps get bad enough, he’ll cave on the banana eating issue. Thanks for the suggestion.

  21. My son is a long distance runner and suggested that Oregano needs to stretch more before and after he runs. Believe it or not, the stretching afterwards is more important to stay loose and not tighten up. There are also some other tools. If you have a rolling pin, he can use that instead of the thing they sell–just run it up and down his calves (thighs too if those cramp) after running. Also one more exercise to do at home WITH the shoes on for arch support. Stand at the top of a step facing up with just the toes on the step and then put all the weight on one leg…that will also help stretch the muscles. Sam is 17, a rising senior and has been running since 8th grade., He is ranked high in the state and will be running in college.

    • Thank you to you and your son for such thorough and thoughtful suggestions. I will be sure to pass them along to Oregano. Hopefully, they will help. I especially like the rolling pin idea. If it doesn’t help with the cramps I can always whack him over the head with it.

      Good luck to your son in his senior year!

  22. Ah husbands… Mine usually wakes up about 4 am and can’t get back to sleep so he leaves the room and lays down on the couch and watches TV. Needless to say the last part of the night is very blissful for me….

    • Seriously! I think Lucy and Ricky had the right idea with twin beds in the bedroom. There are nights when I considered sleeping in the backseat of my car in the garage just to get some peace and quiet 🙂

  23. This is something I can relate to. I was quite athletic myself as a young man and of course it was always all or nothing. I ran like I was hunting while a sabre tooth tiger was hunting me. Nothing has changed. There’s still a tiger running behind me, but now he helps me keep the diabetes ghost at bay (I guess my calves haven’t hurt enough in recent years).

    Great blog, by the way! I like liquorice too. First time I see it on another blog.

    • John, I don’t even know you, but the image of you running while being chased by a sabre tooth tiger made me laugh. Thanks 🙂 It’s a great motivation to imagine running from the ghost of diabetes.

      I chose the liquorice theme last year because it was simple. I was brand new to blogging and that was one of the few themes that didn’t overwhelm me with too many visual distractions. As the year went on and I got more comfortable blogging, I decided that I really liked the simplicity of the theme because it kept the focus on the content.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

  24. And common sense wins the day again!

  25. For Oregano! Try eating 1/2 banana each morning with cereal. Put cinnamon on your cereal; it makes it yummy. Poppi got leg cramps from lack of potassium. Cut the banana through the skin and put a little plastic wrap on the end; eat the other half the next day.

  26. I do that too! Especially when I’m running a lot. I’ve tried bananas and drinking pickle juice and icing and all the crazy things people tell me to do. It doesn’t work. 😦

  27. hiya 🙂 my hubby has always snored like a foghorn its so bad we even recorded him and played it back to him he said its not that bad and i pointed out that we recorded it from downstairs that was how loud it was from downstairs! over time i found that the best solution was him getting a job where he works nights 🙂 works a treat and i love my bed now 🙂 hope it goes well in the race for your lad he has my respect i could not ever gain the motivation to run down the road never mind an actual race 🙂 have a fab evening/day xx

    • Brilliant solution to your hubby’s snoring problem! Overnight shifts aren’t an option in Oregano’s line of work, but the white noise machine and ear plugs has done wonders, that is until he started shaking the bed.

      I give him a lot of credit, too. I wouldn’t have even attempted a 5K run and definitely not in the middle of summer.

      Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment.

  28. The good news here is that it will end with the race. My husband snores and it never ends. He has tried some otc remedies and of course they don’t work. I whack him when his snoring wakes me. It seems to work if I fall asleep before he does.
    I have heard about the potassium angle before. Potatoes also have a lot of potassium. French fries may be the way to go.

    • I keep reminding myself that this is a temporary situation.

      Oregano snores terribly, too. Sharing a bed with him is truly a multisensory treat 🙂 Stayed tuned for future posts about his snoring.

      FYI- I bought a white noise machine for $50 on Amazon. I keep it on my night stand and it totally drowns out his snoring so that I can sleep.

  29. Very funny! The good news is that I can’t do much training as long as my legs are hurting. I suppose a 5K walk may have to be good enough this time. Although, there is that half-marathon coming up in August…

  30. For a second when I read “screwdriver” I thought your were referring to the cocktail and thought, oh no, things must be bad! 🙂

  31. My husband suffers from severe RLS (so much so he has it in his arms too) and trust me.. it would not help you sleep..there are times I want to put a pillow over his head til he stops I would never do that but it is very hard to stay supportive when you can’t get a full nights rest because your partner can’t stop moving. Good luck

    • Believe me, the pillow idea had crossed my mind after a few nights, but I figured it would also be difficult to sleep in prison once I was convicted of his murder. Not to mention, I’d miss him terribly. Thank you for reading and sharing your story.


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