Why do Varicose Veins Ache Most at Night?

November 14, 2020 Dr Zil

Everyone enjoys a good night’s sleep, to rest and drift-off under a comfy doona. But pain and discomfort in the legs can often lead to a night of tossing and turning, poor sleep and stress the next day. One-third of the population is affected by varicose veins, and many sufferers will be aware of the associated symptoms. But why do varicose veins ache most at night, or when you are relaxing? We’re here to help!

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are caused by a condition called chronic venous insufficiency, which is when the tiny, one-way vein valves begin to malfunction.

When vein valves stop closing properly, blood begins to pool or reflux. This causes the affected veins to swell and deprives the veins, and the tissues surrounding them, of the oxygen and the nutrients they need to stay healthy. Impaired circulation can cause leg tissue to become inflamed, which activates the pain receptors and causes pain.

Symptoms of varicose veins

Some people experience no symptoms at all whilst others may experience all, or some, of the below. In general, vein pain is considered vague and dull rather than sharp or immediate. If you raise your legs and the pain goes away, this is an indication your pain is vein related.

  • Pain, itching or heaviness in the legs.
  • Burning, throbbing or muscle cramping.
  • Pain that intensified after prolonged sitting or standing.
  • Chronic swelling in the lower legs or ankles.

Why do varicose veins ache most at night?

When you’re in bed, the lights are out, everything is quiet, and you’re trying to rest. While the complete lack of distraction or outside focus helps you to sleep, it means there’s nothing to take your mind off the pain and discomfort you’re feeling in your legs (except your partner’s snoring, which often isn’t much better!). This can lead to cramping pain, which is hard to stretch out once you’re in bed with the lights out.

Even though this pain is almost always gone by the morning, once the circulation has gone back to normal, by then it doesn’t usually make up for the poor night’s sleep.

Diagram of a normal functioning vein with healthy vein valves, a varicose vein with damaged vein valves and then an image of how the varicose vein looks when compressed by wearing medical-grade compression stockings.

How do I stop my legs aching?

The good news is that it’s relatively easy to take care of. A rule of thumb for any physical issue is prevention is the best treatment, and that’s especially true when it comes to varicose veins. Below we have outlined some simple ways to support healthy blood circulation and to help give you a good night’s sleep.

  • Elevate your feet: When laying in bed, raise your feet up on a pillow or two to help the blood flow more easily back out of your legs.
  • Yoga: While a workout helps the blood-flow, doing one just before bed isn’t very practical. Spend about ten or fifteen minutes doing yoga before bed to gently stretch the muscles and promote circulation, and you’ll feel a difference in the legs. Learn more: Exercise & varicose veins: everything you nee to know.
  • Compression stockings: Wearing medical-grade compression stockings over the day minimises the blood pooling, to begin with, and means you can take them off before bed and hit that pillow.
  • Diet: Cutting down on salt and fat is important for the long-term health of the veins. Eating more plant-based foods, in particular berries, asparagus, leafy greens and other foods high in flavonoids is ideal. Learn more: Do natural remedies work for varicose veins?
  • Ease into the night: Rather than hopping straight into bed after activity, gently rest, give yourself a half-hour or so to decompress from the day, with your feet up to read a book, listen to some music or just sit and relax. This will not only help your veins and muscles over the evening, it’ll help your brain sleep better.
  • Varicose vein treatment: If the pain is consistent, it’s happening every night or you’ve got other symptoms, speak to your doctor or specialist about getting your varicose veins treated. Learn about treatment options here: Varicose vein treatment

Seek expert advice

The doctors at The Vein Institute specialise in varicose vein treatment. We offer patients a comprehensive treatment program to treat varicose veins, with non-surgical laser treatment techniques. The benefits of laser treatment to patients are;

  • Walk-in walk-out treatment
  • 98% success rate
  • Extremely effective
  • Can be performed at a clinic (no hospitalisation)
  • No general anaesthetic
  • Medicare rebates apply
  • No downtime or time away from work

To book a consultation and discuss our treatment program, call  1300 535 017. Or, make an enquiry via the Contact Us page.