What Does It Mean When Your Leg Falls Asleep?
It’s happened to all of us. You’ve been sitting focused on something for a while, and when you go to move, you realise you’ve been sitting kinda funny, and maybe even been sitting on your own leg. Then when you try to get up, your leg just doesn’t want to respond. It feels dead. Disconnected from your body. Entirely out of your control. That’s when the tingling starts. And it only gets worse over the next few minutes. Then, all of a sudden, just as it builds to a peak, it’s gone again. This might get you wondering. What causes this? Why does it happen? And what does it mean when your leg falls asleep?
What Causes It?
So what causes legs to fall asleep? The reason is actually really simple. Pressure.
Our bodies are criss-crossed with pathways. Nerves and blood cells run from our heart and brain into every other part of our bodies. They’re absolutely vital to our well being, because the blood vessels deliver the blood and all of the other things blood carries like oxygen and nutrients to every cell we have. Our nerves send electrical signals to and from our brain, allowing us to do important things like, y’know, move and feel.
But if you sit in ways that put pressure on your nerves and blood vessels, you can squeeze them enough to entirely cut them off from the rest of your body, like a kink in a hosepipe. Nothing goes through, no signals, no blood. Nothing.
When this happens, your body goes a little bit haywire. You see, your nerves aren’t designed to be cut off from the brain, so when they are, they don’t know what to do.
The Nerves Shut Down
Sometimes the nerves will shut down, which is why your legs go dead. Because you’ve literally shut down the nerves in that area. This means it’s actually impossible for you to feel anything any more until those nerves wake up again.
Sometimes the nerves start reflexively firing off signals, trying to reach your brain. Imagine trying to call someone who should be picking up, and not getting an answer. You’d probably keep calling and calling until they did, right?
It’s these constant nerve impulses that cause the tingling effect you get when you get a dead leg, and as your leg wakes up, these feelings start to be picked up by all the nerves around them and your brain, which is why they feel stronger over time.
On top of this, different nerves do very different jobs. Some pick up touch, some read pain, some read heat and cold. When none of them have been working for a while, your brain doesn’t know what’s going on, and then when all these sensations start coming back in, it gets a little overloaded and hectic!
But Why does This Happen?
Well, the physical reason that can send your legs asleep is simple and obvious. It’s what we just discussed. That you’ve moved in a way that’s caught a nerve or blood vessel, put pressure on it, and cut it off from the rest of your body.
The reason it all goes numb though? Now that’s interesting.
Like we said earlier, your nerves control a lot of things. From the obvious like movement and your sense of touch to really important stuff like pain. It’s nerves that causes us to feel pain, and more importantly, they cause the automatic responses that cause us to flinch away from things when they’re going to hurt us, without us having to think about it.
It’s this response that causes us to jump away from sharp or hot things. It’s completely out of our control. Even a newborn baby has this response. It’s that built in.
So when your brain loses contact with parts of your body, it gets worried. It’s like a concerned parent trying to get in touch with their child, because god knows what might be happening down at the bottom of your leg, right?
On top of that, we’ve mentioned that when you pinch nerves, you also pinch blood vessels.
Your Body is a Wonderland
Since your blood vessels deliver everything your body needs to keep going, it’s important they’re working in peak condition. After all, your body is always on. And it’s always eating at itself. Even little things like getting up off of the couch put stresses on your body that you don’t even realise.
It’s your heart’s job to deliver all the nutrients that keep you working via your bloodstream. So when a part of your body gets cut off, it starts to lose out on everything it needs to work.
Obviously, this isn’t anything to worry about short term. You can go hours before you start to do any real damage, and days before it does anything you can’t fix. But your body doesn’t want you to even have the potential of hurting yourself. Which is why it lets you know that what you’re doing is bad waaaay before it ever becomes a problem.
Can it Ever be a Problem?
For most people, dead legs are something that happens once in awhile and we barely think about it when it does. You might share a laugh with your partner because you’re walking strange, then it will slip your mind and you go on with your life. That’s the thing. For most people, it’s an entirely normal, healthy part of your bodily functions, and nothing to worry about.
However, if it’s happening regularly, or if it happens with no rhyme, reason, or with increasing regularity, then it might be worth seeing a qualified health professional. It could be possible that your dead leg is a sign of underlying problems with your nerves or blood vessels.
The Bottom Line
It’s incredibly unlikely that there will be a more serious underlying reason for you legs to fall asleep, and for pretty much everyone, a dead leg is just that. What does it mean when your leg falls asleep? Nothing at all. You trapped your nerves, now you’re dealing with the consequences. But in a few minutes, it’ll be over and you’ll be good to go.
Have we missed anything? Forgotten something? Left anything out? Or maybe you’ve had a strange experience or a funny story to share about a time you got a dead leg. If so, let us know in the comments below.