Leg asleep - How come?


A fallen leg is a very common complaint with many possible causes. As a rule, legs asleep occur when nerves are squeezed off due to an unfavorable position of the legs.

This is particularly common when you sit for long periods of time while traveling or using the toilet. Numbness of the leg, but also tingling in the foot, lower leg and thigh, as well as slight pain are typical symptoms of a sleepy leg. Symptoms usually go away after a short period of time once the cause of the sleepy leg has been resolved. If a pinched nerve of this type is excluded, other, rarer causes can also be considered, which can trigger a sleepy leg.

Since the symptoms are usually based on acute compression of the nerve, therapy apart from relieving the stress on the affected nerve is usually not necessary. If serious illness is the cause of the asleep leg, therapy should be considered.

root cause

By far the most common cause of a sleepy leg is the pinching off of certain nerves. This disconnection can be caused, for example, by sitting for a long time or sitting on unfavorable seating. If compression of the nerve is excluded as the cause, a number of other, less likely causes can be considered.

Particularly if, in addition to the symptoms of a fallen asleep leg, paralysis occurs, a herniated disc should be considered as the cause of the numbness. Back pain that occurs at the same time is a sign that a herniated disc could be the cause of the leg that fell asleep.

If the nerves that lead to the leg are pinched between the spine and the leg by the body's own structures, symptoms of a sleepy leg can also occur. This is the case, for example, with the so-called piriformis syndrome, where the sciatic nerve is pinched by a muscle and causes the symptoms. Even rare tumors that press on certain nerves can lead to legs falling asleep.

Circulatory disorders can be the cause of a sleepy leg. In arteriosclerosis, the arteries are calcified and the foot is insufficiently supplied with oxygen. A vascular occlusion caused by a thrombus can, in addition to the main symptoms such as severe pain and discoloration of the leg, also cause symptoms of a leg that has fallen asleep.

Systemic diseases such as diabetes mellitus can also lead to numbness in the legs.

If there are circulatory disorders in the brain, in addition to a number of symptoms, the feeling of a leg asleep can arise.


A thrombosis is a blood clot that usually forms in the so-called deep veins in the legs. Particularly when certain risk factors are present, people are at risk of developing thrombosis. This particularly includes taking oral contraceptives and prolonged immobility, such as on long trips or after operations. The symptom of a fallen asleep leg is not one of the guiding or main symptoms of thrombosis. So it is very unlikely to suffer from a thrombosis if only symptoms of a sleepy leg occur. Thrombosis should be clarified by a doctor, especially if other symptoms such as pain, swelling or dark discoloration of the skin occur on the leg.

Read more about this under Risk of thrombosis from the pill

One of the causes of a sleepy leg is more likely to be a disruption of the blood flow in the affected leg. This is usually due to the fact that an artery (supplying vessel) is briefly pressed off, for example by a bent leg while sitting cross-legged. The tissue behind cannot be supplied with sufficient nutrients and the leg goes to sleep.

Read more on this topic at: Thrombosis in the leg

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Meralgia paresthetica

Meralgia paresthetica is the so-called entrapment syndrome Lateral femoral cutaneous nerve. This nerve becomes pinched in the groin, causing burning pain and / or numbness, which can look like a leg that is asleep.

Usually, flexing the hip will improve symptoms, as this will relieve the nerve. The outside of the thigh is particularly affected, as the nerve is responsible for supplying this area.

Further information on this topic can be found at: Meralgia paresthetica

Herniated disc of the lumbar spine

A herniated disc in the lumbar spine can press on the spinal cord or on nerves that arise there. Severe nerve damage usually results in shooting pain in the leg. However, if the intervertebral disc presses only lightly on the nerve, it can lose its function very inconspicuously over a longer period of time. Since the nerves are responsible, among other things, for feeling in the legs, numbness can occur if the nerve is damaged. This feels like a leg that has fallen asleep.

More about this at:

  • These symptoms in the leg indicate a herniated disc in the lumbar spine
  • Herniated disc in the lumbar spine
  • Tingling sensation indicating a herniated disc
  • Numbness indicating a herniated disc


In addition to the numbness in the leg, which is characteristic of a fallen asleep leg, other accompanying symptoms can occur. The tingling sensation in the foot or leg is particularly common. If the leg wakes up again, slight pain may arise, but this disappears after a short time. If the pressure on the affected nerves is very strong or persists for a long time, symptoms of paralysis can also occur, which, depending on the extent of the nerve damage, usually disappear after a while.

If there is nerve damage in the spinal area and this is the cause of the sleepy leg, back pain as well as numbness and tingling sensations can occur in other parts of the body. If the lumbar spine has ruptured, symptoms of paralysis of the foot or leg are also typical.

A fallen leg can be an accompanying symptom of systemic diseases, which can cause different symptoms throughout the body. Diabetes mellitus, for example, can cause numbness in the legs as well as symptoms such as frequent urination or severe exhaustion.

Read more on this topic at: Symptoms of Diabetes Mellitus

Circulatory disorders can cause numbness in the leg, skin changes and wounds, which require medical clarification.

Leg asleep at night / in sleep

A sleepy leg that occurs during the night is usually caused by compressed nerves in the leg. Often there is one unfavorable sleeping position cause of the symptoms described. If the legs are bent sharply or, for example, lie over the edge of the bed, nerves can be compressed so that the typical symptoms occur. If the discomfort occurs frequently, changing the mattress or trying to change the sleeping position can help prevent legs from falling asleep.

Pain in the asleep leg

Pain in the asleep leg is mainly caused by the nerves. Bending a leg, for example cross-legged, kinks blood vessels and nerves. The nerves then release their neurotransmitters, which they use to send signals to the brain. If the nerve is not completely pinched off, some of these signals can still be sent to the brain. A feeling of pain is registered there. The pain usually only becomes particularly pronounced when the leg that has fallen asleep is stretched again. As a result, all signals can suddenly be sent to the brain, which triggers a great pain event.

Further information on this also under our topic: Leg pain

Why does the leg tingle when it wakes up?

The cause of a sleepy leg is usually a decreased blood flow. This usually occurs when you stay in one position for a long time. Due to the lack of blood, the leg is briefly not adequately supplied with oxygen and other nutrients. For a long time, this lack of nutrients was thought to be the cause of the tingling sensation or, above all, the sudden excess of nutrients and oxygen when the leg is supplied with sufficient blood again. The assumption was that the muscles in particular make themselves felt through pain and tingling.

Just recently, researchers came up with a new theory: It is the nerves that cause the tingling sensation. They get trapped in positions like sitting cross-legged, making them easily crushed. This leads to an increased release of the so-called neurotransmitters, i.e. the messenger substances that nerves use to send information to the brain. These neurotransmitters normally trigger an electrical potential in the nerve cell, which is passed on to the next nerve cell. However, by squeezing the nerve, the transmitters and electrical signals cannot reach the next cell. The nerve has a transmission break, so to speak. When the nerve is relieved again, all these signals and neurotransmitters are passed on at the same time, which carries a veritable firework of information to the brain. This creates the tingling and sometimes painful feeling when you wake up your asleep leg.


Bein doesn't wake up anymore

The "waking up" of the leg is usually completed after 30 to 60 minutes at the latest.

Depending on how long the affected nerve was compressed and how high the pressure was on the nerve tract, waking up can be very fast or slow. If the symptoms do not improve after 30 to 60 minutes, a doctor should be consulted to clarify the symptoms and carry out a comprehensive diagnostic examination.

This is especially true if, besides the asleep leg, other symptoms such as paralysis or very severe pain occur.

When does it get dangerous?

In most cases, a sleepy leg is a harmless phenomenon, which can be attributed to a temporary compression of one or more nerves. In very rare cases, serious illnesses can also be behind the symptoms. If there are certain signs of a dangerous illness, it is advisable to see a doctor as soon as possible, who can make the diagnosis and initiate therapy against the symptoms.

There is a risk of a dangerous leg vein thrombosis, especially if the symptoms persist for a long time after moving the leg, if there is additional pain, if the leg swells, changes its skin color or if there is shortness of breath. Even if there are problems with the spine and symptoms of paralysis occur, a doctor should clarify the situation in order to rule out a herniated disc in the lumbar spine.

Read more on the subject at: Symptoms of a herniated disc of the lumbar spine


The therapy of a fallen asleep leg depends on the underlying cause, which is responsible for the symptoms. In most cases, that's enough Moving the leg and an associated Relief of the affected nerve so that the leg "wakes up" and the symptoms disappear. However, if this measure does not lead to improvement or if symptoms recur without a clear cause, a doctor should clarify the situation. Depending on the cause, different therapies can lead to a successful treatment.

Is there a Circulatory disorder of the leg, conservative or surgical measures can improve the blood circulation. At Systemic underlying diseases should always be systemic therapy aimed at, which in many cases can improve the numb leg.


The forecast a sleepy leg is generally considered to be very goodt assess. In most cases it is a simple clamping of a nerve, which manifests itself with the known symptoms. By relieving the nerves, complete freedom from symptoms can be achieved within minutes.

In rare cases serious illnesses can be behind the complaints which require medical clarification. Depending on the clinical picture, the prognosis of these diseases can be assessed very differently. An individual assessment can be made by the attending physician.


In most cases, a doctor does not need to have a leg that has fallen asleep. The complaints usually go away on their own after the nerve is relieved. However, they should Concomitant symptoms occur or a sleepy leg persist for a long time is recommended to stay medical evaluation of complaints.

At the beginning of the diagnosis, the attending physician usually discusses the activity or sitting position during which the asleep legs occur. A possible cause of nerve compression can sometimes be found through this conversation.

A physical examination can be used to address accompanying symptoms and, if necessary, to narrow down the range of diseases in question. Are particularly important here Gait and function tests, by which a took place Herniated disc of the lumbar spine may be discovered. If a physical examination does not find a reason for the existing symptoms, you can Blood tests give an indication of the presence of systemic diseases.

Imaging procedures like a MRI examination of the lumbar spine can provide clarity about individual nerve processes and thus uncover rare causes of sleepy legs.


Since in most cases a pinching of the nerves running on the leg is the cause of the discomfort of a sleepy leg, preventing this nerve compression is a suitable prophylaxis for sleeping legs.

Sleepy legs, which arise due to circulatory disorders, can be prevented by avoiding the risk factors. Especially Cigarette consumption, Overweight, as well as a unhealthy lifestyle are known as risk factors for circulatory disorders in the legs and can be consciously avoided.

Further information

  • Circulatory disorder
  • Atherosclerosis
  • disc prolapse
  • thrombosis
  • Leg pain