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When your foot falls asleep, you may experience a feeling of numbness or tingling known as temporary paresthesia.

This sensation is sometimes called pins and needles. It tends to happen when irritation or compression of the nerves cuts off the connection between your brain and the nerves in your foot.

This usually happens when you sit in one position for a long time, especially with one foot under your leg or while crossing your legs. This isn’t harmful since the connection between your nerves and brain is restored quickly after you change positions.

Usually, a sleepy foot isn’t a cause for concern. You may still experience a tingling sensation or even slight pain, but usually this only lasts for a matter of seconds. But sometimes, it can indicate an underlying condition.

Read on to learn why this happens and the ways you can wake up your foot. You’ll also learn how to prevent it from happening if it’s a regular occurrence.

A sleepy foot is temporary, and the condition will usually go away on its own. But there are some things you can do to speed up the process of waking up a sleeping foot.

1. Shake and roll

  1. Put your foot into a comfortable position.
  2. Bend your toes several times.
  3. Move your ankle from side to side and forward and backward.
  4. Do ankle rotations in both directions or try some other ankle stretches.

2. Change positions

  1. Move so that you can relieve any pressure on your foot.
  2. Uncross your legs or take your foot out from under your body.
  3. Ease your way into a more comfortable position and relax while you wait to regain feeling in your foot.

3. Walk around

Avoid standing up or putting pressure on your foot when it’s asleep.

Once your foot is back to normal, stand up and walk around for at least a few minutes.

4. Massage

A foot massage can help to regain feeling and boost circulation.

A 2020 study found that foot massage reduced pain related to peripheral neuropathy in people with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This massage also helped to improve their sleep quality.

Use circular motions to gently massage the area that’s affected. This boosts circulation while stimulating nerves and muscles.

5. Treat your feet

If tight- or ill-fitting shoes are the culprit, undo your laces or zippers. If you can, take off your shoes altogether.

Compression stockings may also help boost blood flow.

6. Do yoga

Do yoga poses that boost blood circulation. These include:

  • triangle pose
  • downward-facing dog
  • warrior II

7. Apply heat

Use a warm compress to:

  • enhance relaxation
  • reduce unpleasant sensations
  • improve circulation

You can also try a warm foot bath.

Choosing a sitting or standing position can be a constant challenge, but there are things you can do to prevent your foot from falling asleep in the first place.

Pay attention to your body

Pay attention to your body and learn to become aware of any sensations that arise. This is important if you tend to focus on the work you’re doing and don’t realize that your foot is falling asleep.

As soon as you notice the pins and needles sensation creeping in, change your position or get up and walk around.

This may be a challenge if you work in an office job, do some type of seated work for a creative job, or sit on the floor while working with young children.

Change your position often

At least once every hour, get up and walk, stretch, or do gentle exercises for 5 to 10 minutes.

It’s good for your health in general to change your position often anyway, so use this as a chance to move.

Customize your workstation

As space and materials allow, change up your workstation.

For example, alternate between sitting on a cushion at a low table, seated on a ball or chair at a desk, and using a standing desk.

Transient paresthesia is the sensation that causes temporary numbness and tingling in your feet.

This happens as the result of abnormal nerve function, which is usually the effect of sitting on your foot or holding your foot in a certain position for an extended period.

Sitting on your foot can compress or squash nerves in your foot. This cuts off the connection to the brain since nerves aren’t able to relay messages to the brain. When this connection is cut off, you don’t feel anything, though this is temporary.

You may also experience temporary paresthesia when you have your feet in an elevated position, such as legs-up-the-wall pose.

Medical causes

Some health conditions may cause a sleepy foot, including:

Typically, a sleepy foot goes away on its own once compression and blood flow are restored.

But there are a few reasons your sleepy foot may be a cause for concern, in which case you may need to see your doctor:

  • long-lasting numbness or tingling
  • abnormal sensations in your feet
  • difficulty standing or walking

If you experience a sleepy foot often, it may indicate an underlying medical condition known as peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral nerve diseases like type 2 diabetes can result in peripheral neuropathy that often first affects nerves in your feet and hands.

While temporary paresthesia is the sensation of numbness or tingling, peripheral neuropathy is related to the nerves of the peripheral nervous system, which are found outside of the brain and spinal cord.

A foot that’s fallen asleep is not normally something to worry about. But you may want to seek medical help if it’s long-lasting, happens often, or is coupled with other symptoms or concerns.

If your feet fall asleep often, you may simply need to move your body more often so that you don’t stay in one position for too long.

Avoid sitting on your feet or putting them in positions that cause them to fall asleep. Learn to become aware of sensations in your body so you can nip a sleeping foot in the bud.