Most people have experienced the temporary loss of feeling and tingling in their leg resulting from sitting in an abnormal position for a short while. Usually you get a loss of feeling in your leg while it is being compressed/constricted at some point and then the tingling sensation as the pressure is removed. But what is actually happening? I understand the the blood vessels are probably constricted from the pressure, but how does this lead to loss of feeling and later the strange tingling sensation? Are there any other things that extended compression on the leg does to cause this? What exactly are the requirements to get the sensation of a one's leg or other limb falling tingling in that manner?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Whilst it's not particularly academic or explanatory, this article does give you a basic explanation in layman's terms: health.howstuffworks.com/human-body/parts/question552.htm - I too would be interested to know the details, though. $\endgroup$
    – Polynomial
    Commented Apr 12, 2012 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ This happens to arms, too. It hapens to my arms a lot during a sleep. I have feeling nerves are involved here not blood vessels. $\endgroup$
    – Andrei
    Commented Apr 13, 2012 at 13:19
  • $\begingroup$ Your circulation is being cut off when this occurs. $\endgroup$
    – L.B.
    Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 0:36
  • $\begingroup$ related: biology.stackexchange.com/q/16032/10198 $\endgroup$
    – glS
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 16:54

2 Answers 2


The feeling you describe is called "paresthesia," and according to the NINDS info page, it happens "when sustained pressure is placed on a nerve."

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Yes, a phenomenon also dubbed "saturday night palsy" when you nursed the bottle a little too closely ;-) $\endgroup$
    – Raoul
    Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 12:38
  • $\begingroup$ Does a choked blood supply play a part? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 9:50
  • $\begingroup$ @atichnyu Blood flow can cause similar tingling sensations but I don't think they're otherwise related. $\endgroup$
    – Alex W
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 15:20
  • $\begingroup$ updated NINDS link $\endgroup$
    – Carl G
    Commented Jun 30, 2018 at 23:07

The explanation in the link Polynomial posted is essentially correct.

Whenever there is a reduced or blocked blood supply (ischaemia) to your extremities, the 'five P's' can occur: pulselessness, pain, pallor (colour), paresthesia (numbness) and paralysis (or weakness).(1).

The numbness and weakness happen after the blood flow have been reduced for a particularly prolonged period.

Cells in our body require a blood supply to stay alive (think about a stroke or heart attack for example). So a reduced supply can cause them to function abnormally or after a time (depending on the cell or tissue type) die.

So with a 'sleeping leg', staying in an awkward or particular position where arterial blood supply is blocked or reduced to the leg, the muscle, nerve tissue etc all lack supply hence causing sensory disturbance and weakness.

The possible buildup of metabolites could also contribute to the symptoms (pain).

Hope that helps!

  1. Miller's Anaesthesia - Miller.
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The linked explanation talks about squeezed nerves, and not about blocked blood supply. So I'm afraid your answer is actually incorrect: the arterial blood supply isn't blocked! $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 23, 2012 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ Check out the 3rd paragraph in that article Biocs - "This pressure can also squeeze arteries, stopping them from carrying nutrients to body cells." $\endgroup$
    – Zoidberg
    Commented Apr 24, 2012 at 2:51
  • $\begingroup$ The article states: "The pressure squeezes nerve pathways" and "This pressure can also squeeze arteries". Your answer does not mention nerves at all, whereas the article gives most weight to nerves. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 24, 2012 at 5:52
  • $\begingroup$ Cheers Biocs. Good point. I haven't found an academic source in any of the textbooks or material I have access to regarding the nerve nerve compression mentioned in the article. I'll check it out and edit it accordingly. $\endgroup$
    – Zoidberg
    Commented Apr 24, 2012 at 9:51
  • $\begingroup$ I wouldn't recommend deletion of an answer just because it is not exactly what the OP is looking for. The information might be of use to others. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 4:15

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .