LivingWhy do your feet go to sleep?

Why do your feet go to sleep?

Let’s imagine a parent giving a bottle to their child. Inevitably, the baby will fall asleep while eating and the arm on which the baby’s head rests will also fall asleep. Many of us tend to think that this is because when we press on the extremities (such as the arm or the foot), we prevent blood from flowing to that extremity, creating a tingling sensation and an inability to move that part of the body for a minute.

Actually, when we put pressure on a certain part of our body, we are compressing the nerve pathways in the process. When these nerve pathways cannot transmit messages from the brain to certain parts of the body, then that part of the body “falls asleep” because it cannot communicate with the thinking organ.

When we release that pressure, the member begins to “wake up.” This process is usually accompanied by a tingling sensation, which are the nerves in the extremities that reactivate their communication with the brain. Once normal communication between the brain and that part of the body resumes, the tingling sensation disappears.

Just a hassle?

This feeling is not just annoying. It actually has a very important purpose: to alert you that something is not right. If your foot falls asleep for 10 minutes, no problem. But if communication with the brain from a limb (and also blood circulation) is interrupted for an extended period of time, it could cause permanent damage to the nerves in that limb.

What is the clinical term for this sensation ?: Paresthesia

Paresthesia is generally described as the “pins and needles” sensation that occurs when a limb falls asleep. Although most of the time it is a transient condition, paresthesia can also be chronic, resulting from a demyelinating disease (such as multiple sclerosis, where the myelin sheath that surrounds nerve fibers in the central nervous system deteriorates) or from neuropathy, where the neurons are. This type of paresthesia does not occur as a result of uncomfortable placement of the limb, but rather as a result of the underlying problem.

Other forms of paresthesia

While the most common way to temporarily experience paresthesia is to cross your legs or arms for too long, there are other forms of paresthesia that can have long-term effects, and some are instantaneous.

Sometimes the tissue may apply pressure to our nerves, as in carpal tunnel syndrome. Many people who use computers frequently suffer from this syndrome, which occurs when inflamed tendons put pressure on the wrist and cause the hands to tingle.

While carpal tunnel can last for months or even years, some paresthesias last only a few seconds. A common one is when we hit the ulnar nerve at the elbow. The nerve runs from the shoulder to the little and ring fingers, but is especially sensitive around the elbow because it is not protected by the flesh. So when we hit that particular area of the elbow, the ulnar nerve sends a fast signal through the nerve ( and we see the stars ).

A passion for spicy food can cause a similar tingling sensation in the mouth. That sensation you experience when you bite into a bell pepper is caused by a pain receptor that reacts to capsaicin , the active chemical in chili. When activated, it tells your brain that your mouth is too hot.

So, in general, the numbness and tingling we feel is just the result of an uncomfortable position when sitting or sleeping and resolves only when we position ourselves differently. And remember: the feeling of needles in your feet, while irritating at times, is actually a very good thing.

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