How To Sleep With A Dead Leg

How To Sleep With A Dead Leg UK (2024)

Last updated: 09.11.2023 Reading time: 9 Min.

Trying to fall asleep with a dead leg is tricky, to say the least.

You desperately want to catch some zzz’s, but the pain in your leg keeps you wide awake all night long.

Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to ease the discomfort while you drift off to sleep.

Say goodbye to restless nights and hello to a well-deserved, uninterrupted sleep.

In this article, we provide tips and tricks on how to sleep with a dead leg, along with the signs, symptoms and causes of this condition.

legs in bed

How to sleep with a dead leg

Between the pain and feeling of numbness, trying to sleep with a dead leg is downright uncomfortable.

A dead leg is a common condition where there is pain and numbness in the leg due to a muscle contusion, which is usually caused by a direct blow to the upper leg muscle.

Fortunately, these proactive steps can speed up your recovery and steer you towards how to get rid of a dead leg quickly.

Try the RICE regime

Within 24 - 48 hours after your injury, start the RICE regime [1].

hot and cold compress
Try the RICE regime to relieve a dead leg.

This method will control the swelling and reduce potential tissue damage so you can have a better night.

Implement these steps before you go to bed:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation

Let's look at all of these in a bit more detail.


Getting a good night's sleep starts in the daytime.

For the first 48 hours after your injury, you need to limit the weight on your injured leg.

resting on the couch
Rest on the couch with a friend to keep you company.

That means lying on the couch or in bed throughout the day and pulling back on your daily activities.


Make sure to apply ice just before you go to sleep.

You should also ice your dead leg throughout the day for 15 - 20 minutes every 1 - 2 hours.

You can use a bag of frozen peas or crushed ice wrapped in a damp cloth to prevent direct skin contact.

The cold temperature will help reduce blood flow to the injured area, decreasing swelling and tissue damage.


Once you have iced your leg, use an elastic bandage to apply gentle compression [2] around the injured site.

The bandage should be firm but not overly tight to compress the leg without cutting off circulation.

Go to sleep with this bandage around your leg to keep it supported and compressed throughout the night.


The final step of the RICE regime is to elevate your bandaged leg.

man with hands up
By following the RICE technique, you'll be in the best shape to deal with a dead leg.

Place a few pillows under your leg, or use a wedge pillow to elevate it above your heart. 🫀

The Milliard Wedge pillow, available on Amazon, is a great wedge option with a soft and cushioning memory foam top.


The elevation promotes better blood circulation and helps reduce swelling.

Find the best sleeping position

Now you've got the RICE method down, you need to find the most comfortable sleeping position for your leg.

Sleeping on your back is the easiest.

Place a pillow under your thighs to elevate your injury all night.

woman asleep with pillow under thighs
Lean back and relax with your dead leg elevated.

If you're a side sleeper, you could put a few thick pillows between your knees to elevate your thigh.

Create a barrier of pillows around your body, or use a body pillow to stop yourself from moving in the night and lowering your leg.

Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach where your weight is placed on the front of your thigh.

In any sleeping position, you must keep your leg compressed and elevated until the morning.

Consult a professional

Following the RICE regime is essential until a physiotherapist can assess you.

Ideally, this assessment should occur within the first 48 hours of the injury.

woman sleeping with medication
Speak to a medical professional if you're reaching for painkillers for several days.

A physiotherapy session can provide expert guidance and personalised treatment plans, ensuring you recover effectively and prevent potential complications.


Acupuncture offers an alternative approach to treating a dead leg at night. 💉

Acupuncture targets the root causes of a dead leg, like poor circulation and nerve compression.

It stimulates the body's natural healing response to reduce inflammation and improve blood flow.

This drug-free method can relieve leg cramps and promote overall relaxation, leading to a more restful night's sleep.

Consulting a qualified acupuncture practitioner is crucial to tailor a personalised treatment plan for maximum benefits.

Warming up before a workout

If you are suffering from a sports injury, you can reduce the risk of it happening again by doing a longer warm-up.

Stretching and warming up loosens your joints [3] and improves muscle blood flow, making them less likely to rip or twist during a workout.

woman doing yoga
Yoga is a great warm-up and cool-down.

Take the time to cool down after your workout with a walk or brief yoga routine.

Proper rest and appropriate management are essential for recovering the damaged muscles and blood vessels, enabling individuals to resume their normal activities smoothly.

What is a dead leg?

A dead leg is caused by an injury to the front of the thigh, usually a hard, direct blow.

This blow crushes the quadriceps muscle against the bone, damaging the affected area's muscle fibres [4] and small blood vessels. Ouch.

Woman in pain
The pain of a dead leg can make it difficult to relax at night.

The symptoms of a dead leg include:

  • Swelling
  • Bleeding
  • Localised pain
  • Limited mobility
  • Feeling of weakness or numbness
  • Lower back pain or back spasms
  • Difficulty walking

We go into more detail about each symptom further down in the article.

Unfortunately, the discomfort from a dead leg becomes more noticeable at night when the body is at rest and you’re not distracted. 🤕

That’s why it’s important to be diligent with your pain management before bed, including the RICE approach, supplements and over-the-counter painkillers.

We have more information on how to sleep with a dead leg further up.

What causes a dead leg?

As we've discussed, a dead leg is caused by a direct blow to the front of the thigh.

Here are a few incidents that could cause a dead leg:

  • Getting hit in the thigh by a ball or hockey stick
  • Your thigh hits a tree or stick in a skiing accident
  • Other accidents where there is a hard blow to the thigh

Any of these incidents could cause a sore, painful and uncomfortable dead leg.

What are the symptoms of a dead leg?

You need to make sure you actually have a dead leg and not another condition.

Here are the telltale signs.

Pain after injury to the thigh

One of the common symptoms of a dead leg is pain in the thigh area after an injury.

A thigh contusion can lead to significant discomfort and hinder mobility [5], whether it's a fall, impact, or strain.

A thigh contusion is a condition characterised by damage and bleeding within the quadriceps muscle, typically caused by a direct impact or blow to the thigh.

Bruising and swelling on the injury

A dead leg can also manifest as bruising and swelling around the injured thigh.

This discolouration and inflammation are typical signs of trauma to the area, indicating potential damage to blood vessels and soft tissues.

woman confused
Knowing what the symptoms of a dead leg are can alleviate any confusion.

Remember that sometimes there can be delayed bruising and swelling after an injury.

Altered sensation down the leg

Another indication of a dead leg is an altered sensation down the leg.

You might experience tingling, numbness, or a pins-and-needles sensation, all of which can be unsettling and may indicate nerve involvement. 🦵

Heavy, painful legs

Feeling like your legs are heavy and painful, especially at night, is another common symptom of a dead leg.

woman in different sleeping positions
A dead leg can leave you tossing and turning all night.

This heaviness can make your sore legs feel even worse, and it may disrupt your sleep.

Difficulty walking or moving the leg

Walking or moving the affected leg might be challenging when you have a dead leg.

The pain, stiffness, and altered sensation can limit your range of motion and make it harder to perform everyday activities.

When should you talk to a doctor?

In severe cases or if you experience consistent leg pain, it's crucial to consult a healthcare professional like a physio to help alleviate the pain. 🩺

They can advise you on how to help a dead leg so you can get on the road to recovery.

Conditions like anaemia or iron deficiency might also contribute to leg pain [6], so a thorough evaluation is necessary for a comprehensive diagnosis and management plan.

Get ahead of your dead leg

When it comes to sleeping with a dead leg, it’s essential to act quickly.

Start the RICE method within 24 - 48 hours, and diligently manage your pain.

Stay on top of your dead leg symptoms and seek a professional consult if the pain continues for long periods of time.

Frequently asked questions

  • How serious can a dead leg be?

    A dead leg is usually not serious if you undergo treatment and rest.

    However, in some cases,  it can lead to complications and other health conditions.

    For example, myositis ossificans [7] can develop from a dead leg if re-bleeding occurs during recovery. 

    In such cases, bone tissue may form within the muscle, leading to potential complications. 

    Additionally, if the dead leg is persistent, recurrent, or accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it's crucial to seek medical evaluation.

  • Can underlying medical conditions cause a dead leg?

    A dead leg is caused by an impact injury to the front of your thigh. 

    There is little evidence that underlying medical conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, peripheral neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis, anaemia or peripheral artery disease (PAD), contribute to a dead leg. 

    Nerve compression [8], often associated with conditions like sciatica or herniated discs in the lower back, can lead to referred pain down the leg. 

    The compression can create the feeling of a dead leg, particularly during periods of inactivity or while lying down.

    This isn’t necessarily a dead leg, but it can feel a lot like one. 

  • Why is my dead leg not going away?

    If your dead leg is not going away, it could be due to several reasons. 

    An injury to the leg can take time to heal fully, especially if it is severe.

    Inadequate rest or continuous strain on the affected leg can hinder healing. 

    If you've tried home remedies without improvement, seeking medical advice is essential to identify the root cause and receive appropriate treatment.

  • References

George arkley image

George Arkley

Content Writer

I’m always the first person to try the latest sleep hack - whether it’s drinking coffee or counting sheep. Now, I get to write about the latest sleep gadgets, mattresses and much more in a bid to help you find the perfect night’s sleep.

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