My legs don't work!
July 10, 2010 2:58 PM   Subscribe

I have an unusual memory from childhood that I have always wondered about. Was it partial sleep paralysis? Circulation cut off? A dream?

I was about 10 years old or so. I was with my parents, visiting my great aunt, whom I had never met before. We stayed at her house and I had my own room. My parents were out of the house for some reason, and I stayed behind in my room.

I was drowsy. I remember laying on my back, with my legs bent at the knee hanging off the side of the bed. After a while I fell asleep.

I then woke up (at least I think I did). I tried to stand and found that my legs wouldn't hold me and I then found myself like a dead weight on the floor next to the bed. I remember feeling embarrassed and hoped that no one would walk in at that moment and find me incapacitated. I was only slightly panicked wondering why my legs didn't work.

Somehow and with some effort with my arms (and maybe my legs eventually as they came out of their stupor?) I got my self back up onto the bed. And here is where my memory ends. Nothing like that has happened since.

I know no one can answer for certain, but I'd like your conjectures. What do you think happened to me? Just a very real dream? Did the circulation in my legs get cut off and cause me to not be able to use my legs for a moment? Was it some sort of partial sleep paralysis? Something else?

Has anything like this ever happened to you?
posted by batonthefueltank to Science & Nature (15 answers total)
Yeah, I have this happen all the time. Usually if I'm sleeping in an unfamiliar environment or if I'm taking a nap during the day. It's always how you describe and it's incredibly hard to move or try to talk. It's actually really stressful and when I do eventually wake up for real, I wake up with a violent jolt (maybe because I was trying so hard to move in my dream) or making a gasping sound.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 3:04 PM on July 10, 2010

Sounds like your legs just fell asleep from the weird position.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:04 PM on July 10, 2010

^ You don't typically end up on the floor from sleep paralysis, since it, you know, paralyzes you.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:05 PM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh I forgot to mention and I don't know if this is similar to you, but while I'm dreaming, I know that I'm dreaming and I'm trying to move or to talk to wake myself up or to alert the person next to me to wake me up. My boyfriend knows that if I start moving or making sounds in my sleep to shake me awake. I really don't like it when those dreams happen to me.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 3:05 PM on July 10, 2010

I've had a very strange relationship with sleep most of my life. Once when my ancient and very loud phone rang across the room (it was mom, who wanted to wake me) I managed to roll out of bed (literally) and dragged myself across the room using only my right arm, the I attempted to answer the phone with my left which would not work. After a few more rings I realized I could use my right am and informed mom "can't talk now, I have kitten falling out of my pockets."

Yes, my left arm and my legs were dead asleep and not controllable. I wasn't fully awake until after I had hung up the phone.

From the sound of it, you visited that same sleep-awake place where your legs plain didn't work, but you were somewhat awake. Ever tried to make a perfect (strong) fist the moment you awake in the morning and find that you can't? Sometimes the body doesn't quite catch up to the whole "awake" thing (and sometimes the mind doesn't).
posted by dabitch at 3:08 PM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, since you were ten you were in the prime age of sleepwalking, kids move around a lot in their sleep. It's likely that your legs fell asleep in that position and you rolled off/fell off the bed just from fidgeting, then you were slightly awake enough to try and get back on the bed just to find the fun in non-working limbs [and the twang of being embarrassed like any emotion in that state is amplified tenfold]. At least you didn't wake up on the balcony covered in snow like I did at that age. ;)
posted by dabitch at 3:13 PM on July 10, 2010

I think your legs just fell asleep. The sensation, exactly as you describe it, is not uncommon for me.
posted by desuetude at 3:22 PM on July 10, 2010

Earlier this year, I got out of bed in the morning and fell straight to the ground. It was actually rather funny. Hasn't happened since. It was probably sleeping in an odd position that did it.
posted by good day merlock at 3:34 PM on July 10, 2010

I remember laying on my back, with my legs bent at the knee hanging off the side of the bed.

So funny that you should bring this up. I just recently had a friend tell me about how another of her friends many years ago had passed out drunk in just that position, and ended up crippling herself for several months. I seem to recall it was due to nerve damage in her lower back from the pressure created while staying in the position for many hours. Perhaps you pinched that nerve?
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:42 PM on July 10, 2010

Yep, that's exactly what people mean when they say "my foot's asleep" and the like. Happens to me pretty regularly, especially in movie theatres, since I tend to sit with my ankle resting on my knee, which is dumb.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:01 PM on July 10, 2010

(I've also experienced sleep paralysis; it's a full-body immobility--totally different.)
posted by Sys Rq at 4:02 PM on July 10, 2010

I experienced something like this once as a kid--I woke up and just could not stand up. I managed to get myself somewhat upright, but was very, very wobbly. This lasted about twenty minutes. Nothing has ever happened like that to me since.

No idea why. But you're not alone.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:51 PM on July 10, 2010

Yep. Have done it as an adult as well, just not for as long. I've had it happen with my arms more often and it's apparently quite funny watching me try to rub my hair/face or blow my nose with arms uncontrollable from the elbows down.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:56 PM on July 10, 2010

I had this happen too. I woke up in the morning and just could not walk. All I could do was crawl around. The doctor said it was just "aches and pains" possibly from a growth spurt. I don't remember how long I was like that, but it went away pretty quickly.
posted by DMan at 1:07 PM on July 11, 2010

Thanks everyone for your feedback and stories. I figured it was something like pinched nerves/my legs falling asleep, or something along those lines. I do wish I had kitten in my pockets though.
posted by batonthefueltank at 7:48 PM on July 12, 2010

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