Here's What It Means When Your Toes Fall Asleep

Most of us know what it feels like to wake up after falling asleep on an arm and realize that it no longer feels like it's attached to our body. Or we sit for a long time in a certain position and our legs feel heavy and tingly when we try to stand up. That numbness we feel is usually temporary and goes away after a minute or two of relieving the pressure on the limb (via Harvard Health). It happens to enough people that we know not to worry too much about it. Toe numbness, on the other hand, is not nearly as common (via Very Well Fit). If you're having a hard time feeling your toes, or can't feel your shoes or the ground when your toes touch them, it could be cause for concern.

When body parts go numb, it's usually because there is some sort of problem with the nerves in that area. Imagine your nerves as tiny garden hoses, and the signals that allow you to feel things are the water that flows through the hose. If you pinch the hose or damage it, the water will not flow where it's supposed to. The same goes for your nerves. Applying pressure to nerves, whether you're sitting on your leg awkwardly or lying on your arm, can cause them to temporarily stop functioning. Irritation or damage to nerves can also cause signals to stop flowing which results in numbness.

Is your toe numbness simple or serious?

If your toes are feeling numb, you might have a pins-and-needles sensation, or just no sensation at all. The first thing you'll want to check is the fit of your shoes. Are they too tight? Shoes that don't fit correctly are the most common cause of numb toes. If you think your shoes may be pressing down on the nerves in your foot and causing toe numbness, it's probably time to size up or try a different style. But if you've ruled out shoes as the problem, you might be dealing with something more serious like diabetes. High blood sugar can damage nerves, and is often the first sign that someone has diabetes (via Very Well Fit). It's important to get checked for diabetes, because toe numbness can lead to ulcers, which can ultimately cause enough damage to require amputation.

Other causes of toe numbness include alcohol abuse, Raynaud's disease, Guillain-Barré syndrome, sciatica, and a host of other more rare conditions (via Healthline). To diagnose toe numbness, you may need a CT scan or an MRI To rule out spine abnormalities or signs of stroke. Nerve conduction studies may show a doctor if the electric current that normally goes through your nerves is flowing properly. If you notice increasing toe numbness, or have problems with numbness not going away quickly after changing positions or taking off your shoes, seeking medical attention will help you get to the root of this tricky issue.