More Resources Questions Moms Ask: Why Do I Sleep With One Leg Bent Up?

Questions Moms Ask: Why Do I Sleep With One Leg Bent Up?

Ladies, do you sleep with one leg bent up towards your abdomen? It is a common sleeping position for many women, but - either through curiosity or in an effort to explain a level of physical discomfort, it's perfectly reasonable to wonder '"Why Do I Sleep With One Leg Bent Up?"' There are actually a few reasons why women might sleep this way, and in this blog post, the Limerick team will discuss some of the most common ones. Let's get started.

Questions Moms Ask: "Why Do I Sleep With One Leg Bent Up?"

What do we mean by 'sleeping with one leg bent up?'

For the avoidance of doubt, before we begin answering today's core question of '"Why Do I Sleep With One Leg Bent Up?"', we want to clearly define the position that we're dealing with in this blog. What we're talking about here is a situation where the sleeper has one knee raised towards their abdomen, but in such a way that the knee is still laying flat against the mattress (as opposed to a situation where the leg is bent so that the knee is raised vertically away from the mattress).

Questions Moms Ask: "Why Do I Sleep With One Leg Bent Up?"

A Feeling of Instability in Bed

If you're one of those women asking '"Why Do I Sleep With One Leg Bent Up?"' then you might be interested to know that one of the reasons why might be  because it provides a sense of stability. When we sleep, the more of a 'contact patch' that we can maintain with the mattress, the less likely we are to roll over. Bending one leg up as described above can help to prevent us from rolling over, making us feel more secure.

From a purely physiological standpoint it's also more likely that a woman will be lighter than the person they're sharing the bed with, and may end up sleeping on a sloped surface as the mattress compresses more under their partner than it does under them. This makes stability even more important

In addition, women are more likely to want to sleep on their side. We'll discuss why in a later section, but the fact remains that sleeping like this reduces your 'contact patch' with the mattress (because you're lying on a patch the width of one arm rather than the width of your shoulders) and makes it more likely that you'll roll over in the night.

Questions Moms Ask: "Why Do I Sleep With One Leg Bent Up?"

Temperature Regulation

Another reason why people sleep in this position is to help regulate body temperature. When we sleep, our bodies produce heat, and furthermore,  if parts of the body are touching each other there's nowhere for this heat to go. If we get too hot in bed, it can be distracting and uncomfortable - either preventing us from sleeping or waking us up as a result. Bending one leg up can help us to avoid becoming too hot in this way, as the position does a good job of separating out each limb and your core and torso, and therefore allows for heat to be more evenly distributed about the body as we lie in bed.

Questions Moms Ask: "Why Do I Sleep With One Leg Bent Up?"

Medical Conditions

In some cases, sleeping with one leg bent up can be a sign of a medical condition. For example, people with muscle or joint pain (whether chronic or temporary), or certain health conditions may find that sleeping like this helps to relieve or avoid the pain or discomfort they feel.

In addition, let's not forget that in addition to heat, medical conditions such as eczema, rashes etc can also make skin on skin contact uncomfortable, and this discomfort can prevent sleep. One solution is therefore to avoid that contact (just as when trying to avoid excessive heat build-up), and once again this sleep position can achieve that goal.

Some women also report that laying flat on their back or stomach can also make breathing more difficult, as both positions see their breasts put pressure on their lungs. While it's not a 'medical condition' as such we can certainly understand why breastfeeding moms may see their breasts causing sleep issues too - either as a result of engorgement, leaks, soreness from feeding, or other breastfeeding issues. Side sleeping can relieve this, but may also create a greater feeling of instability for the reasons that we discussed in the 'stability' section earlier.

Questions Moms Ask: "Why Do I Sleep With One Leg Bent Up?"

Sleeping in a Bed That's Not Long Enough

Finally, some women may sleep with one leg bent up simply because they're sleeping in a bed that can't accommodate their full height. For some people this isn't a problem, but for others however this can be very distracting and uncomfortable. If that's the case for you you may - either consciously or unconsciously - make the decision to bend one leg up to stay entirely under the covers.

Questions Moms Ask: "Why Do I Sleep With One Leg Bent Up?"

Is sleeping in this position bad for me?

It's generally accepted that this isn't the best sleeping position to adopt, in particular because it's believed to put extra pressure on the pelvis. However, it should also be noted that even the sleeping position widely accepted to be the best for most people - flat on your back - is the worst position for snoring and for those with sleep apnea. So, there are benefits and drawbacks to all sleep positions. Lastly, let’s not forget that when a given position is causing discomfort (and greater potential to do harm), in most cases we wake up and move, we roll over while still asleep, - we do something to change position and stop that harm being done.

Questions Moms Ask: "Why Do I Sleep With One Leg Bent Up?"

Is there anything I can do about sleeping in this position?

Of course, without forgetting that the positions we adopt for sleep aren't always conscious, deliberate decisions on our part, there are a couple of steps that you can take to mitigate any harm that this position might be doing, and stop your leg from bending upwards as you sleep. For instance, placing a pillow between your knees will help to support your lower back and hips and prevent you from putting too much strain on these joints. If, however, you'd prefer to avoid adopting the position altogether, some people find that loosely tying their feet together with something soft (like a scarf or the waistband from a bathrobe) will prevent them from raising that knee up as they sleep, without constraining them to a degree where it's uncomfortable.

Questions Moms Ask: "Why Do I Sleep With One Leg Bent Up?"

For Further Information

If you'd like to learn more about this topic then you may want to read these helpful pieces from, and Alternatively, for more practical breastfeeding help, take a look at the Limerick resource center.