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Rubbing feet while sleeping: Is it something to worry about?
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Rubbing feet while sleeping: Is it something to worry about?

Rubbing your feet together or ‘cricketing’ while sleeping could often be a habit in individuals, but experts say it might be a sign of an underlying condition
Rubbing your feet while sleeping can have a calming effect on mind and body and release happy hormones, thereby leading to a good sleep,
Rubbing the feet together or cricketing is most likely to be seen in those with neurodivergence disorders. (Photo by Anantha Subramanyam K / Happiest Health)

While in sleep, individuals are often seen snoring, drooling and sleep talking but have you come across someone rubbing their feet together in sleep. This rare habit, where the individual might involuntarily rub their feet together is called ‘Cricketing’ in sleep. “Cricketing” is derived from the term ‘cricket’, which refers to an insect that rubs its hind legs to produce sound. Rubbing your feet while sleeping can have a calming effect on mind and body and release happy hormones thereby leading to a good sleep, says Tasneem Nakhoda, Psychotherapist, Behavioural Therapy, Tattva, Bangalore.

Cricketing in sleep may also stimulate nerve endings in your foot and release neurotransmitters such as oxytocin which helps in reducing stress, says Dr Rohan R Naick, consultant pulmonologist, SPARSH Hospital, Bangalore. “This might be a common habit in many people, but rubbing the feet together or cricketing is most likely to be seen in those with neurodivergence disorders such as autism or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Though rubbing one’s feet in sleep may be harmless, engaging in such habits for a longer period can be an indication of certain health conditions as well.

Rubbing feet in sleep can be a sign of epilepsy

Experts say that the soles of an individual’s feet are the most sensitive part in the body as they have got more nerve endings. This is the reason why rubbing the feet gives an individual a soothing effect. “If an individual has been doing this (cricketing their feet) daily, it can be a sign of epilepsy, a condition where an individual experiences involuntary movement of the limbs and sensations, accompanied by a loss of consciousness,” says, Dr Sudhir Kumar, neurologist, Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad.

He added that an individual with severe epilepsy can also rub their feet while sleeping and it usually happens without their knowledge. A more serious effect of the epileptic attack would be the loss of consciousness. However, if it’s a minor case of epilepsy, they may rub their feet in sleep and stop after some time.

Dr Kumar also says that individuals with epilepsy are more likely to get sleep disorders like insomnia and restless legs syndrome. “An individual with Restless Legs Syndrome experiences discomfort or pain in the knees and often to get rid of the pain, they may either shake or rub their legs. This condition happens in their sleep or during long road journeys where the individual has to sit for hours,” he explained.

Five self-soothing habits to get better sleep

According to a study published in the Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal, reflexology and foot bath was found to be effective on the elderly and it also helped in improving their quality of sleep.

However, experts highlight that the following techniques can also promote relaxation and improve sleep quality of the individuals:

  1. Establishing a consistent routine:

Following a consistent bedtime routine that is going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can help individuals to sleep better and reduce the risk of sleep disorders, say experts.

  1. Ensure a good sleeping environment:

Sleeping in a brightly lit room or blue light from electronic devices like smartphones can reduce the melatonin levels and affect the sleep-wake cycle. Keeping away gadgets and sleeping in a dimly lit room will ensure a good night’s rest.

  1. Practice mindfulness:

Following guided meditations, engaging in yoga, and breathing exercises can help in reducing the stress of an individual and promote sleep.

  1. Avoid alcohol and caffeine intake during bedtime:

Consuming alcohol or caffeine close to bedtime may irritate the stomach leading to disrupting the sleep of an individual. Hence, it is better to avoid drinking alcohol or caffeine before going to bed, explains Dr Kumar.

  1. Reading a book or listening to audio:

Reading a book or listening to audio stories or music can help in soothing a stressed mind and lowering the cortisol levels. Reducing stress and anxiety can help an individual transition to sleep easily.

 Takeaways

  • Rubbing one’s feet in sleep may seem involuntary and harmless. However, engaging in such habits for a longer period may be an indication of various health conditions.
  • Research has found reflexology and foot bath to be effective on the elderly and it also helped in improving their quality of sleep.
  • Soothing techniques like practicing mindfulness, following a consistent sleep schedule can help get a good quality sleep.

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