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Numbness While Sleeping On The Side: Why It Happens And Easy Solutions

Numbness while sleeping on the side usually happens when nerves in the body are compressed. This is often the result of joints flexing into odd positions during sleep. However, there are a few medical conditions that can also contribute to numb limbs like slipped discs and even tumors.

Numbness While Sleeping On The Side


There are several important nerve pathways in the arms and legs that can get cut off during sleep, leading to numbness.

Certain medical conditions can also worsen numbness during sleep.

Changes to your side sleeping posture with body pillows may help relieve pressure across the body and prevent numbness. 

Did you know?
Doctors can test nerve conduction velocity (NCV) to see how responsive your nerves are. Depending on the nerve, NCV can be roughly in the range of 50-70 meters per second.

Are you a faithful side sleeper who recently started getting numb limbs? Or maybe you’re trying to make the switch from back or stomach position?

Either way, numbness while sleeping on the side can be alarming. Having tingling limbs is normal every once in a while, but if it happens too often it may be time to take a good hard look at your situation.

In many cases, small adjustments to your sleeping position can resolve the problem. However, there are some medical conditions that will make this more difficult.

Why Does The Left Side Of My Body Go Numb When I Lay Down?

While many conditions can lead to the left side of your body going numb during sleep, they all have a root cause: compressed nerves.

If you snooze with your wrist under your head or your elbow at harsh angles, nerves get pressed down. When that happens, you can start to lose feeling.

In a previous article, we covered pain and numbness while sleeping. One of the best overall pieces of advice is to watch the way you sleep and avoid placing pressure on those nerves.

Some Of The Nerves Impacted By Sleep

When sleeping on the side, numbness can spread to several areas. The arms, hands, and legs are common spots to look out for.

It makes sense. After all, when we first creep into bed, curling up into a tight fetal position can feel incredibly secure. Maybe we’ll throw a hand or two under the pillow. Possibly even between the legs.

But when we do this, we risk putting the squeeze on some important centers for sensation.

Important Nerves In The Upper Body

In the arms, the nerves to look out for are the median, ulnar, and radial nerves. This trio of pathways supplies sensation to most of the arm as well as the hand. They all start their journey in the armpit, so adding weight to that area may be the source of your side-sleeping problem

Important Nerves In The Lower Body

In the legs, the nerves to look out for start in different areas and branch into other crucial pathways:

  1. Lateral femoral cutaneous nerve. Starts in the lower back and runs down the front and side of your thighs.
  2. Sciatic nerve. The largest nerve in the body that stretches from the lower back and down the back side of each leg.
  3. Peroneal nerve. Branch of the sciatic nerve that gives sensation to the front and sides of the lower leg and top of the foot.
  4. Tibial nerve. Starts behind the knee and supplies feeling to the back of lower leg and bottom of foot. 

Pre-existing Conditions That Can Compress Nerves

While one crucial way to fight off the tingles during slumber is to give your nerves room to work, there are sometimes inner forces out of your control.

Any of the following conditions could be sending your limbs to sleep.

Cervical Spondylosis

Spondylosis sounds very serious, especially when you put ‘cervical’ in front, but in most cases the result is mild discomfort. It’s a condition characterized by irregular formations in the spine, such as bone spurs. These can press on nerves and spread numbness to the arms while sleeping on the side.

Tumors And Cysts

Whether it’s a benign cyst or a harmful tumor, growths inside the body often put pressure on unexpected areas within the body. In the brain, this can lead to headaches. In other areas of the body, it can cause nerve compression and a loss of feeling.

Slipped Disc

Whether you’re an athlete, a manual laborer, or you have a garden that requires a lot of bending down, you’ve probably heard of slipped discs. They happen when the disc between vertebrae pop out due to overwork or trauma. They’re most common in the lower and upper back area around the neck and can put pressure on nerves.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Another injury associated with overuse is carpal tunnel syndrome. If you spend a large portion of the day tapping away at a keyboard, you may be at risk. Along with its lesser-known cousin, cubital tunnel syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome often leads to numbness in the hands while sleeping.

Multiple Sclerosis

An immune system disease that attacks nerve fiber covers, multiple sclerosis is another condition that can lead to a loss of sensation in the limbs, often on one side of the body. Other symptoms include a lack of coordination and cognitive impairments.

Strokes And Transient Ischemic Attacks

Strokes and transient ischemic attacks (sometimes called mini-strokes) can lead to permanent nerve damage that causes numbness. They can also happen at any time. If you’re experiencing a prolonged lack of sensation in any part of your body or think you may be having a stroke, contact a doctor immediately.

High BMI

One very common condition associated with numb limbs at night is obesity. Studies have shown that higher BMI is correlated with instances of a lack of sensation. If you’re on the heavier side, it could be one explanation for arms and legs falling asleep.

When Should I Be Worried About Numbness?

There are many more potential causes for numbness than what’s listed in this article. Some are more serious than others.

But for the most part, if you experience numbness in your body while sleeping, it’s likely nothing to worry about. The exception is if it happens very frequently or if it continues after waking.

You know your body best, so if you notice irregular numbness, make note of where it is and see a doctor. They may order several tests to see what the cause is.

Does Side Sleeping Cause Neuropathy

Does Side Sleeping Cause Neuropathy?

Neuropathy, or painful sensations caused by damaged nerves, is similar to numbness in that it has several potential causes. It’s also similar in that strange sleeping positions can make it worse.

However, side sleeping isn’t necessarily a problem. It’s only an issue if you’re sleeping in a side position that puts pressure on the nerves.

As with numbness in the body, make sure that you’re not bending your arms or legs at strange angles or laying your head on your wrists.

How A Body Pillow Can Help You While Side Sleeping

Want relief from those nighttime pins and needles? You may want to give our huggable Cuddler a try. Its ergonomic shape and flexibility enables it to mould to any body shape for maximum support and comfort.

And if you use a body pillow properly, they can keep the shoulders and hips open. According to studies, this helps to create a more even distribution of pressure throughout the body. Here’s how to make the magic happen and fight numbness at night.

Body Pillow Trick For Arm Numbness

If you experience numbness in your arms while sleeping on your side, there’s a good chance it’s because gravity is pushing your shoulders together and compressing the radial nerve. To prevent this, try hugging a body pillow.

Place it lengthwise along the center of your body, resting one arm under the pillow and one arm over. This can prevent the shoulders from closing in on each other and pinching the nerves in your arms.

Body Pillow Trick For Leg Numbness

With your body pillow in the same position, wrap your legs around the lower portion for hip-opening benefits. It works the same way it does for the shoulders, keeping the hips open and preventing gravity from putting pressure on the nerves.

It may also keep your spine in a healthier position, preventing painful strain on the sciatic nerve.

Body Pillow Trick For Hand Numbness

If you suffer from numbness in your hands while sleeping, you’ll want to keep your head as far away as possible. Fight the temptation to tuck one or both hands under your pillow and head

If you need to have your hand under something, keep it under the Bearaby body pillow while it’s supporting the shoulders and hips. It’ll give you a similar sense of security without the excessive weight.

Other Solutions For Numbness While Sleeping On The Side

While a body pillow can give you plenty of relief from lifeless limbs, there are other remedies that you can look for.

For short term solutions to hand and arm numbness, you could try wrist and elbow braces. They work for many people by keeping the joints in healthy positions throughout the night. 

For long term solutions, losing weight is at the top of the list. It may take some time, but it can be a great way to improve quality of life in many ways, including sleep.


Numbness while sleeping on the side can happen because of many underlying medical conditions from slipped discs to multiple sclerosis. If you’re worried about chronic numbness, it’s best to see a doctor.

However, in many cases numbness stems from placing pressure on nerves during sleep. Our Cuddler may help with that by relieving pressure across the body.

Whatever’s causing your issue, there’s hope through medical intervention or making simple changes to your sleep routine like using body pillows.