Home / Blog December 20, 2022

Pain and Numbness in Arms and Hands While Sleeping? Here’s Why

Pain and numbness in the arms and hands while sleeping is the result of the compression of nerves in your body. This often occurs when your limbs get bent and pressed into awkward positions while you’re asleep. There are also many medical conditions that can make pins and needles more likely.

Pain and Numbness in Arms and Hands While Sleeping

Bearassentials

The median, ulnar, and radial nerves supply sensation from the elbow to the fingertips.

These nerves can get compressed during sleep, leading to a loss of sensation. Underlying conditions like diabetes can make things worse.

Sleeping on your side and using wrist braces may help prevent pins and needles. 

Did you know?
It’s possible to experience sensations of pain even in limbs that are no longer there. The phenomenon is called ‘phantom pain’ and has to do with nerve endings continuing to operate after amputation.

Do you sometimes wake up with no feeling in your limbs only to feel a burning sensation as they come back to life? Worried that it’s happening too often?

Pain and numbness in arms and hands while sleeping is often a harmless case of nerves being pressed down while in bed. However, there are some more serious potential triggers.

If you frequently experience pins and needles while sleeping, you may want to look into why. You may also be able to fix it with a tweak to your sleeping habits.

Why Do My Arms Go Numb When I Sleep?

Most healthy arms have nerves that allow you to feel, and if your arms go numb when you sleep, it’s because something is blocking those nerves from communicating with the rest of the limb. A handful of medical conditions and poor sleep posture are the main culprits that could be responsible.

If you’re out of position, your arm and wrist can get bent out of shape during the night, leaving your nerves compressed and your arm feeling lifeless. Here are the three main nerves and what they affect:

  1. Median. Responsible for three-quarters of the sensation in the palm of the hand from the thumb to the ring finger. Also gives feeling to the back side of those fingertips.
  2. Ulnar. Supplies feeling to the front and back side of the pinky and ring finger side of the hand.
  3. Radial. Responsible for sensation from the back of the arm all the way down to the back of the hand and thumb.

Why Do My Arms Go Numb When I Sleep

 

Why Do I Have Hand Pain At Night While Sleeping?

If you have hand pain at night while sleeping, it may be related to compression of the same nerve endings that lead to numbness. As the feeling comes back, there can be uncomfortable pins and pricks.

However, more serious and chronic pain may be explained by damaged nerves.

The condition is known as neuropathic pain, and an estimated 7-10% of the population experiences it.

Nervous system diseases like shingles are famous examples of conditions that can lead to neuropathic pain, but there are some more common ones, too.

Medical Conditions That Can Lead To Arm And Hand Numbness At Night

If you wake up every now and then with numbness followed by slight pain, it might not be a serious problem.

However, there are many medical conditions that can make these symptoms more frequent.

Diabetes

One side effect of diabetes that doesn’t get a lot of airtime is the fact that high blood glucose levels can have consequences for your nerves. That, along with high fat levels, can lead to nerve and blood vessel damage, which may in turn lead to numbness in your hands while sleeping.

Alcoholism

Another disease that has a bad relationship with diabetes is alcoholism. As a drug that affects the central nervous system, alcohol can have strong impacts on sensations in your limbs, and chronic overdrinking may result in numbness or pain during the night.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Attention all keyboard warriors, gamers, and anyone else who puts frequent strain on their wrists. Stress on that part of the body can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome down the road, a condition that causes numbness and pain by blocking the median nerve. It also often leaves people waking up with numb hands.

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

On the opposite side of the hand – the pinky and ring finger side – we have the Ulnar nerve. Overuse on that side of the hand could lead to the lesser known cubital tunnel syndrome. The symptoms are the same as its carpal tunnel cousin, only on the other side of your hand.

Cervical Spondylosis

Do you sit with your neck craned at a screen all day? Make repetitive movements as part of a manual labor job? This can lead to unwanted friction in the cervical spine – the upper bit where the nerves in the arm connect. Too much wear and tear in that part of the body can lead to tingling in your fingers and hands at night.

Bodily Injuries

If it’s not wear and tear over a long period of time, sudden trauma could be the cause of the night time numbness. Broken arms, damage to your upper back, or even certain overuse injuries could lead to nerve damage down the line.

How To Reduce Numbness In Your Hands When Sleeping

If you find yourself waking up with numb fingers or arms on a consistent basis and are concerned, seeing a doctor should be the first action you take.

For those who experience this feeling irregularly and want to see if adjustments make a difference, you can try a few of the tips here.

Avoid Sleeping On Your Stomach

Lying on your hands or arms while you sleep is a surefire way to end up numb. And avoiding lifeless limbs is just one of many reasons to stay off your stomach while you sleep. So if this is a position you frequently find yourself in throughout the night, you may want to start sleeping on your back or side.

Use A Body Pillow To Stay On Your Side

If stomach sleeping is public enemy number one for the nerves in your arms, their best buddy is side sleeping. Studies show side sleeping is the best position for preventing numb limbs as pressure is more evenly spread across the body.

If you’re someone who struggles to sleep on your side, you may want to try switching up your pillow of choice. A body pillow is a good support option for many side sleepers, since it can keep you in position throughout the night while relieving pressure.

Our body pillow might be a good option if you’re looking for a soothing pillow made from all-natural, organic materials.

Wear A Wrist Brace To Bed

If you suspect that you have carpal tunnel or cubital tunnel syndrome, a brace may be exactly what you need to avoid numbness. They help by preventing your wrist from getting bent out of shape, alleviating pressure from the median and ulnar nerves. Just make sure that you choose one comfortable enough to sleep with.

Conclusion

If you frequently notice pain or numbness in your arms and hands while sleeping, it could be because an underlying condition is compressing the nerves in your arm. Supporting yourself in a side-sleeping position with a body pillow like the Cuddler or using braces may help keep the pressure off.

Pins and needles in the middle of the night stem from nerves not being able to send the right signals, and often changing sleep positions can help you on your way to pain-free wakeup.