If you’ve ever experienced the strange sensation of your arms or hands falling asleep at night, then you’ve probably also asked yourself why this occurs. The tingling and numbness may be jarring and frightening at first, especially if you aren’t sure of what’s causing it. Continue reading to learn the causes of this sensation, as well as how to prevent and treat it and when you may need to see your doctor.
Your arms and hands tingling or falling asleep at night could be caused by a variety of reasons, ranging from harmless to severe. Some of these reasons include:
Sleeping position. If you are laying on your arm or hand for too long, your body weight will exert pressure onto the nerves and may cause issues with blood circulation. This can also constrict the arteries and disrupt blood flow, depriving the tissue of blood and nutrients and preventing your arm from sending signals to or properly interpreting signal sent from the brain.
Vitamin B. A lack of vitamin B can not only contribute to fatigue, paleness, and drowsiness, but may also cause numbness in the arms and legs, especially at night.
Work. If you are constantly performing tasks that utilize your wrists, such as sewing, typing, and using scissors as part of your daily work, your wrists and the nerves within them can become overloaded. This causes tingling and numbness in the arms and hands, as well as moderate pain.
Pinched ulnar nerve. Pressure on the ulnar nerve in your arm can occur if you are sleeping with your elbow bent, and result in the nerve becoming trapped or pinched. This can cause numbness and tingling throughout the arm.
Fluid retention. Being overweight and not exercising enough can cause swelling in the hands and feet known as fluid retention that can result in a tingling sensation felt especially at night.
Stroke. One in every seven strokes occur while the patient is sleeping, and symptoms include slurred speech, blurred vision, headache, tingling, and numbness.
Carpal tunnel syndrome. One of the first symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome is numbness or tingling in the fingers at night that can radiate up the arm and into the shoulder.
Honeymoon palsy. This is when someone else puts pressure on a nerve on your outstretched arm, causing it to fall asleep. The radial nerve is commonly affected and it often results in a complete loss of sensation in your hands, arm, or experiencing a strong tingling sensation like pins and needles.
Saturday night palsy. This is when you fall asleep against a firm object, putting pressure on the nerves of the arm. The radial nerve becomes compressed resulting it falling asleep. The reference comes from having a long night out and falling asleep on a chair after drinking too much alcohol.
Diabetes. This metabolic disorder can result in many negative effects on the body, with nerve damage just being one of them. Over time, a condition called diabetic neuropathy may develop, leading to pain and numbness.
To prevent your hands and arms from falling asleep at night, you can employ one or more of the following strategies:
Change your sleeping position. Avoid sleeping in positions that put pressure on your arms or hands so that you do not restrict blood flow or compress any nerves. Change your position often to prevent any part of the body feeling numb or compressed.
Exercise. Regular exercise can improve circulation and help prevent your arms and hands from falling asleep.
Take breaks often. If your daily routine includes repetitive tasks that compress or strain your wrists, take breaks and shake them out to let your wrists rest.
Keep moving. It is a good idea to move your body every so often when sleeping to avoid placing your hand your body. Keeping arm away from the edge of the bed is also advised to avoid compressing the nerves.
Alternate hot and cold-water baths. Doing this helps to promote blood circulation. Immerse your affected arm or hand in hot or cold water then wrap your arm or hand in a hot or cold towel for relief.
Treat the underlying cause. If you happen to suffer from a chronic medical condition such as diabetes, it may be the cause for your presenting symptoms. Therefore, by managing your underlying condition, you will help relieve your hand or arm symptoms. In the cases of diabetes, proper management is control blood sugar levels.
Take your prescribed medication. If you had gone to a doctor and have gotten a diagnosis for your numbness and/or pain you would have most likely got a treatment for your condition. Taking this medication as prescribed by your doctor is curtail for making a recovery and feeling better.
This condition can be treated at home, provided it is not chronic or severe. Try running the affected area under warm and cold water to encourage better circulation. Take care to manage your stress levels as well, as becoming overwhelmed can lead to hyperventilation and tingling in the arms and hands. Treating the underlying causes of your tingling hands—such as a pinched nerve—can also provide relief, as can doctor prescribed anti-inflammatory medications or injections.
While the numbness and tingling alone may not be a cause for concern, it is important to see your doctor if you are experiencing other symptoms such as muscle weakness, pain, vision problems, issues with speech and coordination, or extreme dizziness in conjunction with the tingling, as this may signify a stroke.
While the tingling or numbness associated with your arms and hands falling asleep may be uncomfortable, it is not always serious. Something as simple as changing your sleeping position or exercising more may prevent and reduce this discomfort. However, if this tingling is accompanied by symptoms like pain, weakness, dizziness, vision, or speech problems, seek medical attention immediately as it may signify that you are having a stroke.