It’s night. You’re sleeping soundly and peacefully in your bed. But, suddenly, an extremely uncomfortable and unnerving sensation wakes you up. Your hand or arm feels numb, or rather as if thousands of needless have stung it.
The feeling may last for a few seconds or even minutes but seemingly goes away as you try to move your fingers and hand. The often terrifying sensation is known as a dead arm or paresthesia and can be described as a hand or arm falling asleep.
Whether this happens often or rarely, it’s important to know the causes and what can you do to stop it and prevent it. The reasons behind a dead arm when sleeping can be plentiful, and they can be both mild and severe, which is why it’s important to be informed about the causes.
What is Paresthesia?
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, paresthesia is a numb, burning, or stinging sensation which you may feel in your limbs, arms, hands, and even feet. It can be extremely unnerving and could take some time to stop, especially if it occurs when you’re asleep.
There’s no warning to when this event can occur, it can occur at any time regardless of the reason. The sensation itself is extremely unpleasant and uncomfortable but isn’t described as painful.
What Causes Paresthesia in Sleep?
You’d be surprised to know that there are a lot of causes for the paresthesia.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome – occurs when there’s repeating motion, from arms, fingers, and even legs. It’s a result of too much pressure on certain nerves. It’s more prominent in pregnant women, people who retain fluids, and those who work at jobs where the repetitive finger or hand movement is required.
- Diabetes – Paresthesia in sleep can also commonly occur in people who suffer from diabetes. It’s known as an entirely different condition, called diabetes neuropathy, according to scientists.
- Vitamin B Deficiency – It can cause a lot of conditions like anemia. That said, it’s also one of the main culprits of arm falling asleep at night.
- Injury – If you’ve suffered some kind of an arm or traumatic head injury, you’re more likely to suffer from a dead arm when sleeping.
- Stroke – The last and most critical reason for arm falling asleep during the night could be a stroke. This ischemic series of attacks is also followed by numbness across the face and other parts of the body.
- Multiple Sclerosis – If you wake up during the night to dead arm, it could be the beginning signals of multiple sclerosis. If this happens frequently, follow the symptoms and see whether it occurs during the day too.
How to Prevent Dead Arm When Sleeping
As mentioned, there can be various reasons as to why someone experiences dead arm when sleeping. Let’s highlight the most common ways to prevent it and see how it works.
Sleep in a Neutral Position
Hand or arm falling asleep can happen as a result of sleeping in an uncomfortable position. Oftentimes, our body is naturally searching for the most comfortable sleeping position. However, those positions may shift as a result of sleep disruptions like noise or brightness in the room.
Your hand may sometimes move under the pillow and get pressed my head, under the chest, or behind the back, which may result in arms falling asleep and uncomfortable sensations once you wake up. The arm may also fall asleep if you’re clenching a fist in your sleep or trying to maneuver hand in a weird position.
Be cautious of sleep positions you utilize while you sleep and try to find a pillow that keeps your body in a neutral position.
Keep in mind that constant tossing and turning can be a result of a poor quality mattress, pillow, or other things you place on your bed.
Several studies recommend the use of optimized pillows that will improve your sleep quality. We all have different sleeping preferences which may result in the use of different pillows that ensure our comfort. One study stands out in recommending the optimized pillows to improve sleeping in certain positions.
Finding a good pillow is not an easy task. However, there are special types of pillows called spooning and cuddling pillows that boast special ergonomics that allow the arm to be positioned comfortably under the pillow. The specialized Coodle pillow is also great for preventing your hands and arms from going numb while you sleep.
There are also other spooning pillows worth checking out. One thing is inevitable and it’s that a pillow plays a huge role in comfortable sleep.
One of the common causes of hand or arm falling asleep is carpal tunnel syndrome, which manifests as discomfort and pain in the wrists or arms due to repetitive tasks.
However, experts studied this syndrome a lot and found the link between vitamin B and its additions like B6 and B12 and reducing symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
While taking vitamin B won’t solve the problem with the dead arm occurring directly, it will soothe the conditions that lead to this happening.
Foods rich in vitamin B:
Vitamin B deficiency doesn’t always require vitamin intake through supplements. You’d be surprised to know how many healthy foods are rich in this healthy vitamin. Take a look below:
- Whole-grain foods (millet, brown rice, rice, barley)
- Meat (fish, red meat)
- Dairy products like milk and cheese.
- Fruits (especially citrus fruits but can also be found in bananas and avocadoes)
- Leafy vegetables (spinach, broccoli)
- Seeds and nuts like almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
The dead arm can happen as a result of fluid retention. Fluid retention can happen for several reasons. For women, it can happen because their period is approaching or as a result of pre and menopause. Fluid retention can also happen as a result of high salt intake.
There are several ways to fix this problem. While salts bind to water as a result of eating fat-saturated foods and sugars, drinking a lot of water can help break those saline solutions down and cause you to release excess water through urination.
Other ways to help with water retention include magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, as well as herbs like parsley and ginger tea. Both are extremely rich in iron and vitamin C and help with water retention.
Read More: Is It Good To Drink Water Before Sleep?
Dead Arm When Sleeping Treatment
If prevention of dead arm when sleeping doesn’t yield good results, it’s time to consult with doctors and see what you can do to treat it so it’d happen less or completely. If you notice some of the following symptoms that happen simultaneously with a dead arm when sleeping, you should visit the doctor immediately.
- Muscle weakness
- Vision blurring or loss
- Speech difficulties
Alongside the above-mentioned methods to prevent the dead arm when sleeping, here are the methods that will help you stop it.
Reduce Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol is bad (for sleep) for so many reasons. Not only does it disrupt the health of your liver and digestive system, but it can also disrupt your healthy sleep cycle, cause sleep deprivation or insomnia, and much more. Scientists also noticed a link between waking up with a dead arm and alcohol. It’s otherwise known as the alcohol neuropathy.
Luckily, the problem can be solved by reducing or eliminating alcohol intake if necessary. The results will show after a few days or weeks.
Wrist guards are designed to keep your arms and wrists in a straight position. It also helps relieve excess pressure from the median nerve.
This is extremely helpful for people who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome or want to prevent it. That said, wrist guards or splints are the most effective for people who type a lot and have to perform a lot of repetitive tasks throughout the day.
Exercising is a good prevention method for a dead arm when sleeping. However, it can still help even after it started happening regularly.
Exercising is good for our health and our sleep hygiene, especially if we do it in the morning after we wake up. Performing heavy exercises late at night isn’t a good idea, because it can trigger your digestive system and brain and result in insomnia.
If you can’t exercise too much, even stretching exercises will help you stretch bones and muscle and contribute to better blood flow in your body. Another good way to prevent or reduce waking up with a dead arm is to perform strengthening exercises, as well as posture exercises.
There are also special exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome so you’ll have an easier time treating it if you have it.
Whether you wake up with a dead arm in the night just occasionally or because you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, topical treatment using Lidocaine patches or some cream that is massaged into the skin is a great way to not only reduce the effects of the dead arm but also prevent it.
A 2014 study found that topical menthol can be used to reduce the effects of carpal tunnel syndrome-induced pain.
With proper consultation with a doctor specialist, you should be able to find a medicine that’ll help you reduce the effects of arm numbness in sleep. Researchers found that some antidepressant medicines help with reducing numbness. Additionally, some medicines for epilepsy have shown to help relieve numbness.
Magnesium is extremely helpful for sleep. There are special types of magnesium that can be used to sleep, fall asleep easier, and remain asleep. The reason for that is because magnesium can relax our muscles and it’s also beneficial to relaxing the central nervous system. That’s why many people use it to relieve pain caused by numbness and avoid waking up with a dead arm.
Sometimes, the numbness in arms and hands can be a result of other conditions besides carpal tunnel syndrome. Some people get numb hands while sleeping as a result of bulging disks, ganglion cysts, and other causes. Surgery is an option when no other treatments showed success. It’s used to fix the compressed or twisted nerves or veins that could be causing the numbness.
Even though arm falling asleep during the night can be a result of serious conditions, on most occasions it’s harmless. Most people don’t even notice it unless they’ve pressed their arm under pillow too much.
For most people, changing their diet and adding nutrients richer in vitamin B and Magnesium will solve the problem. Additionally, spooning pillows are another great investment to sleep soundly without worrying about numbness.
Unfortunately, dead arm when sleeping can occur as a result of other conditions, which we may not even be aware of. That’s why it’s important to visit your doctor regularly, as well as follow the symptoms that manifest.
If in addition to dead arm when sleeping you wake up with severe headache or dizziness, numb face, or other parts of the body, you should seek medical treatment immediately.
Doctors will diagnose a hidden condition using different scanning options and recommend medication, exercises, or wrist guards to soothe your condition. As a last resort, medical workers will refer to surgery to permanently correct the issue.