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Why Do My Hands Go Numb While I Am Sleeping?

Hand numbness while sleeping is an interesting topic that many people question. It may have many possible reasons. It is frustrating as it often leads to poor sleep. 

When you sleep, many things can occur. The position of your neck and body shifts, your hands move, and you frequently toss and turn. Each of these factors may result in your hands going numb while you sleep. 

Common causes include neck problems, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, posture and positioning while sleeping.  

Let’s explore some of these causes:

The Position of Your Neck While You Sleep

Your neck has to hit the pillow when you sleep. Often the size and shape of the pillow are not a good fit for your neck. This makes the neck tilt or bend, this can cause poor sleep or lead to numbness.

Hand Numbness While Sleeping
Hand numbness while sleeping.

There is no perfect pillow for everyone. If the neck is rotated or bent to the side the nerves in the neck can become pinched resulting in hand numbness. This will wake you up. Your arm may even feel like dead weight in addition to being numb.

Falling back asleep and repeating this process, results in the same outcome. You wake up and your hands are numb. an expert doctor can perform a skillful examination and tests to help determine the cause. X-rays or an MRI of the neck are sometimes ordered to determine underlying problems in the neck.

The Position of Your Hands While You Sleep

A common cause of hand numbness, while you sleep, is related to curling your hands up, almost like a fetal position.

Another cause is sleeping on your arm. This can cause compression of the nerve or blood vessels leading to hand numbness. 

Pinched nerve causing hand numbness while sleeping.
Pinched nerve causing hand numbness while sleeping.

The two major nerves in the hand are the median and the ulnar nerve. Both nerves can be affected by hand positioning. Compression of the median nerve at the wrist is commonly known as carpal tunnel syndrome. Hitting your elbow or funny bone results in ulnar nerve pain.

Body Weight Compressing Nerve or Blood Flow

Carpal Tunnel

There are three main nerves crossing the wrist. The most common occurs when the median nerve is compressed in between the upper tendons, and lower carpal bones forming the carpal tunnel. 

Hand position may cause sleep numbness.
Hand position may cause sleep numbness.

It most often causes numbness in the first three fingers. It is common in some occupations due to overuse such as typists or computer workers and can become present as hand numbness while you sleep. 

A careful history, physical examination including evaluating the neck is important. Additional testing such as x-rays, MRI or nerve tests may be needed.

Hand numbness from compression.
Hand numbness from compression.

Conservative treatment such as rest from the repetitive activity of the hands, medications and wrist splints can all help alleviate hand numbness while you sleep.

Though there are many potential causes for hand numbness while you sleep, it is generally easy for an expert in the field to diagnose.

About Dennis M. Lox, M.D.

Whether you are a professional athlete, weekend warrior, or have arthritis from aging, Dr. Lox can help.

Dennis M. Lox, M.D. is an internationally renown Sports and Regenerative Medicine specialist. Dr. Lox incorporates Regenerative Medicine techniques such as cell science applications, Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP), and Tissue Engineering aspects, to help patients from around the world with a vast array of problems. Dr. Lox is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Dr. Lox lectures extensively and has edited two PM&R textbooks, the prestigious A State of the Art Review (Star) on Low Back Pain, and Soft Tissue Injuries: Diagnosis and Treatment.

Dennis M. Lox, M.D. maintains an active practice in the Tampa Bay, Florida area, and in Beverly Hills, California.

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