My hands go numb while sleeping on my side (why)

Numbness of the hands during sleep can be a cause for concern, but most often it occurs as a result of nerve compression caused by a sleeping position (for example, if you sleep with your hand under your head or it remains somehow “stuck” under your foot or torso).

In the absence of other symptoms, this numbness disappears a few seconds after waking up.

Below you can find out what other causes for why your hands go numb while sleeping on your side.

What causes numbness in your hands when you sleep?

Although 90% of cases of numb hands occur as a result of an incorrect position during sleep, there are other possible causes of this phenomenon:

Carpal tunnel syndrome – it occurs as a result of compression of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel, which is located in the front of the wrist.

The numbness of the sensation is accompanied by difficulties in grasping some objects.

The condition occurs as a result of repetitive manual activities (for example, the use of a keyboard or machine) or may be a symptom of obesity or a wrist injury.

Cervical spondylosis – it occurs as a result of friction of the cervical discs that occurs with age.

Symptoms include numbness in the hands and feet, sore throat and stiffness.

Chest syndrome – it occurs when a group of nerves in the lower neck or upper chest suffer a trauma.

Symptoms include numbness of the hands and sore throat and shoulders.

Peripheral neuropathy – it occurs as a result of trauma to the peripheral nervous system (the one that makes the connection between the central nervous system and the rest of the body).

Symptoms range from numbness to severe pain.

Diabetes mellitus – a form of diabetes in which the nerves are also affected.

Studies show that about 50% of people with diabetes also have variations in peripheral neuropathy.

Symptoms include numbness of the hands, feeling weak and difficulty lifting objects and pain. 

Chemotherapy and other medications – some medications can affect the proper functioning of the peripheral nervous system.

According to researchers, between 30 and 68% of patients undergoing chemotherapy experience symptoms specific to peripheral neuropathy, including numbness of the hands.

Other medicines that can numb your hands include anticonvulsants, some medicines for hypertension and some antibiotics (especially metronidazole).

Vitamin B12 deficiencies – this vitamin is essential for the normal functioning of the brain and the lack (caused by genetic factors, some chronic diseases or problems in its synthesis) can lead to numbness of the hands and feet, muscle weakness and lack of appetite.

Excessive alcohol consumption – can affect the peripheral nervous system (the condition is called alcoholic neuropathy) leading to numbness of the hands, muscle weakness and even sexual dysfunction.

Other conditions – rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, Lyme disease, AIDS, syphilis, hypothyroidism, Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Symptoms of numbness

When your hands go numb while sleeping on your side you may feel sensations such as: 

  • Burn;
  • Loss of sensitivity of the affected limb;
  • Pain at a light touch;
  • Tingling.

What can you do when your hands go numb while sleeping on your side?

In many cases, you can avoid nerve compression by changing your sleeping position. 

Avoid sleeping in a fetal position.

If you sleep with your hands and elbows bent, there is a higher risk of putting pressure on your nerves and waking up with numb hands.

If you sleep on your stomach, try to keep your hands close to your body to avoid numbness. 

Avoid keeping your hands under the pillow; the weight of the head can put pressure on the wrists and thus numbness can occur. 

Also, stretching and posture exercises (specific to cervical spondylosis) can help reduce numbness when it persists and after you wake up.

If you feel pain, ibuprofen or aspirin can be helpful and to alleviate the pain caused by peripheral neuropathy, creams based on lidocaine, capsaicin or menthol are indicated.

Finally, it is difficult to control the movements of the body in sleep, but to correct the posture of the hands and to prevent numbness, you can use a special glove to keep your wrists in the correct position.

When should you go to the doctor

If you tried to sleep in other positions and resorted to special gloves and still your hands go numb while sleeping on your side, it would be good to go to the doctor.

It is also recommended to walk if numbness of the hands lasts more than 1-2 minutes and is accompanied by symptoms such as: 

  • numbness in other parts of the body (especially shoulders, neck and back)
  • muscle weakness
  • dropping things
  • weak reflexes in the hands or feet

Most of the time, hands go numb while sleeping on your side due to an incorrect position and you recover if you keep your hands close to your body.

If the numbness of the hands lasts more than 1-2 minutes and is accompanied by other symptoms, it is good to go to the doctor.

When numbness is a medical emergency

Numbness on one side of the body or face, speech difficulties, confused thinking and weakness or paralysis of the face can signal the presence of a stroke, so do not ignore such symptoms and contact your doctor immediately if they occur. 

Also, if numbness is accompanied by severe headache, loss of consciousness, confusion and difficulty breathing, seek medical help immediately, as it may be a brain tumour.

What tests can the doctor ask for to detect the cause of the numbness

To determine the causes of your numbness, your doctor may request more investigations if medical history and clinical examination (testing of reflexes, muscle endurance, and sensory function) do not indicate a clear answer. These may include –

  • blood and urine tests (blood count, complete electrolyte examination, assessment of vitamin B12 levels, thyroid hormone testing, etc.) 
  • MRI
  • computed tomography.

Numbness treatment

Treatment options for numbness vary depending on the cause discovered after medical tests.

In the case of cervical spondylosis and other osteoarticular degenerative processes, such as disc herniation or carpal tunnel syndrome, physiotherapy or reparative surgical intervention is recommended.

For diabetics it is very important to regulate the glycemic level with the help of medication and diet, because otherwise, tingling and numbness will add paresthesias, which can lead to loss of painful sensitivity in the hands and feet, patients can be injured without even to realize.

Medications prescribed by a doctor

Medication options for long-term numbness that persist in the hands and feet include:

– Antidepressants – some drugs in this class have been approved for the treatment of fibromyalgia.

– Corticosteroids – Some corticosteroid medications can help relieve chronic inflammation and numbness associated with conditions such as multiple sclerosis.

– Some medications that block or alter nerve signals may help reduce the intensity of numbness associated with conditions such as fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis and diabetic neuropathy.

Complications associated with numbness and tingling

If a person is experiencing numbness and tingling, it is possible that they may have reduced sensation (tactile sense) in these areas.

Because of this, it is very likely that the patient will feel fewer changes in temperature or pain in these parts of the body.

This means that the person could touch an object without realizing that it is extremely hot to cause burns to the skin.

At the same time, a sharp object could cut the patient’s skin without him noticing – if the numbness and tingling are severe.

Therefore, it is important to take the necessary precautions to protect yourself from burns and other wounds or injuries that you may accidentally inflict.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Conclusions 

In this article, you read about the possible explanations for why your hands go numb while sleeping on your side.

Most of the time, hands go numb while sleeping on your side due to an incorrect position and you recover if you keep your hands close to your body.

If the numbness of the hands lasts more than 1-2 minutes and is accompanied by other symptoms, it is good to go to the doctor.

If you’re unable to have a good night sleep, you should listen to the best deep sleep music.

If you have any questions or comments on the content, please feel free to share them!

FAQ about Hands go numb while sleeping on my side

How do I stop my hands from going numb when I sleep?

To stop your hands from going numb when you sleep, you have to make some sleep changes.

The first step is to stop sleeping with your hands under/above your head, instead, try to keep them by your side. Also, avoid folding your arms. 

What are numb hands a symptom of?

Numbness of the hands during sleep can be a cause for concern, but most often it occurs as a result of nerve compression caused by a sleeping position (for example, if you sleep with your hand under your head or it remains somehow “stuck” under your foot or torso).

In the absence of other symptoms, this numbness disappears a few seconds after waking up. 

Can your arm die from sleeping on it?

Your arm cannot die from sleeping on it, however, this could be an explanation why your hands may feel numb in the morning. 

Why do I keep waking up with numb hands?

There may be many reasons why you are waking up with numb hands.

The most common reason is that you are sleeping with your hands either over your head or your arms folded under your pillow.

However, there may be other medical explanations for this, so it is best to consult a doctor if it is something that happens often.

Is numbness in hand serious?

Numbness in hands can be serious. For example, if a person is experiencing numbness and tingling, it is possible that they may have reduced sensation (tactile sense) in these areas.

Because of this, it is very likely that the patient will feel fewer changes in temperature or pain in these parts of the body.

This means that the person could touch an object without realizing that it is extremely hot to cause burns to the skin.

When should I worry about tingling in my hands?

If you tried to sleep in other positions and resorted to special gloves and still your hands go numb while sleeping on your side, it would be good to go to the doctor.

References

Mayoclinic.org

Medlineplus.gov

Health.harvard.edu

Diabetes.org

Was this post helpful?

[Sassy_Social_Share type="standard"]