Most of us have experienced waking up in the middle of the night, only to find that our arm or hand has gone numb or “fell asleep.” Sometimes we also feel a tingling sensation, as if little “pins and needles” are piercing our skin. The medical term for this is paresthesia, but why does it occur, and is it something we should be concerned about?

Bright Side wants to help you get a good night’s sleep by giving you information about this condition and sharing tips on how to avoid those pesky pins and needles. Read carefully to find out when numbness can be considered a serious medical symptom.

Disclaimer: Please note that this article is for informational purposes only. For professional advice or a diagnosis, consult your doctor.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke states that paresthesia can occur in various parts of the body. It occurs without warning and is usually triggered by sustained pressure on the nerves.

Paresthesia is usually harmless when it is transient, but it can be a symptom of an underlying disease when it is experienced frequently.

Possible Causes Of Paresthesia:

Sleeping position:

Why Your Arms Go Numb When You Sleep and How to Stop It

Sleeping on your stomach with your hands under your body, lying on your back with your hands under your head, or taking a side nap and twisting your arm are poor sleeping positions that can cause prolonged pressure on our nerves.

This results in an interruption of blood flow and our nervous system reacts with a tingling sensation.

Pinched nerve:

Why Your Arms Go Numb When You Sleep and How to Stop It

The ulnar nerve runs from the shoulder to the elbow and is responsible for giving our hands sensation. Pain in the wrist, weak grip, and numbness in the hand are possible symptoms of a pinched or compressed ulnar nerve.

The pain usually goes away on its own, but if it lasts longer than 2 days, it’s time to see a doctor.

Vitamin B12 deficiency:

Naturally found in meat, fish, poultry, and dairy products, vitamin B12 keeps nerves and blood cells healthy. Lack of vitamin B12 in the body can cause nerve problems, which can manifest as a tingling or lowering sensation.

Stress and anxiety:

When we are anxious or stressed, our body activates the fight or flight response, where stress hormones are released at specific points to enhance our ability to cope with the perceived threat.

This physiological reaction involves redirecting blood flow to other parts of the body that are more vital to our survival. Decreased circulation in certain areas causes pins and needles to feel.

Stress can also cause tension in our muscles, which can result in tingling.

How To Avoid Or Minimize Paresthesia:

Wake your arm up:

Why Your Arms Go Numb When You Sleep and How to Stop It

The sensation in the arm usually returns as soon as the pressure is removed, but shaking hands can help increase blood flow.

You can also stretch your arms up, move your head from side to side, and move your shoulders up and down to release tension in your neck and relax your nerves.

Improve your sleeping position:

Why Your Arms Go Numb When You Sleep and How to Stop It

Position your arms and hands correctly and avoid bending them under your body. Try to keep your wrists straight to ensure even blood flow.

Sleep with your arms at your sides, rather than raising them above your head, to avoid interrupting blood flow to your hands.

Avoid the fetal position, as bent arms and elbows can put pressure on nerves.

Use a wrist brace or towel while sleeping:

Why Your Arms Go Numb When You Sleep and How to Stop It

Splints or braces help keep your wrists straight, so you don’t have to worry about bending them while you sleep. You can also wrap the elbow in a towel and secure it with a bandage to prevent it from bending.

Adopt a healthy lifestyle:

Regular exercise improves our overall cardiovascular health and helps blood circulation. Good eating habits can also help us avoid vitamin deficiencies and minimize nerve pain.

Seek treatment for medical problems:

For severe or chronic symptoms, see your doctor confirm if the numbness or tingling sensation is caused by an existing medical condition and to discuss appropriate treatment or medication.

What other sleep-related problems have you experienced? Let us know in the comments and maybe we can write an article about them too.