Why Do My Arms Go To Sleep At Night When I Lay Down?

This morning, my son asked me an interesting question, and one that I get asked all the time: Why did my arm go numb at night? Here is what you need to know to understand when this is a harmless problem, and when you may need to consider seeing your doctor!

I recently saw a great article in Medical News Today which did an excellent job of summarizing the complex answer to this question. I will give you the summary and my own personal thoughts on this interesting question.

This is not the first time I am being asked this question, by far.

The official medical term for this sensation is called “ paresthesia” and it refers to the “ pins and needles, numbness, or crawling skin” feeling many people report experiencing in their limbs, hands, or feet. This experience can happen at any time, with little or no warning.

Most people have this experience. Often, this is due to the position the person is sleeping in, where they are lying directly on a nerve in the limb. The idea that this experience is because it cuts off blood flow appears to be less accurate. I have had many people say this happens when they lie on their back with their arms crossed over their chest (yoga position Savasana aka Corpse Pose), and especially if they are a side sleeper!

But besides these positional conditions, there are several medical conditions which have paresthesia as a symptom, lets talk about the 3 most common: Carpel Tunnel, Diabetes, and Vitamin B deficiency.

Carpel Tunnel Syndrome is where you are doing a highly repetitive motion (typing is most common) where you put too much pressure on a particular nerve (the median nerve), which runs through the wrist. This can cause pain or numbness in the arms and hands, and an early sign is this tingly feeling at night.

Next would be Diabetes. People who are struggling with Diabetes know that they are at risk for diabetic neuropathy. This is when high levels of sugar and fats in the blood injure nerve endings over time. They experience these feelings in their extremities, especially their feet.

Don’t forget about B, Vitamin B that is. Low levels of Vitamin B can cause anemia and tingling in the limbs. It may be worth a blood test or a trip to the supplement isle in your health food store for sure.

So, what can you do about it?

  • Try changing your starting sleep position, if you notice there is a particular position (your side) when it happens, then try sleeping on the opposite side, or on your back.
  • Get blood work done and see about possible Diabetes or a Vitamin B deficiency.
  • If it is either Diabetes or a Vitamin B deficiency, speak with your doctor for the appropriate protocols.

While I do not address numbness directly, if you feel like you are not refreshed upon awakening, or getting restless sleep for any reason, you may want to take advantage of my sleep courses for more answers.

How to Improve Your Sleep Quality

Treating Insomnia without Pills

You may also enjoy these magazine articles where my advice appeared this month:

Real Simple

Runners World