What Causes Numbness in Hands While Sleeping?

Many people suffer from numbness in their hands that can be especially noticeable in the morning or when waking during interrupted sleep. Clinicians may use the term paresthesia to document the sensation.

Conditions causing numbness can be temporary or permanent and numbness can be in one hand or both. Involvement can be in partial areas, such as specific fingers, or be the complete hand. When numbness regularly happens in a specific region of the hand, the pattern, or what clinicians call dermatomal distribution, can correlate to a specific location of the body where the source of the problem lies.

Why Do My Hands Go Numb in My Sleep?

Nerve compression, described as pressure on a nerve, is a common cause of hand numbness. The cause of the compression can be for a variety of reasons. In the neck, conditions such as disc herniation, spondylosis, bone spurs or stenosis could be the underlying cause. Clinicians may use the term radiculopathy to define that the cause of numbness is due to a compressed and inflamed nerve root exiting out of the spinal cord in the neck and heading towards the hand. A brachial plexus injury, or plexopathy, can happen to nerves between the neck and elbow from a physical injury. Pressure on a nerve can also happen near the elbow where the ulnar nerve travels. When a person hits their “funny bone” it is the ulnar nerve being compressed that causes the temporary sensation experienced.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common hand disorder in the United States. It is caused by nerve compression at the wrist. The compression happens when the soft tissues around the median nerve become inflamed and push on the nerve. During sleep it is common for people to keep their wrists flexed, which closes the tunneled space and worsens compression and symptoms. Wearing wrist splints while sleeping keeps the wrists in an open position to alleviate symptoms. There are factors that can increase the risk of developing carpal tunnel, such as having rheumatoid arthritis or performing activities with repetitive movements of the hand and forearm. Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms can also happen during pregnancy.

Poor circulation or restricted blood flow can cause numb hands in sleep. Blood flow can be restricted due to prolonged pressure from a particular body position during rest. When this happens we say our arm or hand “fell asleep”. When we awake and change body position the blood flow returns and the numbness goes away. Hand numbness may be caused by other medical conditions not related to sleep including multiple sclerosis, B12 deficiency, physical injury or neuropathy from diabetes.

What to Do About Pain And Numbness in Arms and Hands While Sleeping

At an office visit for hand numbness medical providers may perform the Hoffman Tinel, Phalen’s, reverse Phalen’s or Spurling’s maneuver. These Olympic sport sounding terms are several of many special physical exam tests that help clinicians make a diagnosis. MRIs, nerve conduction studies or electromyograms are other tests that can help guide medical decision making when determining the cause of hand numbness in sleep.

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