What It Means When Your Hands Fall Asleep During Sleep

sleeping with hands under head

Do you often wake up with tingly hands or arms? It can be a frightening experience when you wake up and have no power in your fingers or even your entire arm! The causes of your arm "falling asleep" while you're sleeping are varied; check them out below to see if they might help explain your predicament. And then read on to see how to treat it!

Wrong sleep position: Chances are that your sleeping position is throwing off your circulation. If you sleep with your hands and arms under your head or any other part of your body, your body exerts pressure onto your arms. When that happens, the circulation and nerve pathways to your arms and hands are disrupted, which results in them falling asleep.

Ulnar Nerve Entrapment: The ulnar nerve runs from your neck down to your arm, and when it is compressed it can make your hands or arms numb or tingly. The ulnar nerve becomes compressed when your elbow stays bent for long periods of time. That can mean that you're sleeping with your elbow bent, or it can stem from arthritis, cysts, fractures and bone spurs.

Stroke: There's a small chance that a stroke could be the reason for your tingly fingers. Strokes are a result of a disruption of your blood flow to your brain, and a low percentage of strokes occur when you're asleep. If you wake up with a numb or tingly sensation on one side of your body, a headache, disorientation or difficulty speaking, you could be having a stroke.

>> Read more: Recognizing Stroke Symptoms

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Carpal tunnel occurs when there is inflammation of the median nerve, which passes through a narrow tunnel in your wrist. The inflammation is caused by the nerve being pressed during repetitive use of your hand or wrist. For example, things like typing, playing the piano, carpentry and painting could cause carpal tunnel syndrome.

Cubital Tunnel Syndrom: Similar to carpal tunnel, cubital tunnel occurs when the ulnar nerve, which passes through a tunnel in your elbow, is inflamed, usually because your elbow has been bent for a long period of time. With cubital tunnel, you'll feel a tingly sensation in your palm, pinky finger and ring finger.


Now that you have a better idea of what is causing your hands or arms to fall asleep, let's take a look at what you can do to prevent it.

Change your sleeping position. Try to avoid sleeping with your arms or hands below your head or any part of your body. You should also make sure that you're not hanging your hand over the side of the bed, which can also lead to poor circulation.

Exercise daily. Exercising every day, even if you're just walking, can increase your circulation. Check out our many workouts if you're looking for new ways to exercise!

Take breaks when doing work that involves repetitive movements in the wrists. In fact, if you sit at a desk in an office all day, you should be taking more breaks anyway! Even getting up to walk to a printer can increase your blood flow throughout your entire body.

Treat the underlying problem, like a pinched nerve or peripheral neuropathy. It's not going to fix itself! Talk with your doctor to evaluate your options.


Take anti-inflammatory medicines. Your doctor may prescribe you with an anti-inflammatory drug if your symptoms are particularly severe.

Manage your stress. Easier said than done, right? However, too much stress can lead to hyperventilating, which can aggravate symptoms. Check out this 20-minute stress-relieving workout. It can help you kill two birds with one stone!