Waking up in the middle of the night with hand numbness is a common indicator of a health condition of the nerves in your arms or circulation problems. However, when the cause is just sleeping with your hands and arms in an uncomfortable sleeping position, the issue can be resolved by just changing your sleeping position.
Sometimes, waking up with hand numbness can be a symptom of some form of nerve damage or carpal tunnel syndrome.
The diagnosis of why your hands might be numb involves testing the function of the nerves. When your healthcare provider suspects a certain underlying cause, they can order other specific tests. Your healthcare provider will also present you with treatment options depending on the diagnosis.
If you’d like to find out more about the potential causes of numbness in your hands when you wake up as well as when it’s time to see your doctor, stay with us.
Causes of Hand Numbness
Hand numbness basically means that a nerve (or nerves) isn’t doing its job, usually due to being compressed. There are three crucial nerves that control your hand:
- the median nerve — the nerve that brings sensation to your index and middle fingers;
- the ulnar nerve — the nerve that brings sensation to your pinky fingers and ring fingers;
- the radial nerve — the nerve that brings sensation to the back of your hand and thumb.
Compression on each of these three nerves is a common cause of numbness or pain in your hands. Some medical conditions can cut blood flow to your hands and result in hand numbness and other symptoms, including nerve pain.
There are a few chronic as well as some short-term health conditions that can be a possible cause for waking up with numb hands. Here they are.
A bad sleeping position is a common cause of waking up with hand numbness. You might have spent the entire night sleeping on top of your hands or with your hands in a weird position.
When you sleep in an unusual posture, you can temporarily compress your nerves or slow down blood flow in your hands. This lack of blood circulation and nerve compression can quite easily result in a tingling sensation or numbness in your hands.
If you notice that your sleeping position is the probable cause for waking up with your hands numb, just change your sleeping position. This way, you’ll relieve the nerve compression and resolve the problem. Avoid sleeping with your arms under or above your head.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome, a disorder usually linked with office employees, is common entrapment neuropathy. In fact, carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure on the median nerve. The median nerve brings sensation to your index and middle fingers, and it can be pressured at both your wrist and your elbow. To prevent it, be mindful of the way you curl up every night.
Your median nerve can be pressured if you feel numbness in your middle and index fingers and the base or the front of your thumbs.
Peripheral Neuropathy (Nerve Damage)
Peripheral neuropathy, as the name suggests, is a disease that affects the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system receives and sends signals throughout your body from your central nervous system. There are more than a hundred types of peripheral neuropathy, and the symptoms are different depending on the nerves that are targeted.
However, the most common symptoms are a tingling sensation and numbness, strap pain, and a buzzing sensation. Peripheral neuropathy can cause pain and numbness in your hands and arms or feet and legs.
Cervical spondylosis, also known as neck spondylosis, is a chronic degenerative disease that has an impact on your neck tendons, bones, and muscles. The common cause for this is the everyday wear and tear to your neck’s spinal disks with aging.
Neck spondylosis can cause symptoms of osteoarthritis, including bulging discs and bone spurs. Both can cause narrowing of the cervical spine space and compress the spinal cord or nerve root, resulting in a tingling sensation and numbness in your hands and arms. Additionally, cervical spondylosis can cause feet and leg numbness as well as neck stiffness and pain.
There are neurological conditions, including multiple sclerosis (MS), that can cause numb hands when you wake up. People who suffer from neurological conditions can notice other symptoms such as muscle weakness, changes in vision, difficulty walking, or pain/numbness in other parts of their body, including arms, legs, hands, and feet.
Blood tests can help to detect multiple sclerosis or other health conditions. Your neurologist can order additional imaging tests like MRI scans, which can be quite helpful in revealing any damaged parts in your brain that are causing the symptoms.
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS)
Thoracic outlet syndrome is a medical condition when blood vessels or nerves in the upper chest and lower neck area get pressured, distressed, or injured. Sometimes thoracic outlet syndrome can be caused by repetitive movements or, less commonly, by having an additional rib.
The most common symptom of thoracic outlet syndrome is pain in the neck, arm, hand, or shoulders. Sometimes, forearm, fingers, and hand numbness are experienced as well.
When the levels of blood sugar increase, your body can develop diabetes mellitus. It’s a chronic medical condition that occurs when your pancreas secretes little or no insulin at all. Your body needs insulin to move glucose from your bloodstream to your cells, and the glucose is practically the one that gives cells their energy.
Diabetes mellitus can damage the nerves, and due to this, over half of the people that are diagnosed with diabetes mellitus have peripheral neuropathy and carpal tunnel syndrome. This nerve damage can result in a tingling sensation and numbness in your hands.
Deficiency of Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is very important for the synthesis of your DNA and the functioning of your brain and central nervous system. You need vitamin B12 to produce blood cells, particularly the red ones.
If you suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency, the cause for it can be found in numerous factors, including genes, age, and some health conditions like autoimmune diseases and gastritis. Common symptoms for deficiency of vitamin B12 are muscle weakness, decreased appetite, tingling sensations, and numbness in your hands.
Often, hand numbness can be an indicator of a pinched nerve. If some kind of trauma or inflammation causes the tissues in your body to put pressure on a nerve, this nerve can send defective signals. These defective signals can result in numerous different symptoms, including muscle pain, numbness, and weakness.
When to See a Healthcare Professional?
Often, tingling sensations and numbness after waking up can occur infrequently and disappear after a brief period of time. But, if the hand numbness is persistent or causes bad sleep quality, it’s time to visit your healthcare provider. Additionally, if you experience any of the following symptoms, you need to visit a healthcare professional:
- Hands numb for a long period of time;
- Numbness all over your body, not only in your hands;
- Muscle weakness;
- Unexpected dizziness or weakness;
- Clumsiness in your fingers and hands;
- Persistent pain in your legs and arms.
How to Diagnose Numb Hands?
If you wake up with numbness in your hands, the first thing you should do is try moving your hand for several minutes. By doing this, you can ascertain that the problem isn’t just due to sleeping on your hand. In order to wake your hand up, shake, flex, and massage it.
If the numbness disappears, this is likely a sign that it was due to pressure or restricted blood circulation, rather than a health condition.
On the other hand, if you suspect that the numbness in your hand is a result of some underlying health condition, you should visit a healthcare professional. The diagnosis may consist of nerve tests for evaluating nerve function and imaging tests such as MRI and CT scans or X-rays.
Treatment Options for Numb Hands
As we previously said, the treatment for numbness in your hands may vary as it depends on what is causing it. If the numbness in your hands occurs occasionally, or you can improve it just with a simple change of your sleeping position, you probably don’t need treatment at all. But, if the numbness is persistent and is getting worse, then you should visit a health professional for medical treatment. Here are some treatment options for numb hands:
Exercising is especially helpful for some underlying health conditions like arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome. Certain exercises can help you strengthen the muscles that surround your wrist, potentially improving hand numbness.
Wrists or Splints Guards
This is another good treatment option if you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. Wearing wrist and splint guards while you’re asleep can protect your wrist and relieve compression. You can also wear wrist or splint guards when you perform repetitive activities.
Topical creams can decrease symptoms such as tingling sensation and pain in your hands. Lidocaine, menthol, benzocaine, and capsaicin are some topical creams and ingredients that you may find quite effective. Healthcare professionals can recommend a specific topical cream for managing the symptoms of nerve pain if you’re suffering from diabetes or peripheral nerve damage.
If you suffer from a deficiency of vitamin B12, the best treatment option is to take vitamin supplements. However, if you aren’t able to take in the vitamin B12 from food or if the deficiency of vitamin B12 is severe, your doctor might give you vitamin injections. You may find it quite helpful to eat food rich in vitamin B12 such as eggs, liver, and salmon.
You can use over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications.
Surgery can be used to release pressured blood vessels or nerves that are caused by some underlying health conditions, including thoracic outlet syndrome or carpal tunnel syndrome.
A Few Words Before You Go…
Numbness in your hands is often a result of compression of the median nerve, ulnar nerve, or radial nerve. These nerves coordinate the muscles in your fingers and arms. If you put too much pressure on these nerves, it can result in numbness to your hand.
Waking up with hand numbness is quite common, so you don’t need to worry if you don’t experience other symptoms because it’s most likely due to your sleep position. Therefore, sleeping in a different posture or just keeping your elbows and wrists straight during the night can be enough. However, if you still feel hand numbness or you notice any other uncommon symptom, visit a healthcare professional and explain your situation.