How many times have you woken up in the morning with a numb hand or just in general agony from sleeping in an odd angle? Well, this seems to be a regular occurrence for me and was featured as a recent topic on one of the HNPP forums. Correct positions during sleeping is absolutely vital to stop further neuropathic pain, nerve damage, and that ever-irritating pins and needles sensation.
The compounding effects of neuropathic symptoms and sleep disturbances can leave you in a vicious cycle, so you definitely need to address it head on.
The question asked during the discussion was should you abstain from sleeping in the below position? And the answer seems to be YES.
Why shouldn’t you sleep on top of your hands or with the arms near your head?
You are likely to experience a tingling arm or hand (more likely even worse) if you sleep on it for a long period. Your body weight will exert pressure on your nerves and disrupt the circulation of blood to your arm. Sleeping on your arm may compress the arteries and restrict the flow of blood with nutrients to your arm tissue. Consequently, your arm will not send signals to your brain or understand signals from your brain.
Extended pressure on the ulnar nerve in your arm interferes with the function of the nerve and makes the hand numb. Sleeping with a bent elbow compresses the ulnar nerve. You will wake up with tingling arms or hands.
And if you have carpal tunnel syndrome, it will definitely make it worse.
Pressure on the median nerve compresses the nerve. Any numbness, tingling, impingement, or pinching in the median nerve will lead to pain in the fingers, hand, and forearm. The first symptom is fingers falling asleep or becoming numb at night. The numbness and pain may extend to the forearm and sometimes to the shoulder.
What should you do about your hands?
Wear a brace. One of the easiest things you can do to make sleeping easier is to wear a wrist brace to bed. This will prevent you from bending and flexing your wrist while you sleep.
And stating the obvious, avoid sleeping on your side. Sleeping on your side may be associated with a higher risk of developing numbness, weakness or further pain.
Support your arms while you sleep. It’s important to think about where you normally place your arms while you sleep and whether or not this may be worsening your symptoms. Try to avoid sleeping with either arm underneath you or your pillow, as this may worsen the pain.
Propping your arms up on pillows while you sleep may help relieve tension and reduce pain. If you are sleeping on your side, make sure the side which may be worse is on top. Place a pillow in front of you and place the affected hand on the pillow. You may need to experiment with the height of the pillow to find the most comfortable position for you.
Keep your arm straight. Bending your elbow may increase the compression on your nerve, which can make your symptoms worse. As much as possible, try to keep your elbow straight throughout the night.
So what is the best way of sleeping?
Speaking to several other HNPP’ers, it seems the consensus is to sleep on the back. While some say sleeping on the front is also comfortable, it can also cause undue pressure on your back and spine. This is because most of your weight is in the middle of your body, which makes it difficult to maintain a neutral spine position when you’re sleeping.
You’ll also need to turn your head to the side when you sleep on your stomach. That puts your head and spine out of alignment, twisting your neck, potentially causing long-term neck pain.
If you’ve always slept on your stomach, then it might be difficult to change a lifetime habit. If that’s the case, use a thin pillow or no pillow at all. The flatter the pillow, the less angled your head and neck will be. Also put a pillow under your pelvis. This will help keep your back in a more neutral position and take pressure off your spine. In the morning, you will need a good stretch!
With back pain, place a pillow under your knees to help maintain the normal curve of your lower back. You might try a small, rolled towel under the small of your back for additional support. Support your neck with a pillow.
If you sleep on your side, draw your legs up slightly toward your chest and put a pillow between your legs. Use a full-length body pillow if you prefer.
Whatever your position, due to injuries or preference, the main thing is PADDING and lots of it. Most of this will come in the form of pillows, but spending a little bit of money to buy a memory foam mattress will do you a world of good.