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Why do my arms fall asleep at night (and should I be worried)?

Arms Falling Asleep at Night
4 minutes, 5 seconds

Do you often wake up feeling like you have pins and needles in your arms? This sensation, called paresthesia, can be caused by prolonged pressure to specific areas of your body. Sleeping in positions that place body weight on your arms can temporarily restrict blood flow to your muscles and nerves. You can also accidentally lie directly on a nerve, which can lead to a similar tingling sensation in your arms. 

While tingling in your arms at night might simply be caused by sleeping habits, it can also be a symptom of serious health conditions. Those conditions can include:

  • Vitamin B deficiency — If you aren’t getting enough vitamin B12, you may experience paresthesia. This is because B12 helps form the coating around your nerves known as myelin. Without sufficient B12, your nerves’ myelin can be limited, and your nerves can be susceptible to damage.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome — If you’ve experienced numbness or tingling in your hand and you woke up with your arms falling asleep, you may be experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms. Carpal tunnel syndrome happens when the median nerve in your hand is compressed or pinched. In some cases, symptoms in your hand can extend to your arms.
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome— Just like how carpal tunnel syndrome occurs due to a compressed nerve, so too does thoracic outlet syndrome. In this case, the nerves just below your neck can be pinched, leading to a tingling and numbness sensation that can travel down your arms. 
  • Diabetic peripheral neuropathy — If you have diabetes and your arms fall asleep at night regularly, you could have diabetes-related nerve damage. High blood sugar levels over a long period of time can damage nerve endings. While diabetic neuropathy can most often occur in the feet, nerve damage can also occur in the arms.
    Other conditions affecting the central nervous system — Some conditions are directly linked to the central nervous system, including multiple sclerosis, stroke and seizure disorders. Tingling at night can be a symptom of these conditions. Diagnosis by a doctor is therefore crucial.

How do I know if my arms tingling at night is serious? 

It can be difficult to decide on your own if your tingling needs medical attention. First of all, it’s important for you to speak to a medical professional if the tingling in your arms continues into the morning, or if it goes away after getting up and moving. In addition, if the tingling comes with intense pain or discomfort, you should also consult a doctor immediately.

If other symptoms are linked to your tingling arms, it can indicate serious underlying health conditions. Speak to your doctor right away if your arm tingling is accompanied by any of these symptoms:

  • Vision loss. 
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Speech difficulties. 
  • Dizziness. 
  • Unbearable pain. 
  • Loss of balance.

What can you do about your arms falling asleep at night?  
Having arms that fall asleep at night doesn’t have to be the norm. Instead, there are practical steps you can implement into your daily routine to reduce the frequency and intensity of your tingling arms. The following tips can help you find relief for your symptoms:  

  • Sleep in a less restrictive position.

    One of the most common reasons why your arms fall asleep at night is your sleeping position. Your arms cannot handle your entire body weight, but sometimes you can unintentionally roll onto your arm in the middle of the night. Doing so can cause you to wake up with a tingling sensation. Even sleeping with your arms above your head or with your arms under your pillow can cause tingling. Positions that do not restrict your nerves, like sleeping on your side, can help you avoid waking up with tingling or numbness in your arms. A study showed that modifying patients’ sleeping positions significantly helped them reduce nighttime tingling.
  • Increase your exercise during the day.

    Your arms may fall asleep at night if you don’t get enough blood flow throughout your body. To help reduce this feeling at night, you can increase your activity level during the day and boost your blood circulation. Exercises can be as simple as walking, running or swimming. If you consistently try to get up and move every hour throughout the day, you can help reduce tingling in your arms and legs.
  • Go to physical therapy.

    Physical therapists are well versed in musculoskeletal disorders. They can evaluate your symptoms, discuss your concerns and create a treatment plan specific to your medical history. This can be especially helpful since arm tingling can be an indicator of a range of conditions; physical therapists can help pinpoint the root causes. They can also help educate you on exercises that encourage circulation so that you can continue your treatments at home. 

Alliance PTP is ready to help you find top-notch PT for your arms falling asleep at night

At Alliance Physical Therapy Partners, we’re proudly bringing together physical therapy practices across the country to help people get the high-quality PT they need. Want to see a physical therapist in person? We can put you in touch with an Alliance PTP partner that’s close to you and can help you stop your arms falling asleep at night. 

Not keen on in-person PT sessions or not close to an Alliance PTP partner? No worries. We also offer effective and affordable virtual physical therapy through our Agile Virtual Physical Therapy platform. 

Contact our team today so we can help you find the most effective physical therapy services for your arms. 


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