For most people, being able to finally go to bed after a long day at work and doing household chores comes as a respite from the daily grind. However, once your head hits the pillow, you may be faced with new things to worry about: The next day’s ‘To Do’ list, things you forgot to do today, and wondering, will I wake up again tonight with tingling hands?
Why is there numbness in my hands at night while sleeping?
The nerves that provide feeling and sensation to your hands go through tunnels. When you bend your joints for extended periods of time, some of these nerves can become pinched, causing your hands to either tingle or go numb.
The reason this happens so often at night is that most people sleep with bent arms (whether in the fetal position, with their arms under a pillow, or with hands placed on the stomach while sleeping face up).
There are several risk factors that can exacerbate the condition, which we discuss below.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome, also known as median nerve compression, occurs when the carpal tunnel, a passage that serves as a conduit for the median nerve to go from the forearm to the wrist, is compressed for long periods of time.
Patients will start feeling symptoms in a very gradual manner in the thumb, index finger, wrist, and palm of the hand. As the condition worsens, the patient may experience symptoms all the way up to the forearm and shoulder. Left untreated, it can significantly affect one’s ability to grasp objects.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms
The following are symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Swelling (or the feeling of swelling, even when none is apparent)
- Loss of feeling in index finger and thumb
- Decreased strength
Symptoms usually appear on the patient’s dominant hand first. We strongly recommend seeking medical treatment as soon as possible, to prevent the worsening of symptoms or even permanent damage.
Depending on circumstances and medical history, the issue may be resolved with splinting, medication, or physical therapy. However, if conservative treatments don’t work, surgery may be necessary to release nerve pressure.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Risk Factors
Sleeping with bent joints isn’t the only cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. Repetitive motion of the fingers and wrist is often a culprit. Other common risk factors include:
- Assembly line work
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Gender: women have a more narrow carpal tunnel than men, making them more likely to experience carpal tunnel syndrome.
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
Cubital tunnel syndrome, also known as ulnar neuropathy, refers to the condition of pain and numbness in the elbow and tingling in the fingers due to increased pressure on the ulnar nerve. The ulnar nerve passes through the cubital tunnel (located on the inside of the elbow). A patient may also feel tingling in the elbow similar to the sensation you feel when you strike the olecranon, (“funny bone”).
If you like to sleep with your hands crooked under your pillow, you are likely to experience cubital tunnel syndrome.
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms
The following are symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome:
- Hand pain
- Elbow pain
- Loss of sensation
- Muscle weakness
- Hand deformity
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome Risk Factors
The following are risk factors for cubital tunnel syndrome:
- Bone spurs
- Previous fractures or dislocations of the elbow
- Intense physical activity
- Leaning on your elbows for long periods of time
- Keeping arm bent regularly
Just as with carpal tunnel syndrome, treatment usually includes anti-inflammatory medications, splinting, or physical therapy. In addition, a patient may benefit from using elbow pads when resting their arms on hard surfaces. While surgery is an option for this condition, it’s usually considered as a last resort.
Request an Appointment at The Orthopedic Clinic Today
At the Orthopedic Clinic, we want you to live your life in full motion. If you’re experiencing hand numbness or tingling, let us help you get back to doing the things you love (and to getting a good night’s sleep!).
Call us at (386) 255-4596 to schedule an appointment.