Discover why your arms go numb when you sleep on your back. Explore causes, nerve puzzles, circulation insights, and remedies for a good night’s rest to ensure you wake up bright and early.

Experiencing arm numbness while sleeping on one’s back is a common concern, prompting questions about its origins. This sensation, marked by tingling or loss of feeling, can be puzzling. Sleep, known for rejuvenation, can be disrupted by arm numbness, leading to health worries.

The natural alignment of the spine and the distribution of nerves and blood vessels can vary from person to person. During sleep, the shape of the shoulders, the curvature of the spine, and the arrangement of muscles and tissues can all influence the amount of pressure exerted on the nerves and blood vessels. Some people may also be more prone to experiencing arm numbness due to their incorrect sleepy position.

Understanding these factors is essential for anyone seeking to reduce or prevent arm numbness during sleep. Adjusting pillows, adding mobility exercises, and changing sleep positions can enhance sleep quality and comfort.

This article will answer why arms go numb when sleeping on the back. It will also provide practical tips to reduce pain, leading to a revitalizing and pain-free start to each day.

Why do your arms go numb when sleeping on your back?

Encountering arm numbness while sleeping on your back is a frequent occurrence, often stemming from nerve and blood vessel compression. This phenomenon can be attributed to:

  • Body’s complex anatomy
  •  Blood flow dynamics

When lying on your back, the weight of your arms can compress the nerves and blood vessels that run along the undersides of the components. This compression can impede the average circulation of blood and the transmission of nerve signals, leading to sensations of numbness and tingling.

The ulnar and median nerves are two significant nerves that extend down the arms and are particularly susceptible to compression during sleep. The ulnar nerve, responsible for sensation in the ring and your pinky finger, runs along the inner elbow and can become compressed if the arms are bent at sharp angles. The median nerve, which governs sensation in the thumb, index, middle fingers, and part of the ring finger, can be affected by incorrect wrist position, increasing numbness when you wake up.

Furthermore, reduced blood flow due to prolonged pressure can also lead to numbness. Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to nerve cells and tissues, ensuring proper function. When blood flow is restricted, nerve cells may become less responsive, causing the sensation of numbness.

To relieve this issue, consider adjusting your sleeping position. Placing a pillow under your arms can help maintain a slight bend at the elbows, preventing excessive pressure on the nerves. A comfy pillow under your neck and knees can keep your spine’s natural shape and reduce stress on your nerves. If the numbness doesn’t improve, talking to a doctor’s a good idea. There could be a more serious reason like:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome
  • Herniated discs
  • Bone cancer

Ultimately, experiencing numbness in the arms while sleeping on your back is primarily due to pressure on nerves and blood vessels. The unique arrangement of nerves, the body’s spinal curvature, and reduced blood flow collectively contribute to this numbing sensation.

Understanding the reasons behind this phenomenon and making simple adjustments to your sleep position can help reduce the discomfort and ensure more restful nights. If the problem persists or worsens, seeking medical advice is advisable to rule out any potential underlying health concerns.

Exploring the causes of waking up with a paralyzed arm

Waking up with a paralyzed arm can be an uncomfortable and, in some cases, a frightening experience. This phenomenon is called sleep paralysis and occurs when an individual is temporarily unable to move or speak upon waking up or falling asleep. Sleep paralysis can affect any part of the body and is overall an unsettling event experienced by many people.

It’s essential to figure out why this happens, what signs to look for, and how it works so you can feel less worried. Sleep paralysis primarily arises from disruptions in the body’s sleep cycles and the REM sleep stage. The two main stages of sleep are:

  • Rapid Eye Movement (REM)
  • Non-REM (NREM)

Sleep is vital for controlling how our muscles move when we’re asleep. When we dream in the REM stage of sleep, our muscles are turned off, so we don’t act out things from our dreams. But sometimes, when we wake up, if the shift from dreaming to being awake isn’t smooth, we might have a short moment when we are awake but unable to move our bodies. This is known as sleep paralysis, and the factors that cause it include:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Sleep disorders
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Sleep positions
  • Sudden awakenings

Sleep deprivation

Irregular or insufficient sleep patterns can increase the likelihood of experiencing sleep paralysis.

Sleep disorders

Conditions such as narcolepsy, insomnia, and sleep apnea can disrupt regular sleep cycles and trigger sleep paralysis.

Stress and anxiety

High stress and anxiety levels can disrupt sleep quality and contribute to sleep paralysis episodes.

Sleep position

Sleeping on one’s back can increase the likelihood of sleep paralysis due to its association with REM sleep.

Sudden awakenings

Sudden awakenings during REM sleep can lead to sleep paralysis episodes.

The most noticeable sign of sleep paralysis, which is also considered a hallmark of all symptoms, is being unable to move, and some individuals also describe feeling a heavy weight on their chest, which makes it tough to breathe. Visual and auditory hallucinations are also common, leading to perceptions of supernatural or terrifying entities in the room.

Sometimes your paralyzed arm can make you think that a foreign entity has clinged itself on you, which is why you cannot move your arm. So the next time you wake up with a paralyzed arm, it’s not a foreign entity latched on your arm. It’s just hallucinations that result from the brain still being in a dream-like state, leading to being awake without being able to move.

Note: If sleep paralysis becomes frequent or severely impacts daily life, seeking guidance from a medical professional is recommended to rule out underlying health conditions and receive appropriate treatment to ensure peaceful and undisturbed sleep.

Managing pain and numbness in arms and hands while sleeping

Pain and numbness in your arms and hands while sleeping can be uncomfortable and is often caused by a condition called “sleeping limb” or, more commonly, “sleeping hand.” This sensation occurs due to restricted blood flow or pressure on nerves, leading to temporary discomfort. It can also be caused by:


  • Poor sleeping position
  • Nerve compression
  • Carpal Tunnel syndrome
  • Thoracic Outlet syndrome

Poor sleeping position

Sleeping in positions that put pressure on your arms or hands, such as sleeping on your arm, can lead to reduced blood circulation and nerve compression.

Nerve compression

Certain sleeping positions might cause nerves, such as the ulnar nerve or median nerve, to become compressed or pinched. This compression can result in numbness and tingling sensations.

Carpal Tunnel syndrome

This occurs when the median nerve in your wrist becomes compressed, often causing numbness, tingling, and pain in the hand and fingers. Certain sleeping positions can worsen this condition.

Thoracic Outlet syndrome

The nerves and blood vessels near your collarbone and first rib get pressed in this condition. This can cause discomfort, like pain, numbness, and tingling in your arms and hands, especially when sleeping.


The treatments to reduce this include:

  • Adjust sleeping position to minimize pressure on arms and hands.
  • Place a pillow under the arm for support.
  • Elevate hands slightly with a pillow to reduce swelling and improve circulation.
  • Perform gentle stretching before bedtime to alleviate muscle tension.
  • Consider wearing a wrist brace at night, especially for conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Consult a physical therapist for posture-improving exercises and nerve compression relief.
  • If the issue persists, seek medical consultation to diagnose underlying conditions.
  • Ensure the mattress and pillows provide proper support and alignment.
  • Avoid tight clothing around wrists and arms during sleep.
  • Stay hydrated throughout the day to maintain proper blood circulation.

Remember, these measures can often help alleviate discomfort. If symptoms persist or worsen, seeking medical advice is recommended to rule out any serious underlying conditions.

Why do my arms go numb when I sleep?

This phenomenon is usually caused by pressure on nerves or restricted blood flow. During sleep, you might unknowingly place your arm under your head or body, creating a situation similar to a roadblock on a highway. This causes a restriction in blood supply, which causes numbness followed by a tingling sensation.

When you sleep, your arm may be entrapped under your head or body. The weight and pressure on the nerves can temporarily disrupt the signals they send to the brain. Nerves function as communicators, relaying information between your brain and different parts of the body. When these communicators face an obstacle, their capacity to effectively convey messages is disrupted, causing numbness, tingling, or even pain.

Additionally, blood flow is crucial for providing oxygen and nutrients to your nerves. If the blood supply to your arm is compromised due to pressure, the highway is blocked or closed off. Without enough oxygen and nutrients, the nerves may not function optimally, causing the numbness sensation.

For instance, imagine you’re lying in bed reading a book, and you rest your head on your arm for an extended period. As you focus on the story, you may not realize that the position is gradually slowing down the “traffic” of signals in your arm’s nerves. Eventually, you notice that your arm feels numb and tingly. Your body signals you to change positions as the blood supply is restricted because of your current posture.

It’s essential to be mindful of your sleeping position to prevent this. Avoid putting excessive pressure on your arms during sleep. Try to keep your arms free and supported to ensure smooth communication between your nerves and brain. If you wake up with numb arms often, consider adjusting your sleeping habits, using pillows for support, and trying different sleep positions to keep your nerves from compressing and allowing blood to flow smoothly. This ultimately leads to a good night’s rest and ensures pain-free mornings.

Unraveling midnight mysteries: Why are my Arms falling asleep at night and waking me up?

Experiencing your arms falling asleep at night, jolting you awake, can be perplexing and uncomfortable. This phenomenon, commonly accompanied by sensations of tingling and numbness, has several underlying reasons that disrupt sleep and force you to wake up. The underlying cause includes a combination of factors such as:

  • Your chosen sleeping position plays a crucial role. If you sleep with your arm under your head or body, the weight and pressure can squish your arm’s nerves and blood vessels. This squeezing messes up the usual signals, making your arm feel numb and tingly.
  • When subjected to prolonged pressure, specific nerves, such as the ulnar and median nerve, are prone to compression. These nerves extend from your neck to your fingertips, and when they are compressed due to your sleeping position, they can’t transmit signals effectively. This lack of communication can make your brain sense numbness and causes you to “wake up” to address the issue.
  • Blood flow is essential for delivering oxygen and nutrients to your nerves. When you sleep with your arm positioned in a way that restricts blood flow, such as under your body, the insufficient blood supply can trigger the body’s defense mechanisms, causing you to wake up and shift your arm to a more comfortable position.
  • Certain areas of your body, known as pressure points, are more susceptible to nerve compression. For instance, if you sleep on your side and your arm is trapped between your body and the mattress, the pressure on these vulnerable points can disrupt nerve signaling. This disturbance can prompt your body to respond by waking you from sleep to relieve the stress. If your neck and shoulders aren’t in a good position, they can push on the nerves in your arms. This pressure can stop the messages from your brain to your arm, making it feel numb and waking you up.

In summary, waking up due to your arms falling asleep at night is often caused by a combination of factors related to pressure on nerves, blood flow interruption, and body positioning. The intricate network of nerves and blood vessels in your arms can be sensitive to compression, leading to temporary disruptions in communication with your brain.

To reduce these disruptions and ensure a more peaceful night’s sleep, paying attention to your sleeping posture, using supportive pillows, and maintaining proper body alignment is essential. If the problem persists and disrupts your sleep frequently, seeking advice from a healthcare professional might provide valuable insights into potential underlying issues.

How do I stop my arms from going numb when I sleep?

Numbness in your arms while sleeping can be uncomfortable and disruptive to your rest. It’s often caused by poor circulation, nerve compression, or improper sleeping positions. Here are ten solutions, including both conventional and herbal remedies, to help alleviate numbness in your arms during sleep:

  • Adjust sleeping position
  • Supportive pillows
  • Regular stretching
  • Elevate hands
  • Warm compress
  • Stay hydrated
  • Avoid tight clothing
  • Massage
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol
  • Turmeric

Adjust sleeping position

Start by ensuring you sleep in a position that promotes proper blood flow. Avoid sleeping on your arm or putting excessive pressure on it. The best positions are on your back or side, with a supportive pillow.

Supportive pillows

Use a supportive pillow to cradle your neck and shoulders, maintaining a neutral spine alignment. This can prevent nerve compression and improve circulation.

Regular stretching

Incorporate gentle stretches into your daily routine to improve flexibility and prevent muscle tension that could contribute to numbness. Focus on your neck, shoulders, and arms.

Elevate hands

Elevate your hands slightly using pillows or cushions while sleeping on your back. This can help improve blood circulation and reduce the risk of numbness.

Warm compress

Apply a warm cloth or heating pad on your neck and shoulders before bed. The warmth can loosen up muscles and enhance blood circulation, lowering the chance of experiencing numbness.

Stay hydrated

Insufficient water intake can harm how well your blood moves through your body. Remember to drink enough water throughout the day and stay hydrated to keep things running smoothly.

Avoid tight clothing

Tight clothing can constrict blood flow, potentially leading to numbness. Opt for loose-fitting sleepwear to ensure unrestricted circulation.


Gently massage your neck, shoulders, and arms before bed to relax muscles and promote blood flow. You can use a mild essential oil like lavender for added relaxation.

Limit caffeine and alcohol

Both caffeine and alcohol can affect your circulatory system and disrupt sleep. Restrict your intake, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime.


Turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory and healing properties. Turmeric mixed in warm milk can help you relax and overall contributes to a good night’s rest.

It’s critical to note that continued numbness could indicate a severe underlying medical issue such as carpal tunnel syndrome, thoracic outlet syndrome, or nerve impingement. If the numbness continues despite trying these remedies, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and personalized guidance.


Experiencing numbness in the arms while sleeping on the back is common due to temporary compression of nerves and blood vessels. This sensation often arises from prolonged pressure on the arms, leading to reduced blood flow and nerve function. While this occurrence is generally harmless and resolves upon changing sleeping positions or adjusting the sleep environment, persistent or severe numbness may warrant medical attention. Follow the recommendations above to facilitate a quick recovery and ensure a good night’s rest. Do you have any more questions? Comment below and let us know!

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Nabeel Ahmad is the founder and editor-in-chief of Lone Mind. Apart from Lone Mind, he is a serial entrepreneur, and has founded multiple successful companies in different industries.

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