Sleeping arm or hand

A sleeping arm belongs to transient paresthesia or sleeping limbs. A leg can be ‘asleep’, but we more often see it in the arm and hand. There is numbness and sometimes it is impossible to move the arm. Afterwards, pain may be felt. How does this happen and is it dangerous to have a sleeping arm or hand?

The development of a sleeping arm or hand

The name sleeping arm or hand comes from the fact that the arm or hand does not do what we want and does not respond to instructions from the brain. It may feel as if the arm is paralyzed. Sometimes it is necessary to lift the arm with the other hand, it has become so numb. The problem is usually found in the blood flow that is restricted. But the nerves can also be pinched. In addition, increased muscle tension may be the cause.
A sleeping arm often occurs during sleep. At night you can unknowingly pinch the arteries or nerves due to a wrong posture. This occurs more often in pregnant women . Certain conditions can also be the cause. For example, we often see a sleeping hand in carpal tunnel syndrome. A hernia can cause a sleeping arm. Damage to the vessels/veins also causes a sleeping arm or hand. Other risk factors include diabetes or an underactive thyroid gland. People with increased muscle tension cramp in such a way that blood flow or nerves are pinched. Sometimes there is a serious vitamin B12 deficiency.


The symptoms are often very clear: the hand or arm is numb and when you rub it you feel little or nothing. Squeezing the hand or arm does not cause any pain. Sometimes it is impossible to move the hand or arm. It may feel as if it is paralyzed and that can be quite frightening. Over time, a tingling sensation develops. This is caused by blood flow restarting. It can be quite painful: it sometimes feels as if thousands of small needles are being inserted into the skin. When blood flow is optimal again, the pain and tingling sensation disappear and the arm or hand can be used normally again.
In some cases, continuous numbness and numbness remain. We see this when blood flow is continuously deteriorated or when nerves are often pinched. There is a tired and painful feeling or restlessness in the hand or arm that alternates with complete numbness. A sleeping arm or hand has nothing to do with paralysis. Paralysis occurs when part of the nervous system is permanently damaged. A sleeping hand or arm always regains its feeling, sometimes for a shorter period, but in most cases everything returns to normal.

The danger of sleeping limbs

A sleeping arm or hand in itself is not dangerous. Rather, the problem lies in the cause. Often it only becomes clear through sleeping limbs that veins or nerves are pinched or damaged. Treatment is then necessary. Anyone who often suffers from a sleeping arm should be careful: nerves can eventually be damaged.
A tense arm or hand can be dangerous when working with it. Machines and cars may not be driven with a sleeping arm . It is logical that objects fall from the hand when the hand is asleep. During the night you can be startled awake by a sleeping arm or hand. Don’t try to push yourself against the bed. There is then a risk of falling.


If sleeping limbs recur, treatment focuses on the cause. Certain conditions can be treated well, others less so. Sometimes sleeping limbs are a symptom that can reveal an underlying disease. In some cases the cause is difficult to treat and one must learn to live with a sleeping hand or arm. However, one can try to ensure that a sleeping arm occurs as little as possible by ensuring a varied position and sufficient exercise. Extra vitamin B12 and zinc may be worth a try. Massaging the arm or hand improves blood circulation, allowing the feeling to return more quickly.
If a sleeping arm occurs during pregnancy, these complaints often disappear after delivery. It can also help to eat less salt. Salt retains fluid, which can pinch nerves.

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