Numbness means there’s a loss of feeling in a particular body part. Numbness in the hands while sleeping is a common problem with many causes. Most people wake up with numb hands because of the position they sleep in. Numbness in the hands can occur because of carpal tunnel syndrome, peripheral neuropathy, cervical spondylosis, alcohol abuse, and other reasons.
The best way to treat numbness in the hands is to first identify the cause. Numbness in hands is easy to manage once you know why it happens. Most people treat numbness in their hands using over-the-counter pain medications, topical treatments, antiseizure medications, and vitamin B-12. Waking up with numbness in your hands isn't dangerous if it happens once in a while. The numbness should go away within minutes of waking up. Frequent numbness in the hands that persists for hours after waking up may require medical attention.
What are the Causes of Numbness in the Hands While Sleeping?
Numbness in the hands while sleeping is a common problem with many potential causes. The causes of numbness in the hands while sleeping are listed below.
- Sleeping Posture
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Cervical (Neck) Spondylosis
- Ganglion Cyst
- Peripheral Neuropathy (Nerve Damage)
- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS)
- Vitamin B-12 Deficiency
- Chemotherapy and Other Medications
- Alcohol Abuse
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Multiple Sclerosis
- HIV and Aids
- SJögren’s Syndrome
- Guillain-Barré Syndrome
- Lyme Disease
- Raynaud’s Phenomenon
- Ulnar Nerve Compression
- Median Nerve Compression
- Radial Nerve Compression
1. Sleeping Posture
Sleeping posture can cause numbness in your hands when sleeping because it cuts off the blood supply. If you experience numbness in your hands while sleeping, try other sleeping positions. The best position for sleeping for people who experience numbness in their hands is on your back with your arms at your sides. If you are a side sleeper, place a pillow between your knees and keep your arms relaxed at your sides. Numbness in the hands because of a poor sleeping position isn't dangerous. The numb feeling should go away within ten minutes of waking up.
2. Diabetes Mellitus
Diabetes Mellitus is one of the most common causes of numbness in the hands while sleeping. Diabetes Mellitus results from high blood sugar levels and can cause nerve damage in various parts of the body, including the hands. Treatment for diabetes mellitus includes medication and lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet and exercise. If you are experiencing numbness in your hands while sleeping, see your doctor and get diagnosed to ensure that you are getting the appropriate treatment. Other Diabetes Mellitus symptoms include increased thirst, extreme hunger, frequent urination, and unexplained weight loss.
3. Cervical (Neck) Spondylosis
Cervical spondylosis is a common cause of numbness in the hands while sleeping. Cervical spondylosis affects the spine and can lead to compression of the nerves in the neck. This can cause pain, tingling, or numbness in the arms, hands, and fingers. Treatment for cervical spondylosis may include medications, physical therapy, or surgery. If you are experiencing numbness in your hands while sleeping, see your doctor for evaluation and treatment. Physical therapy for cervical spondylosis lasts 6 to 8 weeks, after which numbness in the hands should occur less frequently.
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4. Ganglion Cyst
Ganglion cysts are small, fluid-filled sacs that often occur on the backs of the hands and wrists. The cysts can cause numbness or tingling in the affected area, especially while sleeping. If a ganglion cyst is pressing on a nerve, it may cause pain. The tingling and numbness in the hands may make it difficult to fall or stay asleep. You can have a ganglion cyst removed surgically or leave it alone if it's not bothering you. If the ganglion cyst is not causing any pain or other problems, there is usually no need for treatment. Around half of the ganglion cysts go away on their own with no treatment. See your doctor for treatment if the cyst is causing frequent numbness.
5. Peripheral Neuropathy (Nerve Damage)
Peripheral neuropathy is a potential cause of numbness in the hands while sleeping. Peripheral neuropathy is damage to the peripheral nerves, resulting from diabetes, autoimmune diseases, or exposure to toxins. Peripheral neuropathy symptoms include numbness, tingling, burning sensations, and pain. The treatment for peripheral neuropathy depends on the underlying cause. If the cause is diabetes, treatment may include changes in diet and medication to control blood sugar levels. If the cause is an autoimmune disease, you may take medications to help the immune system. If the cause is exposure to a toxin, removing the toxin may be necessary. Sometimes, surgery is necessary to repair the damaged nerves. Treatment should improve symptoms of peripheral neuropathy and reduce hand numbness.
6. Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS)
Thoracic outlet syndrome is a condition that can cause numbness and tingling in the hands. Thoracic outlet syndrome is often the result of compression of the nerves or blood vessels. The thoracic outlet is the space between the collarbone and first rib, and anything that puts pressure on this area can lead to TOS. Many potential things can cause a thoracic outlet syndrome, such as a rib that's out of place, poor posture, arthritis, weight gain, and tissue build-up in the area. Thoracic outlet syndrome treatments include changes in activity and behavior, physical therapy, and surgery. Treatment for thoracic outlet syndrome can help improve your symptoms and reduce numbness in the hands.
7. Vitamin B-12 Deficiency
Vitamin B-12 deficiency can lead to numbness in the hands while sleeping. The lack of vitamin B-12 can cause nerve damage, resulting in numbness in the hands. The best way to treat vitamin B-12 deficiency is to ensure you get enough vitamin B-12 in your diet or through supplements. You may have to see a doctor to determine if vitamin B-12 deficiency causes the numbness you're experiencing. Vitamin B-12 deficiency is difficult to identify without getting your blood tested. Other symptoms that may show a lack of vitamin B-12 are frequent nausea, weak muscles, fatigue, and decreased appetite. You may notice the numbness in your hands reduces once you get your vitamin B-12 levels up.
8. Chemotherapy and Other Medications
Chemotherapy and other medications can trigger numbness. If chemotherapy is the reason behind numbness in your hands, topical treatments may provide relief. The numbness is usually uncomfortable but not dangerous, so you can continue with the chemotherapy. You should first talk to your doctor about which topical treatment is safe for you. Other medications can also lead to numbness in hands while sleeping. If you think a certain medicine is causing the numbness, ask your doctor to recommend a safe alternative.
9. Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse can lead to numb fingers while sleeping. Alcohol abuse is a serious problem with many negative consequences, including nerve damage. The nerve damage from alcohol abuse can cause the hands to go numb. Many resources are available to help people who are experiencing alcohol abuse. Treatment for alcohol abuse can help improve your quality of life and reduce the numbness in your hands. Once you start working on your alcohol abuse problem, you should notice the numbness in your hands isn't as frequent. Your sleep quality may also improve.
10. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that can cause numbness and tingling in the hands. Carpal tunnel syndrome is often the result of compression of the nerves or blood vessels. The carpal tunnel is the space between the carpal bones in your wrist and the base of your hand. Anything that puts pressure on this area can lead to this condition. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs because of many factors, including a job that requires repetitive hand movements, pregnancy, arthritis, and obesity. The treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome include changes in activity and behavior, physical therapy, and surgery. You may consider wearing a brace to prevent any pressure on the wrist area. The best carpal tunnel brace is comfortable to use and helps ease symptoms. Treating carpal tunnel syndrome should reduce numb hands at night.
11. Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can cause numbness in the hands while sleeping. The rheumatoid arthritis symptoms vary from person to person, but some common symptoms include joint pain, fatigue, and numbness in the hands. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition that requires ongoing treatment. There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but there are many treatments that can help control the symptoms. Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis focuses on relieving pain and inflammation and preventing joint damage. The numbness in your hands may improve as you start to get rheumatoid arthritis under control.
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12. Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. The symptoms of multiple sclerosis vary from person to person, but common symptoms are numbness, fatigue, and difficulty walking. Numbness of the hands is one of the common symptoms of multiple sclerosis. The disease itself or medications used to treat it can cause the numbing. The numbness can be bothersome and interfere with everyday activities, but some treatments can help. The first step in treating hand numbness due to multiple sclerosis is identifying and addressing the cause. Treatments such as medications or physical therapy may help if multiple sclerosis causes numbness. If medication side effects cause numbness, adjusting the dosage or changing medication may help. Sometimes, surgery is needed to correct nerves from multiple sclerosis.
Hypothyroidism is a condition that occurs when the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough hormones. Hypothyroidism symptoms vary but may include fatigue, weight gain, muscle weakness, and feeling cold. Some people with hypothyroidism experience numbness or tingling in their hands and feet. The cause of numbness and tingling in hypothyroidism may be related to the low levels of thyroid hormones. Hypothyroidism treatment involves taking synthetic thyroid hormones to replace what your body isn't producing. The treatment may improve numbness in the hands and feet.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. Syphilis can cause serious damage to your body if not treated early. Left untreated, syphilis may lead to paralysis, blindness, and death. Syphilis is spread through contact with an infected person's skin, mucous membranes, or blood. Pregnant women with syphilis can pass the infection to their unborn children, who may experience birth defects or death. Common signs of syphilis include body rash, mild fever, headache, and muscle pain. Syphilis can sometimes cause numbness in hands at night and throughout the day. Syphilis is easy to cure with penicillin and antibiotics if discovered in the early stages.
15. HIV and Aids
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a disease caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV attacks an individual's immune system, making them susceptible to other infections and illnesses, leading to AIDS. People with AIDS often experience various symptoms that make everyday activities difficult. Numbness in the hands and feet is one of the most common symptoms of AIDS. Nerve damage, low blood sugar, and AIDS medication side effects usually cause the numbing. You can try easing the numbness by using alternative AIDS medications that don't have this side effect.
16. SJögren’s Syndrome
SJögren’s syndrome is a chronic autoimmune condition that causes various symptoms, including fatigue, joint pain and swelling, and dry mouth and eyes. One common symptom of SJögren’s syndrome is numbness or tingling in the hands or feet while sleeping. This sensation is caused by inflammation and damage to the peripheral nerves. There is no cure for SJögren’s syndrome, but treatment can help ease symptoms. Taking medications prescribed by your doctor to reduce inflammation and control your autoimmune response can help improve nerve function and reduce the likelihood of experiencing numbness in your hands while sleeping. Exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy diet, and getting sufficient rest can help lessen the impact of SJögren’s syndrome.
17. Guillain-Barré Syndrome
Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation and damage to the peripheral nerves. Guillain-Barré syndrome can lead to muscle weakness, tingling or numbness in the hands and feet, and even paralysis. Guillain-Barré syndrome often occurs after a person has been sick with a virus or received a vaccine. There is no cure for Guillain-Barré syndrome, but treatments such as intravenous immunoglobulin therapy and plasma exchange can help reduce inflammation and improve nerve function. The numbness in the hands should ease once you improve nerve function. Some people with Guillain-Barré syndrome require long-term care in a hospital or nursing home. You should seek medical care as soon as possible because early treatment could reduce the severity of the Guillain-Barré syndrome.
Lupus is a disorder in which the immune system attacks its own tissues. Lupus affects different parts of the body, including the skin, joints, and organs. The inflammation in the blood vessels supplying these areas may cause numbness in the hands. Numbness in the hands from lupus can make falling and staying asleep difficult. Lupus treatment involves medications to support the immune system. Sometimes, surgery may be necessary to remove damaged tissue. With treatment, many people with lupus lead normal lives. Once you start treating lupus, you should notice a reduction in numbness and other symptoms.
19. Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. Lyme disease symptoms can include numbness in the hands or feet, fatigue, headache, and fever. Lyme disease can lead to more serious problems, such as joint pain and neurological problems if left untreated. Treatment for Lyme disease typically involves antibiotics. The numbness in your hands should ease and eventually stop after you treat Lyme disease.
20. Raynaud’s Phenomenon
Raynaud’s phenomenon is a condition that causes the blood vessels in the fingers, toes, hands, and feet to constrict excessively in response to cold or emotional stress. The reduced blood flow can cause the affected area to feel numb and cold while sleeping and throughout the day. In severe cases, the tissue may die because of a lack of oxygen. Treatment for Raynaud’s phenomenon involves medication that improves blood flow. You can also try exercising to improve your blood flow. Numbness in the hands should ease after you treat Raynaud's phenomenon.
21. Ulnar Nerve Compression
Ulnar nerve compression happens if you sleep on your arm or have a condition such as arthritis that puts pressure on the nerve. Nighting numbness is a common sign of ulnar nerve compression. The ulnar nerve goes from the shoulder to the hand, wrapping around a bony ridge on the inside of your elbow. Sleeping with a bent elbow can irritate the nerve and trigger numbness, which could cause you to wake up in the middle of the night. . Ulnar nerve compression is easy to cure by icing the affected area. You can also try topical creams or wear a brace to stop you from bending your elbow as you sleep.
22. Median Nerve Compression
Median nerve compression may cause the hands to go numb. The median nerve is a major nerve in the arm that runs from the shoulder to the hand. The nerve controls movement and sensation in the thumb and first three fingers. Median nerve compression can occur at any place along the nerve but is most common at the wrist. Possible causes of median nerve compression are carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel syndromes. Treatment for median nerve compression includes splinting, rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication. Surgery may be necessary to relieve the pressure on the median nerve. Numbness in the hands should go away once you treat median nerve compression.
23. Radial Nerve Compression
Radial nerve compression is a potential cause of numbness in the hands while sleeping. The radial nerve is one of the three main nerves that run down the arm, and it stimulates the muscles on the back of the forearm and hand. Several factors can cause radial nerve compression, including direct trauma to the nerve, repetitive motion injuries, and even wearing a wristwatch or bracelet too tight. The symptoms of radial nerve compression include numbness and tingling in the hands and fingers, muscle weakness, and pain in the forearm. The numbness and pain in the hands can wake you up or make it difficult to fall asleep. Radial nerve compression treatment involves resting the arm and avoiding activities that aggravate the condition. Immobilizing the arm in a splint or sling is sometimes necessary. Surgery may be required to release the nerve if conservative treatment measures are unsuccessful.
What are the Treatment Options for Hand Numbness?
Treatment options for hand numbness vary depending on what is causing the issue. Some treatment options are easy and quick, while others are complicated and require more time. The treatment options for hand numbness are listed below.
- Splints or Wrist Guards
- Antiseizure Medications
- Topical Treatments
- Over-the-counter Pain Medications
- Vitamin B-12
- Consider a New Sleeping Position
1. Splints or Wrist Guards
Splints or wrist guards keep your hands in a neutral position and relieve the pressure on your nerves. Wearing splints or wrist guards can help prevent numbness in your hands by making it difficult to bend your wrist as you sleep.
Exercise can help reduce numbness in the hands by increasing blood flow. Reduced blow flow may cause your hands to be cold and numb. Cardio exercises work the best for reducing numbness in the hands. Exercise and sleep quality are related because exercise is recommended for improving sleep quality.
3. Antiseizure Medications
Antiseizure medications treat conditions that cause seizures, such as epilepsy. Antiseizure medications and sleep are related because medications can relieve numbness and tingling in the hands for better rest. The most common antiseizure medication used to treat hand numbness is gabapentin (Neurontin), which is a prescription medication.
Surgery may be required to ease numbness caused by nerve damage. Surgery is a complicated treatment option and may not always be necessary, depending on the reason behind the numbness in the hands. You should talk to your doctor about alternative treatment options before deciding on surgery.
Antidepressants can help manage hand numbness by calming the nerves. If you suffer from nerve damage that's causing numbness in your hands, consult with your doctor about taking antidepressants. Antidepressants and sleep are connected because these medications may improve sleep quality.
6. Topical Treatments
Topical treatments can help ease numbness and pain in the hands. Most topical treatments are available as over-the-counter products, meaning that you don't need a prescription. Topical treatments are easy to use because you rub them on the affected area. Most topical treatments take minutes to work. A topical treatment may be a temporary solution, depending on what causes the numbness in the hands.
7. Over-the-counter Pain Medications
Over-the-counter pain medications for hand numbness include Tylenol, aspirin, Advil, Aleve, and Motrin. These medications may ease numbing, depending on what is causing it.
8. Vitamin B-12
Vitamin B-12 is a key supplement to help numbness in the hands. Losing feeling in your hands often occurs while sleeping because of vitamin B-12 deficiency. Get your blood tested to determine if you lack vitamin B-12 before taking a supplement. The numbness should go away after a few weeks after you start taking vitamin B-12. More research is needed to understand how vitamins and sleep work, but so far, we know vitamin B-12 reduces numbness in hands while sleeping, which could improve sleep quality.
9. Consider a New Sleep Position
Some sleeping positions put more pressure on your joints, such as your neck, spine, and hips, than others do.
Sleeping on your back is considered one of the best positions for spinal alignment. If you are a stomach sleeper and experience numbness often, consider trying to be a side sleep or back sleeper.
When Should You see a Doctor if You Have Numbness in Hands While Sleeping?
You should see a doctor for numbness in the hands if the condition occurs frequently. Most people wake up with numb hands on occasion, which is no reason for concern. The numbness usually goes away within minutes after waking up. You should see a doctor if the loss of feeling doesn't go away throughout the day or if it happens a few days in a row. Frequent hand numbness could indicate a serious underlying condition that requires medical attention.
Jill Zwarensteyn is the editor for Sleep Advisor and a certified sleep science coach. She is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.
Based in Los Angeles, she is an experienced writer and journalist who enjoys spending her free time at the beach, hiking, reading, or exploring new places around town.
She’s also an avid traveler who has a personal goal of being able to successfully sleep on an airplane someday.