T Nation

Help: Arms Falling Asleep At Night



RB here. So, over the previous year, since I've taken my lifting more seriously, I have experienced good gains in strength and size. I'm stronger and feel, generally, about like I did when I was a 20 year old Ranger - with one minor exception.

My arms fall asleep at night. Usually, two or three times a night I wake up with one or the other arms fully asleep and in enough pain to wake me up. I roll over, wait a few minutes and it's over. Nevertheless, it doesn't seem right. Any ideas?

I should give more background info, shouldn't I. Ok. I've only managed to add an inch to my arms in the previous year (bear in mind, please, that my arm is now all muscle, whereas before it was mostly fat).

The bed is the same as it's been for years, it isn't hard, it's a medium mattress.

I was diagnosed with PVC's a couple of years ago, since changing my diet and training regimen I have completely eliminated them. I've had a recent nuclear stress test that showed me to be in perfect cardiovascular health.

My total cholesterol is around 180 and I don't have sleep apnia or anything like that.




I used to have my arms fall asleep when I weighed more and was out of shape. This would happen if I tried to sleep on my side.

While it's possible that building up certain muscles might change how pressure is applied to your arteries, it would probably be possible just to change where your arms are while you sleep.

What about "raising" your arms up over your head? It sounds funny, but stretch them up or just out to the sides and see if they will stay that way while you sleep.

Of course, this assumes you'll have the space to do this.


I've had that experience, and here was the cause:
excessive benching/chest work without proper stretching of the pectorals.

Let me explain: as the pecs get built up and you tend to "hunch" forward more, the extremely narrow channel through which the major nerve that serves your arms runs from the spine TO your arms gets pinched.

You don't notice this much during the day while you're moving and doing things and trying to walk/sit upright. But at night, when you relax, things tighten up.

In my case, it was resolved with more stretching of the pectorals/anterior delts. In the evening after a chest day, I'll make sure I stand in a doorway, place my arms elbows against the doorframe on the near side, and then lean forward, getting a good stretch across the chest.

Give it a shot. If it works, then you've found the cause. if not, then...uh oh, there's something worse at play. Good luck.


My arms started falling asleep a while back, and putting them over my head has helped, it's one of the few comfortable positions I have left.


Thanks guys,

Yeah, I do tend to sleep on my side. My normal posture isn't hunched at all. I'm very upright with shouldes back - military training and all - however, when I sleep on my side my shoulder does sort of collapse into what be a shoulder forward position if I were standing up.

I've tried sleeping straight on my back and it still happens though.

I haven't tried sleeping with my hands over my head. I don't know how practical that would be but I'll give it a shot.

When I bench I practice PNF stretching on the first warm-up set to make sure I'm fully stretched. Also, before benching I do pec-dec flyes and pushups supersetted with light weights.


Do you use GH? I have heard of that causing nerve problems in the hands...if this is way out of line, I apologise.




both my arms fall asleep at some point almost every night.. usually I fall asleep flat on my back with my hands folded across my stomach ( like lying in a coffin ) and the pressure points from the mattress are right on my funny bone / ulnar nerve. Then at some point I will have rolled over in my sleep onto my stomach with my arms folded underneath me.. and holy smokes.. good night Irene... the only way my arms dont fall asleep is if I sleep on my side.


Strengthen your back and balance out by focusing on rows, chins and deadlifts?


i found that when sleeping on my side i can avoid or eliminate my top arm falling asleep by putting a pillow between it and my torso. this also helps the shoulders to retract much more.


I think this might be a good answer.

I had that problem every time I'd go fairly heavy with my pushing excersises, and thought that I'd just have to live with it.

Ever since I started doing CW's programs (which had a lot more pulling to equal out my pushing than I did before) it seemed to go away.

Now it's very rare that my arms fall asleep, but they still do every so often. Maybe somethink like once or twice in two months now.

You might even want to try and do MORE rowing/back excersises than pusing. I read in one of these articles that it's hard to do too much pulling compared to pushing, but it's real easy to do too much pusing compared to pulling.


Hey there Rubberbubba, Im a chiropractic student and just thought Id offer my 2 cents. Though I am relatively new in the program, and have not yet had classes in physical diagnosis or clinical neurology, maybe what I am about to say can offer some info...

basically, there is a group of nerves called the brachial plexus which originate from your cervical (neck) region,enter the axilla (shoulder) region, and run down your arm and forearm. This brachial plexus supplies motor innervation to basically all of those muscles in your arm/forearm/shoudler region.If it wasnt for the brachial plexus, you wouldnt be able to curl 225 for reps and close grip bench 315 for reps, as I know you do. :slightly_smiling:

Your arm falling asleep could be due to several things: you may be sleeping on your side, putting your bodyweight on your entire arm/forearm unknowingly when you sleep at night, and this causes compression on some of these nerves I described earlier, heck, it may even compress your axillary artery as well, hence your arm falls asleep.

Or, the problem could be higher up,meaning some of your cervical vertebrae are subluxated/misaligned/malpositioned whatever you want to call it, and so this malposition affects/compresses some of the nerves of the brachial plexus, and you feel the result in your arm/forearm down below (more downstream so to speak). Your pain/numbness can be charted out to different areas of your arm/forearm by dermatomes and myotomes, and this is how the chiropractor will know what vertebral level is affected. This is where chiropractic adjustments could be beneficial.

As far as sleeping is concerned, you want to sleep in a neutral position (on your back), with your head flexed no more than 30 degrees with a pillow. you can also try putting support (pillows) underneath your knees, but do not create more than30 degrees of flexion there as well. If you sleep on your side, make sure the pillow is underneath your head and ABOVE the shoulder, so that your nose is in line with your sternum. It is also reccomended you put a pillow between your knees when sleeping on your side as well.

Hope this helps


My arms still fall asleep anytime I have sleep on my back with my hands on my stomach or at my side. I always have to sleep with at least one arm over my head and this seams to help. Generaly I end up sleeping on my stomach with both arms under the pillow. There is nothing worse than waking up in the morning with both arms asleep and yor allarm going off. I probably look pretty dumb with my arms flopping around trying to turn the allarm off....


I've had that problem get pretty bad at times and I can't stand sleeping on my back which seems to eliminate the problem. Stretching the full range of shoulder and upper back movement has been the biggest help for me though. Maybe it has a direct effect on the cause or maybe it just lets me contort myself beyond the position that puts my arms to sleep. Either way, the stretching seems to have helped.


Thanks vroom.

I flat bench 225 and cable row 195. I try to keep my weights roughly even across the board. For instance, I think I can move up on flat bench's but my incline bench is lagging too much. It's only about 185 and I think it should be about 195 or 200, give or take. My decline is 225 and I think it should be about 245 to move up.

In my previous training life, balance was my key problem. I had a very poorly designed workout designed by a history teacher/football coach/handy man when I was in high school. I got stronger, of course, but I'm pretty sure if I had done nothing at all, I would have been stronger at 18 than I was at 15.

My current trainer is a friend that's a former competitive bodybuilder. My program is probably a little tilted towards physique enhancement - as opposed to functional strength - but then the only sport I do outside of lifting is competitive shooting.

BTW, thanks to everyone who posted. Did I mention how much I love this board. You guys are all great. If you're ever in Houston, let me know and I'll buy you a protein shake.



Yup. That's it. The pressure points are right on my funny bone. That puts them to sleep.

Also, when I sleep on my side, I think it cuts off the circulation like Chiropractor below stated.




Thanks. I believe firmly in chiropractic. I was in an aviation accident in the Army that compressed my spine and reduced my overall height by half an inch. The only 'cure' was chiropractic (and lifting more).

Of course I curl 225. That's why I do it in the squat rack!



If the numbness starts around the elbow and proceeds down, you're likely impinging upon the ulnar nerve (funny bone). It runs around the little bump you feel on the inside of your elbow. Sometimes it gets a little out of track and is easier to squeeze. Try gently massaging it. If your ring and little finger tingle or stay numb for very long (along with loss of strength in those two fingers), I'd see a doc. They can give you Neurontin which help the myelin (I think) repair itself, along with advil to decrease inflammation.

To reduce pressure on the ulnar nerve, do NOT sleep with your arms above your head. The optimum angle is about 60 degrees or so for your lower arm to decrease stress on the nerve. I actually had to tie my arms to my sides to prevent from putting my arms above my head when asleep when it was really bad.

All that said, it could still be circulatory.


Go see a doc. You need to be checked for carpal tunnel syndrome. I had the exact same symptoms and ended up getting the diagnosis of carpal tunnel. Had the surgery 6 months later, and here I am 3 months after the surgery and my hands/wrists/arms feel better than ever and never go numb.


Interesting thought. My wife is an RMT. She says that Carpal Tunnel is an impingment of the same brachial nerve complex up in your shoulder. The surgery treats the symptom by severing something in your wrist - she couldn't remember what it was called. She says most people continue to live with the root cause even after the surgery but they just can't feel it so they think they are cured. I guess, effectively, they are cured. Sort of the surgical version of "it hurts when I do this" "don't do this then". Y'know.



Carpal Tunnel syndrome is compression of the median nerve at the wrist joint. I believe surgery handles it by cutting the flexor retinaculum, but I may be wrong.