If you suddenly wake up at night to find that your hands are numb, then it can be a frightening experience. Whether there is complete loss of sensation or partial, the level of discomfort remains the same. You feel like the hands have 'fallen asleep' and have turned so weak that you cannot grip anything. The problem worsens further as numbness of hands is often accompanied by a number of other annoying symptoms. They are: mild to moderate pain, tingling sensation, stiffness, coldness, clumsiness, etc. These symptoms are mostly confined to fingers, palm and wrist. In worst cases, it may get extended up to the arms.
Numbness in hands can be a symptom of several underlying health disorders that include nerve damage and circulation problem. Some of the most common causes that can lead to numb hands while sleeping are given below:
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The median nerve that passes through the narrow carpal tunnel of the wrist tend to get pressed due to repetitive use of the hands over a period of time. As a result, nerve inflammation occurs and its normal functioning gets affected. It fails to provide sensation to the fingers and they go numb. If you are involved with typing, playing of piano, carpentry job, painting or racket sports then you are at a risk of developing this problem.
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
This is another case of nerve damage in hands where the ulnar nerve that passes through the cubital tunnel of the elbow gets irritated. This gives tingling and numbness in the little fingers, ring fingers and the palm. Bending the elbows for a long period of time, traumatic injury in the elbow joint and abnormal twisting of the joint are some of the causes of cubital tunnel syndrome.
This condition arises due to degeneration of the neck joint with aging. When the vertebrae in the neck wears out, it causes herniated disk that compresses the nerve root in the nearby areas. This gives numbness, pain and weakness in the hands.
This occurs mostly in diabetic patients where high blood sugar level causes damage to the peripheral nerves that help us to feel the sensation of hot, cold or pain. When they are damaged, they fail to carry out the task of providing sensations properly. This results in symptoms like pain, tingling and numbness particularly in hands and feet.
When normal blood flow to the hands get disrupted for some time, you lose sensation in the hands. We all have experienced it at least once after lying on one hand all through the night. This is a temporary circulation problem that get resolves as soon as the pressure is released from the hand in the morning. Raynaud's syndrome is a more serious circulation problem where the blood vessels of the hands are narrowed down and numbness is felt in the hands due to lack of blood supply.
The exact cause of numb hands can be identified with the help of medical history, studying of the symptoms and common laboratory tests such as x-rays and MRI scan. If there are signs of damage or injury, then the hand should be rested. This is particularly true for those who have carpal tunnel syndrome. They should stop any kind of activities that require overuse of the hands. Some of them have to keep their hands immobile with the help of splint while sleeping.
In those cases, where pain and numbness occur together, anti-inflammatory medicines are given for pain relief. If a patient is suffering from a severe pain continuously that affects the mobility of the hands, then corticosteroid injections are administered directly into the hand to bring down the pain.
Those who have circulation problem because of formation of blood clots inside the blood vessels are given suitable medicines that can dissolve those clots and prevent formation of new ones. If there is constriction of blood vessels then medicines for relaxation of blood vessels are used for its treatment. Doctors often suggest regular massaging of the hands and fingers as it can increase blood flow in the area and bring about improvement in the condition.
Peripheral neuropathy is treated with medicines like antidepressants, anti-seizure medicines and pain relievers. Diabetic patients are also advised to keep the blood sugar level in check with medicines and proper diet. In case, a pinched nerve in neck or wrist cannot be resolved with conservative methods of treatment and the symptoms get aggravated over a period of few months, then the doctor may advise a surgery. It is performed to reduce the pressure from the nerve.
If you experience the problem of numb hands at night, do not get anxious unnecessarily. Too much of anxiety can lead to hyperventilation that may aggravate the symptoms further. Rather, keep your cool, take an ice cube from the fridge and rub it over the numb hand to get some relief. If it occurs quite frequently, make sure to visit your doctor at the earliest for a proper diagnosis of the problem.