Have you ever asked yourself why you wake up with a certain something? I mean, have you wondered why you wake up with a headache sometimes? Or maybe you’ve woken up with puffy eyes. Ever wondered where that came from? This morning I woke up with numb arms and hands. It has happened before, so I wasn’t too stressed out about it. But the question is, should I be worried? Up until this morning, I haven’t really given it any thought.

But as I sat and wondered what to write about in today’s blog post, it suddenly struck me! I decided to write about all of the different states we find ourselves in when we wake up. Well okay, not ALL of the different states, but most of them. Some of the things our bodies do when we wake up is just too embarrassing to discuss on a blog about sleep and relaxation. So we will leave those topics out for now.

Why do I wake up with numb hands and arms?

First thing’s first. Seeing as I woke up with numb arms this morning, I get to talk about my problem before I get to yours. Let’s call it writers freedom.

I am sure most of us know the feeling of waking up with one arm that is numb, because we slept on it. This is not the numbness I am talking about. The feeling I had this morning was very strange. It was as if I had no strength in my hands or arms. You might not believe this, but I struggled to put my alarm clock off, because my arms felt too weak. Have you ever experienced anything like that? It is actually quite scary. You tell your body to do something, but it just doesn’t want to respond. I do not really like that feeling. And before you ask, I did not sleep on both of my arms. I woke up on my side, with arms outstretched in front of me…

So if my arms weren’t numb because I slept on them, why were they numb? Medical Doctor and expert on regenerative medicine, Chris Centeno sketches some pretty bleak pictures about waking up with numb hands. Here is what he has to say:

Your nerves can get permanent damage if you don’t find a cure for waking up with numb hands.

This is quite scary, if you ask me! I do not know about you, but I definitely do not want permanently damaged nerves! Dr. Centeno explains that nerves have their own blood supply flowing around them and when this blood supply gets cut off, the nerve goes numb. If this happens for a short period of time, it won’t cause any permanent damage, but if it happens every night you should be worried.

Some of the most common reasons for waking up like this

According to Centeno, neck stenosis is a major cause for waking up with numb hands. If you do not know what neck stenosis is, Google it. I’m joking! Neck or spinal stenosis is a condition where your neck’s protective spinal canal narrows due to trauma or degenerative issues. In simpler terms, your spinal cord gets compressed to such an extent that some of the nerves gets pinched. Just as a side note, most of our nerves start somewhere in our head and then they go to the rest of the body via the spinal cord. So obviously when your spinal cord gets compressed some of the nerves will suffer. When we sleep, the neck relaxes, so your head might flop off to one side, causing the spinal cord to compress and crunch up some of the nerves.

Another big culprit is thoracic outlet syndrome (TOC). Similar to spinal stenosis, your nerves get squeezed a bit more than they should, but this time in the shoulder area. Dr Centeno says that this is actually becoming more common, because of the wide use of computers. (When I read this I immediately sat up straighter in front of my computer). He says that the common posture in computer users is to lean forward with the neck and shoulders, and this leads to nerve compression.

Carpal Tunnel syndrome can also cause your hands to be numb when you wake up. This is when the main nerve to the hand, the median nerve, gets pinched in the wrist. The median nerve goes through the carpal tunnel to reach the hand, and when this tunnel gets pinched it might cause numb hands.

How can you solve the problem?

Using a cervical collar at night might reduce the numbness in your hands. You can get a cervical collar from your local pharmacy and experiment with it. Do not put it on too tightly, because you do not want to strangle yourself while you sleep! Physicians advise that the collar should sit loosely around your neck when you sit on your bed. They say that the shoulders pull up when you sleep, which tightens the collar. If the cervical collar works, you might want to consider going for an MRI scan to see what is wrong with your neck.

Stretching your shoulder and neck muscles can lead to instant relief. And if neither one of the aforementioned techniques work, you can try sleeping with wrist guards. They should keep your wrists stable, reducing the effects of what might be carpal tunnel syndrome.

There is a host of other things that can play a role, like all sorts of different arthritis, generalized anxiety disorder, vitamin B12 deficiency and many more. But i do not want to stand still at my problem, there might be some of you that suffer from other wake up problems. Let us address some of those issues.

Why do I wake up with a headache?

A close-up bearded man with a serious expression casts a shadow

The obvious answer is simply because you drank too much previous night, but we won’t go there… Hopefully that is not the main reason why you wake up with a headache. Interestingly, it could be one of the reasons why you wake up with numb hands and/or arms. Constant or long term abuse of alcohol can cause permanent damage to your nerves. This in turn leads to symptoms similar to what you experience when you have spinal stenosis.

But as I said, let’s not go there. If drinking is not the problem, why do you wake up with a headache? And let us not try to fool each other, most of us have woken up with a headache at one stage or another. Headaches are one of the most common reasons for people to visit the doctor, so don’t tell me you haven’t had one…

Here is one of our old favourites on this blog: Yes you could have guessed it, sleep apnea can lead to waking up with a severe headache.

So basically everything that can go wrong while you sleep can be pinned on sleep apnea. We have spoken about sleep apnea in so many blog posts now, that we should probably make sleep apnea the main focus of this blog! But, for the new readers, we have to tell you a little bit about sleep apnea, so that you know what we are talking about. Sleep apnea or obstructive sleep apnea is when your airways get partially or fully blocked while you sleep. This leads to short periods where you do not breathe at all, followed by an extremely short period of wakefulness. It occurs more readily in people that sleep on their backs, so maybe try another sleeping posture.

A white bed, silver lamp, empty carafe, blue wall, and a bedside table at Alta Yorktown Apartments


What is this bruxism? For those of us that only speak the common tongue, bruxism is when you grind on your teeth whilst asleep. Scientists haven’t really figured out how to stop this problem with medication, but there are a few handy tips that might help to lessen your jaw clenching. First off, you can try to wear a mouth guard when you go to bed. This might sound strange, but if you wear a mouth guard, it will lessen the pressure on your teeth and decrease your chances of getting a headache. You can also massage your jaws before bed and do some relaxing yoga to get rid of your stress. If none of these options work for you, take a jog every now and then or go for a long swim. Healthy exercise always helps to get rid of extra worries and stress.

Sleeping on the wrong pillow might also lead to waking up with a headache

This is pretty much self-explanatory. When it comes to choosing the right pillow, our friendly staff will definitely be able to assist you. Ask them for something that allows your head and neck to stay in a neutral position while you sleep. If you don’t want to go to our store, visit our website and check out the amazing selection of pillows we have to offer!

Why do I wake up with neck pain?

Because you slept at a funny angle. Haha, no this is not the entire truth of the matter, even though it might be the cause. Once again, sleeping on the wrong pillow can lead to waking up with neck pain. You need to find a pillow that supports your neck, as well as your head. That is why memory foam pillows or contoured pillows are becoming the fad nowadays.

Apart from choosing the right pillow, your sleeping posture can also cause neck pain. Sleeping on your back or on your side is better for your neck, because the spine can rest in a fairly natural position. If you sleep on your stomach, you place a lot of strain on your spine, because you arch your back and turn your neck to the side. This is not really a natural or neutral position and it will place strain on your spine. The problem with sleeping on your back is that it might lead to obstructive sleep apnea or snoring, which is detrimental to your well-being. Maybe you should try to sleep on your side, if you struggle with neck pain. It just sounds like the safest option.

Why do I wake up feeling tired?

Your sleep cycle was probably interrupted a couple of times during the night. Many times we wake up at night without realizing it. And guess what wakes us up? Yes. You guessed it. Sleep apnea is once again the biggest culprit! With sleep apnea we wake up many times throughout the night without realizing it. This quite obviously deprives us of  a good night’s sleep.

If you wake up feeling tired, you must ask yourself this: Do you sleep enough and do you sleep well enough. It is one thing to lie in bed for eight hours, but quite another to actually sleep for eight hours. There are a lot of factors that influence the quality of our sleep. If it is too bright in the room where you sleep, the quality of your sleep won’t be very good. Similarly, if it is too warm or too cold in the room, you won’t sleep well. If you eat too much before you go to bed, like I did tonight, you won’t have a good night’s rest.

If your pet sleeps in bed with you, consider throwing him or her out. Breathing in hair all night is not conducive to a healthy sleeping environment. Likewise, the pet’s warmth my keep you awake.

Then there is obviously the question of what goes on in your head at night? Do you sleep, or do you think? Thinking is good, but sleeping is better, especially at night. Try to leave the hard thinking for your time at the office.

Maybe we should ask ourselves, why do I wake up at all?

This is a dangerous question with many answers to it. I would love to go into the philosophical ideas surrounding waking up, but for now, let us rather go to bed. Do not even ponder this question. Just go to sleep and wake up tomorrow feeling refreshed and ready for the new day. And if you ate too much tonight, like me, do a couple of stretches before you hit the hay and have a glass of water.

Sleep tight. Until next time.