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Numb Limbs When Sleeping

What can I do to prevent getting numb hands and arms when I'm sleeping in the backcountry?

Question:

When I’m camping, I frequently wake up during the night with my arms and/or hands feeling numb. Is there something I can do to prevent this?

Submitted by - Chris, Minneapolis, MN

Answer:

My answer is: maybe. Most likely, a nerve or two is getting pinched. Sometimes you can relieve this with a thicker sleeping pad—or two pads. Sometimes packing in a small pillow will do the job—or you can stuff extra clothing layers, like your puffy jacket, into a pillowcase or stuffsack. I’d try both things. Also, is your sleeping bag big enough? A tight bag can put pressure on a few nerves. Finally, you might have an alignment problem that a visit to a healthcare practitioner could possibly alleviate.  —Buck

1 Comment

  1. Rick

    I have had the ulnar nerve problem noted by the Doc above for many years. I am a side sleeper and my doc told me the same thing, straighten the elbow. However, this did not work for me at all. It seemed to either not help or made the symptoms worse. What I found is that if I cross by arms across by chest loosely, whether on left or right side or on my back, the pain and numbness in my hands goes away almost immediately. Takes a bit of getting used to, but soon it becomes second nature. Also, make sure you use something, anything, to elevate your head especially if side sleeping.

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