The feeling of numbness in your fingers upon waking up is not pleasant. It may happen when you wake up in the middle of the night, or at your regular time, but it’s not fun either way. However, you should know that most of the time, it’s nothing serious. Numbed fingers are most often caused by either sleeping in an awkward position or inactivity.
However, there may be more serious issues behind this. Things like peripheral and compression neuropathy, carpal tunnel syndrome, side effects of your medication, or even vitamin B1 deficiency.
Now, of course, these issues vary in severity. Below you can find out more about the causes of numbness in fingers while sleeping, and what to do about it.
Peripheral neuropathy is a series of conditions that arise from damage to one’s peripheral nervous system. The issues depend on the nerves that have been damaged. So, if the nerves that are in charge of your hands are damaged, this can very well lead to a feeling of numbness in your fingers.
It can be both genetic and acquired. Peripheral neuropathy can occur due to diabetes, long-term excessive alcohol consumption, an underactive thyroid gland, and other health conditions. Injuries can cause temporary and permanent peripheral neuropathy as well.
Furthermore, there are certain medications that can cause peripheral neuropathy. The main culprits are cancer treatment drugs. According to the American Cancer Society, this may not be avoidable for those who are undergoing cancer treatment.
Unfortunately, most of the time a cancer patient needs to finish his or her rounds of chemotherapy before this issue goes away. What they can do is perhaps use smaller doses of chemotherapy drugs, or switch to other types altogether.
If the numbness in your fingers only occurs when you wake up from sleep, you might not have peripheral neuropathy. But if you do, the treatment depends on the damaged nerves as well as the underlying cause.
Unlike peripheral neuropathy, compression neuropathy is not about damaged nerves but rather pressure put on the nerves, usually over a period of time. This causes a numb or “twitchy” feeling in certain parts of a person’s body. Carpal tunnel syndrome, for example, is a subtype of this issue.
Compression neuropathy that happens when you’re asleep can occur anywhere on the fingers, arms, forearms, elbow, and even the neck. There is a multitude of things that can lead to compression neuropathy, some of which are rather severe, such as the pressure exerted by abnormal growths like hematomas (cysts) and tumors.
Others reasons are more benign, like simply sleeping on your hand during the night. Also, the tissue around the nerve can expand due to weight gain or pregnancy-related swelling. Swelling may also be a symptom of hypothyroidism, psoriasis, scleroderma, or acromegaly. Ulnar nerve entrapment and rheumatoid arthritis are common causes as well.
Treatment depends on what caused the issue in the first place. Something as simple as stretching your hand for a minute can solve the issue. Reducing alcohol intake is always beneficial, but the worst-case scenarios would require surgery.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
One of the most common causes of numbness in fingers while sleeping is carpal tunnel syndrome. The carpal tunnel is a “tunnel” that you can feel at the base of your palm and wrist. The median nerve is responsible for sensations in the palm side of your fingers (except the little finger).
Whether you are awake or asleep, if the carpal tunnel pinches this nerve, it will cause sensations of pain, numbness, and itching. It can also lead to decreased grip strength and an inability to tell hot from cold.
Now, the reason for this occurrence can be due to a host of factors. Remember that the problem here is centered to the carpal tunnel, i.e. the space where the median nerve passes through, not the nerve itself. Besides the common cause of pressure to the area, carpal tunnel syndrome can also be caused by trauma done to the wrist that leads to swelling – namely, sprains and fractures.
It can also occur due to an underactive thyroid gland or an overactive pituitary gland. People that suffer from rheumatoid arthritis can feel this as well. Carpal tunnel syndrome can affect people who work with vibrating tools all day and office workers with bad posture. Also, it affects women in pregnancy and menopause because of fluid retention. In rare cases, it can occur due to the development of tumors or cysts in that area.
There are some other causes that may lead to the feeling of numbness in fingers while sleeping. Vitamin B deficiency is one. Vegans and vegetarians often experience this, as well as senior citizens who are fifty years or older.
Additionally, this condition can affect celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disorder patients. This issue is treated by either taking vitamin B supplements.
People with spinal or brain disorder may also suffer from these issues, as can people who have suffered a stroke. They should only be treated by authorized physicians in light of the potential complications.
When to See a Doctor?
Numbness in your fingers or hand can be caused by a multitude of factors, which would require different treatments. Most often all you have to do is shake your hand and stretch a little, and you will be right as rain. However, there are a couple of factors that may indicate a symptom of something more serious.
You should see a doctor if you have some of the following issues:
- The numbness persists for a couple of days
- The numbness spreads to other parts of your body
- If you feel dizzy or confused
- If you feel weakness or paralysis in parts of your body
- If you feel a severe burning sensation that only gets worse
Hopefully, this is not a serious issue. Just remember to stay calm. If necessary, visit your doctor and be completely honest.