The causes of numbness in any part of the body while sleeping may not always be readily apparent. In some cases, the loss of sensation can occur during the transition between sleeping and waking. Persistent experiences of this symptom may be an indicator of health problems that should be followed up with a visit to a physician.
Possible Causes of Numbness While Sleeping
Numbness while sleeping can be among the causes of insomnia when the loss of sensation interferes with the ability to stay asleep through the night. Pinpointing the cause of the problem can lead to a viable solution. Possible causes include neurological and medical conditions, but sometimes the experience can be triggered through an unusual awareness of the sleep cycle.
Sleep Paralysis and Hallucinations
The inability to move is a natural part of the sleep cycle that occurs during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage. The brain is active during this phase but the body is paralyzed. This prevents the sleeper from acting out his or her dreams. A person may experience sleep paralysis, which is an undesirable state in which the individual realizes that he is immobile.
Sleep paralysis can be frightening, and it can make the sleeper feel numb when combined with a hypnopompic hallucination. Ziad Shaman, MD, explains how a person may feel numb in her entire body during sleep paralysis. Though sleep related hallucinations are usually visual, a person may have tactile hallucinations, including numbness and tingling, according to Dr. Shaman's response to a question about feeling numb during sleep.
Catching yourself in a dream-like state can create undesirable sensations and experiences. Feeling numb while sleeping can occur during transitions between waking and sleeping, but it can also occur because of neurological or medical problems.
Neurological and Medical Problems
While the sleep problem may go away without treatment in some cases, it may be a sign of a health problem. Addressing any underlying medical problems may alleviate the symptoms in some cases. The following list is not comprehensive, but it offers insight into the serious nature of medical problems that may include numbness as a symptom.
The nervous system is complex and disruptions in the nerves can lead to twitching while sleeping or loss of feeling that can interrupt sleep in addition to other symptoms. Examples of neurological problems that can lead to numbness are fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome that has no known cause, but researchers believe that the problem exists in the central nervous system. The disorder has symptoms of chronic pain, numbness, tingling and burning sensations in feet, legs, arms, and hands. Interestingly, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that people who have fibromyalgia are more likely to have another sleep problem called restless leg syndrome as well.
Multiple sclerosis is a serious condition that damages the protective covering around nerve cells called the myelin sheath. As nerve impulses are lessened, feelings of numbness in any part of the body can arise during sleep and throughout the day.
Certain musculoskeletal problems can lead to numbness when the nerves in the neck, shoulders, arms and hands are affected. Cervical spodylosis is an example.
Cervical spondylosis, also known as cervical osteoarthritis, affects the nerves in the neck as the discs, bones and joints in this area change. When the condition causes pressure in the spinal cord, it can damage its nerves, leading to cervical myelopathy. When a person has cervical spondylosis with myelopathy, he may experience numbness in his extremities.
Each condition is unique and each requires evaluation for accurate diagnosis. People experiencing other troublesome symptoms in addition to numbness should take note of them.
Medical Evaluations and Sleep
Numbness in extremities or other parts of the body can be a symptom of many different medical problems. While the loss of sensation can occur around the clock, many people may not notice it until they are resting.
If numbness during sleeping persists, it is necessary to talk to a doctor about the condition. A physician is the most valuable resource when it comes to physical symptoms as well as any concerns about sleep problems.