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Sleep Disorders

Numbness at night

10/16/2008

Question:

Hello and thank you for taking the time to answer my question! I have read through the related articles about numbness and sleep however I haven`t come across anything that describes my specific problems. To give you a bit of info about me, I am a 25 yr old female, take absolutely no medications (not even over the counter meds for headaches), eat healthy for the most part, drink plenty of water and have not taken any drugs or alcohol for 10 yrs. The only surgery I have ever had was 9 years ago when I had my son through a C-section. I have no health problems that I know of (other than what I am about to describe). For the past several months I have woke up every night up to 5 times per night with my arms, hands, legs (from the knees down) and feet almost completely numb, it is almost always all of them that are numb and rarely just one of them.....I get the feeling back in them and go right back to sleep (I don`t have any problems falling back asleep when wakened at night). When I wake up in the morning I have a horrible headache that takes about an hour to go away on its own (I do drink plenty of water to help it go away). I always feel great when I go to bed, the problems start once I am asleep. Other than that, I only get numb feelings when I sit in one position for more than 10 mins without moving my legs much (long car rides for example), but I have been like that since I was a child. My arms and hands never go numb unless I am asleep though. Is there perhaps something I am lacking in my diet? Do you know of any exercises that might help to better my circulation? Thank you for your time and any advice you may have.

Answer:

Awakening from sleep with numbness in one or more extremities is unlikely to represent a primary sleep disorder, though could be the result of certain aspects of sleep (such as body position during sleep). However, the description you provide, numbness in both hands, both arms and both legs from the knees down is quite unusual and will require additional history and an examination to determine what the cause may be.

Numbness in extremities can be the result of compressing nerve fibers in the neck or in a particular extremity, though neither of these would present with the distribution of numbness you seem to have. Some conditions (such as diabetes) can present with a "stocking-glove" (i.e. hands and feet) distribution of numbness, though these are usually chronic and not just related to sleep. Based on the limited information available in your question, the location of your symptoms and the timing of your symptoms does not really bring to mind any obvious sleep or neurologic disorder. This is unlikely to represent a dietary deficiency or circulation problem.

To find out if you may have an underlying cause for your symptoms, you should seek a medical evaluation. Discussing your symptoms with your primary care physician would be a good place to start. Your primary care physician will ask you some questions and examine the areas of concern to determine if further evaluation is needed or if a treatment plan can be instituted. Additional testing and/or referral to a specialist may be needed.

If you would like further information regarding sleep or sleep disorders, I recommend you consider visiting the website of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. This website contains information about sleep disorders as well as lists Sleep Centers around the country. Also, the website Sleep Education.com has plenty of useful information about sleep and sleep disorders. Good luck!

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Response by:

Dennis   Auckley, MD Dennis Auckley, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University