Mattress to prevent arm numbness for a stomach sleeper?
November 14, 2012 8:55 AM   Subscribe

Mattress to prevent arm numbness for a stomach sleeper?

I sleep primarily on my stomach, and that won't be changing. There are occasional interludes of side-sleeping while hugging a body pillow.

Two years ago I bought a memory-foam mattress and replaced it with another when it was damaged during a move, so I've tried two different kinds. They have been great for my back and hips, and I like how they hold onto my body heat.

The problem: after a few recent hotel stays, I've realized that the foam mattresses have likely been contributing to my arm numbness. I wake up every hour or two with a numb arm, primarily forearm and hand. The direction my head is pointing determines which arm it is.

I think it's a nerve issue rather than a blood-flow issue because the numbness almost always disappears instantly when I stretch my arm in front of me above my head (Superman position when on my stomach).

Anyway, I'm about to give up on the foam and replace it with a traditional mattress. But I don't know what I'm looking for and won't be able to detect this potential problem by lying on one in a store. Any recommendations?
posted by ecsh to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I get this too, but unfortunately, I think it has everything to do with the position you're sleeping in and not with the mattress. Sleeping like this puts pressure on your ulnar nerve and restricts blood flow. The only solution I've found is to sleep like Superman. :/
posted by floweredfish at 9:23 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

The foam (and it's low density) is definitely your problem. Your hips are sinking into your mattress, creating a U in your lower spine that in turn puts pressure on your neck. There are two solutions:

1. Keep the foam mattress you have and stop using a pillow. This minimizes the pressure on your neck by keeping it more level with your lower back/hips. Make take a while to get used to, but so will a new mattress.

2. Buy a new mattress (expensive!) with a firm/medium-firm base and a 1-2" pillow top to give you the cushy feeling you like. Firmer support will minimize neck pressure by preventing your hips/lower back from sinking in too far. Example! With this setup you should still use a low pillow specifically for stomach sleepers.

Alternately, you can buy a latex mattress, which is the best of all worlds (cushy feeling, firm support, even pressure distribution); but they tend to be the most expensive of the mattress options, alas.
posted by givennamesurname at 9:50 AM on November 14, 2012

It sounds like part of the issue is the way your neck is turned. I'm not sure if these things are practical or actually comfortable enough to use by choice, but I am also a stomach sleeper and have wondered if pillows and other products intended for sleeping face-down during vitrectomy recovery would be good. (If they were cheaper, I'd try.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:59 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't use any pillow when sleeping on my stomach. I'm very interested in those post-surgical pillows though -- the first time I had a massage on one of those face-hole tables I told people I wanted to buy one to sleep on but was talked out of it.
posted by ecsh at 10:11 AM on November 14, 2012

Whenever I lay on my stomach (not very often) I put a pillow underneath my chest so that my head is off the pillow and lies on the mattress. I don't know what that does to the lower part of the spine, but it helps my upper part.
posted by CathyG at 10:33 AM on November 14, 2012

Maybe a creative pillow arrangement would help? I use two low profile pillows, put my face half on one (so it's just barely off the bed) and a shoulder on the other. If I don't have access to a low pillow, a balled-up sweatshirt works in a pinch. I like a very firm mattress though; memory foam always makes me feel like I'm stuffing my face into the mattress.
posted by nat at 10:50 AM on November 14, 2012

I'd try using a soft wrist brace while you are sleeping before investing in more expensive alternatives.
posted by bq at 10:56 AM on November 14, 2012

I get this too, but in my case, the cause is carpal tunnel combined with arthritis in my neck. I got some neoprene wrist braces, and they make all the difference.
posted by LN at 12:03 PM on November 14, 2012

I recommend looking into latex. I hated memory foam, but I'm convinced latex helped heal a years-old shoulder injury. FWIW, I sleep on my side.
posted by walla at 12:29 PM on November 14, 2012

When I sleep on my stomach I use a bolster pillow. I position it under the shoulder my face points to which means that shoulder does not wind up in as extreme of an angle relative to my neck and circulation is increased. I originally did this due to TMJ as it reduced pressure on my jaw, but have found that if I don't do so, indeed my arm and hand goes numb.
posted by No Shmoobles at 1:11 PM on November 14, 2012

I also use a pillow under my shoulder/chest on whichever side my face is pointing. I don't use one under my head.
posted by callmejay at 1:44 PM on November 14, 2012

Try sleeping without a pillow.
posted by radioamy at 3:44 PM on November 14, 2012

Did you end up buying one of those vitrectomy pillows? I'm curious how they are for regular sleeping.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:48 AM on January 12, 2013

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