Side Sleepers of MeFi: Where do you put your hands while asleep?
March 18, 2014 1:04 PM   Subscribe

I've been a lifelong sidesleeper. My preferred hand position is with my hands curled up under my chin. For a while now, I'm being woken up by the pins and needles sensation in my hand (the shoulder side down hand) as it's asleep. I'm trying to figure out where else to put my hands while I sleep.

I've mentioned this to my doctor, who didn't seem too concerned about it. I would sleep with my arms stretched out perpendicular to my body, but Mr Jane is less than enthusiastic about this solution, as I would be invading his bedspace.
posted by sarajane to Health & Fitness (41 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I do this too, and the only thing I found that works as a substitute is to hug a pillow. I have a second pillow that is only for hugging.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:05 PM on March 18, 2014 [28 favorites]

I always put the shoulder side down hand under my pillow. Maybe that would work?
posted by MFZ at 1:08 PM on March 18, 2014 [6 favorites]

I am also a pillow hugger. I have a smaller cylindrical pillow that is used for this purpose.
posted by brainmouse at 1:11 PM on March 18, 2014


Down-most arm is either stretched out straight ahead, or bent at the elbow with the hand under the pillow. Uppermost arm is hugging a second pillow.


Downmost arm is stretched either under his pillow (if he is amenable) or stretched out and dangling over the topmost lip of the bed. Uppermost arm is spooning him, and what I am usually doing with the hand is none of y'all's business. ;-)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:11 PM on March 18, 2014 [6 favorites]

Hugging a pillow helps me too. However, when this was happening to me a lot in the past, the only thing that fixed it was to force myself to sleep on my back for a while. I had to fence myself in with pillows so I wouldn't roll onto my side in my sleep (another thing that worked was sleeping on a narrow couch). I rarely have a problem anymore whether I hug the pillow or not, and I attribute it to resolving a lot of stress I was experiencing in the past.
posted by telegraph at 1:13 PM on March 18, 2014

Which fingers are tingling, or is it the whole hand? That can suggest where the pinch point is, which would affect how you should position your arms. If you do a Google image search for "cubital tunnel fingers" and "carpal tunnel fingers" you can see what maps to where. With carpal tunnel you're likely to have more relief keeping your wrist in a neutral position, whereas cubital tunnel your elbow is the likelier culprit. (IANEvenRemotelyAD, but I have and have had similar problems.)
posted by katemonster at 1:17 PM on March 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm a side sleeper and because of the pins/needles I now sleep the same way, but with my palms together in a praying position instead of curled up into fists under my chin.

For me, having the balled up hands was causing the problem, not having pressure on the arm that's positioned underneath.
posted by kimberussell at 1:17 PM on March 18, 2014

I use 2 pillows, and my hand closest to the bed is generally flat and shoved between them. I can't put it under both, as that's too much of an angle for my elbow to be happy with.

My other hand is sometimes near the elbow of the first, or I make a loose fist and rest my hand straight down on the bed, close to my torso. My wrists get angry otherwise, ymmv.

I also try to make sure that as much of my arm is *not* under my body as possible, I make sure my upper arm is as unencumbered as I can, so I don't cut off circulation with my body weight.

Very occasionally I can fall asleep with my arms kind of crossed in front of me, but that is less comfortable.

You might also consider the Hugging Mattress.
posted by HermitDog at 1:18 PM on March 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

I use one of those V-shaped pillows which I have at a right-angle, with one side tucked under my head and neck, and the other down my back. This gives me back support and allows me to tuck my hand under that part of the pillow that's supporting my head and neck.
posted by essexjan at 1:18 PM on March 18, 2014

Sleeping with your wrists curled can contribute to RSI problems. If you're a person who does a lot of work on a computer, those issues are of the utmost concern to your livelihood.

Even if you manage to find a more comfortable way to get to sleep, there's no guarantee that you'll stay that way once you lose enough consciousness--you can shift back into your usual position. You might want to consider buying and sleeping with wrist braces--especially the sort with the metal stiff part removable so you can toss them into the wash occasionally.

If that's not an idea you are into, I've had good luck clasping my hands together palm to palm to help keep my wrists straight.
posted by foxfirefey at 1:19 PM on March 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I sleep on my right side. Right hand under my pillow, left hand just usually in front of me on the bed.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:23 PM on March 18, 2014

I put my hands together, prayer-style, and tuck them between my thighs. Bonus: warm hands!
posted by jabes at 1:28 PM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

One of the three:
--Hands together
--Top arm loosely along my body, the other one stretched out toward my front/the edge of the mattress. Unless there's enough space and it dangles over the edge, which I hate, in which case I
--angle my bottom elbow so my hand rests on the pillow.
posted by Namlit at 1:36 PM on March 18, 2014

Yep, holding a pillow or stuffed animal has been the best solution for me also. Seems to align my whole body better, not just ward off the pins and needles.
posted by dlugoczaj at 1:36 PM on March 18, 2014

Side sleeper and I tuck my arm underneath the head pillow, but to make sure that I do not ruin the alignment of my back by sprawling I use a Vietnamese side pillow (bolster) that is designed to be hugged between the legs and arms. Depending on softness, it is also is handy for pregnant ladies needing support, too. Mine were made by mother in varying degrees of softness and circumferences.
posted by jadepearl at 1:45 PM on March 18, 2014

I cross my arms over my chest, and my hands are sort of between my shoulders and chin.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:56 PM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Lower arm goes either under the pillow or stretched above my head, usually.
posted by randomnity at 1:57 PM on March 18, 2014

I hold a body pillow, and I sleep on a carefully curated stack of pillows and cervical supports so that my neck is appropriately neck-height off the mattress. My back, hips, neck, shoulders, and arms get trashed if I have to sleep without something to hold up my arm and knee.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:01 PM on March 18, 2014

I hug a smallish corn-based microwavable heating pad. I warm it up during the winter and don't in the summer, of course, but I love it because it is a good size and smells vaguely of corn.
posted by miss tea at 2:19 PM on March 18, 2014

My head rests on a foam pillow that is the single greatest pillow in the history of man. My hands are in prayer position. They are tucked under my neck in the space between my shoulder and The Pillow.

When I sleep in hotels (which I do at least once a week) I cannot get truly comfortable because all the pillows are horrible.
posted by 26.2 at 2:57 PM on March 18, 2014

I have always slept with a teddy bear, hugging it loosely to my chest.

I tried giving it up briefly when the boyfriend got resentful of me using all my snuggles on an inanimate object. But without the bear I inevitably try to stick my hands under my head and wake up repeatedly with pins & needles.

So the bear has been reinstated permanently.

edit: even though I rarely wake up still holding the bear, falling asleep in that position seem to be the trick
posted by onehundredand80 at 2:58 PM on March 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

I keep the lower elbow fully drawn in against my torso, arm at at comfortable upward angle between 30-45 degrees, wrist straight, palm up.
posted by ceribus peribus at 3:10 PM on March 18, 2014

I have a second pillow that is only for hugging.

I call mine my cuddle pillow.
posted by changeling at 3:16 PM on March 18, 2014

Huggy Pillow
posted by pearlybob at 3:39 PM on March 18, 2014

Nthing body pillow. I used to cross my arms, but got sick of waking up with my hands totally numb.

As a bonus, it keeps me from knocking my knees together, something I apparently do all the time when I sleep. I may be an outlier though, I seem to hurt myself sleeping more than anything except showering.
posted by Sphinx at 3:57 PM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I also have a second hugging pillow, but my lower arm actually often ends up angled on top of the second pillow, rather than underneath it. That seems to work for me.
posted by darchildre at 4:08 PM on March 18, 2014

Under the pillow, but not under the head. I actually have to be mindful of my sleep position so that I don't wake up very numb.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:42 PM on March 18, 2014

Wow, I love that you thought to ask this question. I can't fall asleep without my bottom arm under my fluffy-but-not-dense (Costco down alternative) pillow. Imagine if you were standing up, with your elbow reaching for the ceiling, and your hand back down under your chin. It's really hard on my shoulders, and I would love to be able to fall asleep another way. Fortunately, as soon as I fall asleep, I seem to roll over onto my back.

Any recommendations for convincing your body to fall asleep in a new configuration? My shoulders would appreciate the advice.
posted by instamatic at 5:20 PM on March 18, 2014

I have a slightly odd answer. I'm female and I noticed a few years ago that my chest was starting to wrinkle from the skin folding up while I slept on my side at night. Over time I retrained myself to sleep at an angle - I'm on my side for all intents and purposes, but my chest is angled back so that the skin on my chest doesn't fold. Doing this has also allowed my downward-facing arm more freedom of movement - I usually start with it loosely bent up toward my head/pillow but it's able to move as it needs to while I sleep to avoid losing sensation. My topmost arm usually ends up on my hip or on my side, with the forearm draped over my torso. I feel like it's been a win-win.
posted by AthenaPolias at 5:30 PM on March 18, 2014

I'm a side-sleeper. I fall asleep best when I rest my head on my bicep and let my hand droop down over my face, though, true confessions, this is a defensive posture against a big dog, a small dog and a cat who all like, from time to time, to sit on my face.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:53 PM on March 18, 2014

Definitely huggy pillow. When I'm alone I have two, one for each side. I have to give up one to the bf when he is here because he likes huggy pillows too. Usually the arm that is between me and the bed is bent so my hand is under the pillow or just next to it. If I'm somewhere where I don't have an extra pillow I try to balance the top arm on my side, but that can be tricky and uncomfortable.
posted by Nolechick11 at 6:23 PM on March 18, 2014

If your doc hasn't already, and you're in any sort of high-risk group (vegetarians, for example), get your vitamin B12 levels checked. One of the signs of deficiency is...tingling hands. Doubtful, but good to rule out.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 6:49 PM on March 18, 2014

I used to get woken up by pins and needles all the time, but this stopped after I started doing regular exercise, especially yoga which has strengthened my wrists a lot. I think also when I am tense I tend to clench my wrists more causes pins and needles in sleep. Just mentioning these things in case you would like to try to ameliorate the pins and needles.
posted by bearette at 7:09 PM on March 18, 2014

Wrists crossed roughly at the clavicle, sort of hugging myself that I type that, it sounds rather sweet.
posted by xiaolongbao at 7:24 PM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Pillow (aka stuffed animal) hugging for the win! I really can't sleep without one. Bonus: it gives me an 'excuse' to get a new, cute stuffed animal from time to time! :)
posted by sleepykitties at 7:26 PM on March 18, 2014

I cross my arms over my chest, and my hands are sort of between my shoulders and chin.

I do this when I am cold. Otherwise I am a super routine sleeper. Sleep on my right side, left arm bent under the pillow (so my head is sort of on top of where my hand is but not quite, more like my hand is under my ear) and right hand sort of tucked into my left elbow. I also have a huggy pillow on either side because otherwise when I sleep I tend to bend my hand out in an L and that's what makes it go all numb. When the SO sleeps over I have one arm around him and one under sort of my pillow and his pillow.
posted by jessamyn at 7:28 PM on March 18, 2014

I sleep with my arm tucked under my pillow (under my head) and I have woken up with my arm falling asleep. I've been able to sleep on my stomach and keep my hands down to my sides when that's happened to me.
posted by AppleTurnover at 8:16 PM on March 18, 2014

My hands are often crossed over my head/eyes - I usually feel more comfortable sleeping on my right side, but I've read it's healthier to sleep on your left side (less heartburn, etc).
posted by dubious_dude at 9:56 PM on March 18, 2014

I'm a side sleeper. I'm also quite active in my sleep, so I'm probably actually in all positions and both sides, but when I fall asleep my bottom arm is usually either perpendicular to my body (either hanging off the bed, or towards my wife (we have a king mattress so this doesn't hit her)), or going towards the head of the bed, with my elbow bending back towards my head. Rarely I sleep with my bottom arm pointing towards the foot of the bed; I've been trained away from it by the waking up to pins and needles from an asleep limb.

I currently use a candy cane shaped pillow (I believe it's specifically marketed as some sort of pregnancy pillow), but when I just used a flat pillow, often in the arm pointing towards the head while bent at the elbow, I'd be wrapping the pillow over my head (to help you picture it). Most frequently when waking up I've have my pillow wrapped around me, rather than pointing perpendicular to my body.
posted by nobeagle at 9:02 AM on March 19, 2014

I look like I've folded my arms and tipped over. For example, if I'm sleeping on my left side, my right hand will be resting on (grabbing?) my left bicep/shoulder/upper arm (whatever's comfortable) and my left hand on my right arm.
posted by seiryuu at 11:34 AM on March 19, 2014

I guess im as odd as my various bedpartners have said; I sleep on my side with my arms over my head so that my non-pillowed ear is covered by my upper arm. That way I can't hear anything.
posted by davejay at 1:25 AM on April 8, 2014

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