Help me ditch painful morning ghost-arms.
June 30, 2006 10:51 AM   Subscribe

Please help me change my sleep posture.

For the past several weeks, I've awoken sleeping on my stomach with my arms underneath (and crushed by) my body. Usually, because of the way I've been laying on them and cutting off the blood supply/nerve/whatever, my fingers are bent at an odd angle and refuse to move for a couple of minutes after I've woken - accompanied by an extremely painful "pins and needles" feeling.

I'm 20 and live alone. Is there any way I can "retrain" to sleep in a different fashion so I don't wake up like this? Please note: I do not fall asleep in this posture.
posted by irregardless to Health & Fitness (10 answers total)
What position do you fall asleep in? When I was a kid, I fell asleep lying on my stomach and often woke up with dead arms. I now prefer to fall asleep lying on my back, and I end up with dead arms much less frequently.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:09 AM on June 30, 2006

I read that sufferers of sleep apnea often have trouble due to sleeping on their backs. One behavioural remedy was to sew tennis balls into their sleep shirt, down along the spine. This makes it uncomfortable to lie on one's back, but is negligible when lying on one's side. Maybe you could try the analog and sew tennis balls into the front of your shirt, to keep you off your stomach?

On the other hand, maybe a special pillow would help.
posted by ijoshua at 11:14 AM on June 30, 2006

I would try going to sleep face down, with your hands beneath your pillow. Maybe it's some subconcious thing with your hands/arms, and this will help. Total wild guess though - hope it helps.
posted by jcummings1974 at 11:45 AM on June 30, 2006

Sleeping face down with arms under your pillow will also result in some pins and needles, but probably less so than your current configuration.
posted by beerbajay at 11:50 AM on June 30, 2006

I know someone who learned to stop sleeping on his stomach by duct-taping a tennis ball on an old tshirt just over his sternum and wearing it to bed. The discomfort of rolling over onto it would wake him up just enough to make him roll back over. Eventually he got habituated enough that he stopped needing to wear the shirt.

Your arms might interfere with this by keeping your weight off the ball, depending on how exactly you're rolling over...but you could always experiment with bigger, pointier objects!
posted by introcosm at 12:07 PM on June 30, 2006

Forget the duct tape. Sew on half an old sock as a pocket, so you can remove the tennis ball before laundering. Once you develop the new sleeping habit, you won't need the tennis ball.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:12 PM on June 30, 2006

I have two wild guesses for you, both based on the idea that this is happening for Some Good Reason:

Your pillow is some combination of too big and too firm, resulting in too sharp an angle between your body and your head, which your sleeping self is compensating for by propping up your torso with your arms.

Your bed is sloping down toward your head. Apparently this can have seriously deleterious effects for anyone, and perhaps your body is trying to compensate, as above. I'm wondering if all of us ought to be sleeping with our beds sloping up ~5-6 degrees, in fact.
posted by jamjam at 12:37 PM on June 30, 2006

I'd consider a high end new bed and pillows if you can afford it and if your bed sucks. I've noticed since we took the plunge on the ridiculously expensive space foam bed (what the hell, it was five years no interest payments) that I much more stay in position and almost never turn over on my stomach any more. The bed shills anyway claim that your bed giving poor and uneven support causes frequent position changes.
posted by nanojath at 1:42 PM on June 30, 2006

I had to learn to sleep in a new position when I had back surgery. I used to sleep on my back, but I had very painful drains protruding from it, and had to learn to sleep on my side.

The nurses told me to use the following technique, which requires three pillows. Put one under your head, as usual. Put another one between your legs, right around the knees. Drape your free arm (the one you're not resting on) over the third pillow. The idea is to provide support to keep your back in a straight line, which makes sleeping much more comfortable. Experiment with repositioning the arm and leg pillows until your back is straight and you're comfortable. The leg pillow will probably need to be pretty thin, and the arm pillow will probably need to be pretty big, and firm. It may even help to have a fourth pillow tucked behind your back to prevent you from rolling over on your back.
The pillow under your arm should prevent you from rolling onto your stomach. I don't think I've ever accidentally changed position while sleeping this way.
posted by Humanzee at 2:09 PM on June 30, 2006

Previous threads that might also help: 1, 2, and 3.
posted by invisible ink at 2:50 PM on June 30, 2006

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