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Re: Numbness of hands and arms during sleep.

Posted by Honest Expert (but only on mattresses!) on May 04, 2001 at 17:57:55:

In Reply to: Numbness of hands and arms during sleep. posted by oniramcire on April 06, 2001 at 18:02:24:

Hi O,

I hope you have received some relief long before this time, but I thought I would respond to you anyway.

The kind of problem you are describing CAN be caused by a mattress. Of course, there is no way to know if your particular case fits this, but it might explain why it only happens when you sleep.

First off, I'm going to make a guess: The mattress you are sleeping on is either a hand-me-down, second hand, or a fairly inexpensive one. I make this guess because very few people in their early 20's are sleeping on a new, higher quality mattress (I was on 2nd-hand beds until I was 27, then bought a pretty inexpensive one). Or, your mattress is one you have slept on for a long time and you brought it with you from home. I hope you understand that this guess is nothing personal, just a statistical likelihood.

At 6'2" and in the 150's, I would describe you as fairly slender. This might be working against you. If you have a muscular build, this too can be working against you.

One of the biggest problems with mattresses are pressure points. Steel springs have some give to them, but they ARE steel after all.

And a spring, by its nature, will always be pushing back up at you. When the mattress has no weight on it, the spring is at the top of its stroke; as soon as weight is applied -- squishing the spring -- the spring begins to push back. This means that steel is being pressed into your body.

What prevents this from being COMPLETELY uncomfortable? The padding over the top of the springs.

As a mattress gets older, a couple of things happen to that padding: First, because of the pressure between your body and the springs, the padding can start to get squeezed into that big round hole that comprises a spring. This leaves less on the surface for your comfort.

Second, some types of padding are made of fibers that can get compressed, like cotton or fiberfill. This means that padding that started out fluffy gets matted and stiffer.

Third, some paddings that do not compress (like foams, usually) can lose their springiness. These can still LOOK like they will provide comfort, but they just mush when you press on them.

So, how does all this have anything to do with you having a slender build? Well, the less fat you have on your body, the closer your bones are to the surface of your skin, and the closer your nerve system will be to the surface, too.

If you are on an older mattress -- even one that LOOKS like it may still have some padding life to it -- there is a chance that the padding is not protecting your body from those steel, pressure-generating springs. And since your body does not have any extra padding on its own, that pressure can be causing the numbness in your arms.

If you are on a newer, less expensive mattress, it may not have sufficient padding anyway. THAT'S where the mattress manufacturers frequently find the savings to have a lower price.

Now, I'm going to feel really silly if you have this problem regardless of where you sleep! In that case, it may just be your personal physiology causing nerve pressure when you lay down.

You mentioned that you had this problem regardless of what position you slept in, but that may mean less than you think. Just like most people who snore don't believe they snore until someone tells them, how much you move during the night would probably shock you. You can go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning in almost exactly the same position and never realize that you have been flopping around all night like a trout on the pier!

If your numbness is mostly caused by sleeping on your side (which is the most likely), you may be sleeping on your side far more than you realize throughout the night. One of the reasons that sleep problems are so difficult to identify for ourselves is EXACTLY because we have such a poor perception of what we do during that time. Being unaware is part of the DEFINITION of sleep.

I hope, if this bit of information has been completely worthless for your situation, that perhaps you will have a little extra ammunition for the next time you go bed shopping!

Good Luck!
Honest Expert

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