Hands or Feet Asleep? What to Do

Dealing with Numbness in Hands or Feet: Quick Tips for Relief

Numbness and tingling sensation in our hands or feet can occur at any time and may feel harmless at first, but if neglected, it can lead to more severe health issues. The condition is usually caused by nerve compression, circulation problems, muscle fatigue, or an underlying medical condition. In this article, we will offer quick tips for relief and preventions that anyone can follow. Knowing what to do and how to do it can help you prevent or lessen the effects of numbness and increase your overall well-being.

Causes of Hands or Feet Falling Asleep

Dealing with numbness in your hands or feet can be frustrating and uncomfortable. Understanding the root causes can help you avoid it in the future. Here are some common causes of hands or feet falling asleep:

Nerve Compression

Nerve compression occurs when pressure is applied to a nerve in your hand or foot. This pressure can come from surrounding tissue, such as muscle or bone, leading to temporary numbness or tingling sensation. The most common areas for nerve compression are the wrist, elbow, and neck.

Poor Posture or Positioning

Poor posture can lead to nerve compression, especially if you’re sitting for long periods, hunching over a computer, or using your hand repeatedly in a certain position. When sitting or standing, try to keep your shoulders back, your back straight, and your feet flat on the ground. Avoid crossing your legs or arms, which can restrict blood flow and cause numbness.

Sleeping in a Wrong Position

When you sleep in a wrong position, you can end up putting pressure on your nerves, causing numbness in your hands and feet. This can happen if you’re sleeping on your stomach or with your arm underneath your head. Try to sleep on your back or side instead.

Health Conditions like Diabetes or Raynaud's Syndrome

Certain health conditions can cause numbness in your hands or feet. Diabetes, for example, can cause nerve damage, leading to a loss of sensation. Raynaud's syndrome is a condition where the circulation to your fingers or toes is restricted, causing them to feel numb and cold. If you have an underlying health condition, talk to your doctor to find out what you can do to prevent numbness.

By understanding what causes your hands or feet to fall asleep, you can take steps to prevent it from happening in the future.

Signs and Symptoms of Hands or Feet Falling Asleep

Dealing with numbness in your hands or feet can be uncomfortable, and can even affect your quality of life. Understanding the signs and symptoms can help you determine whether you have a case of hands/feet falling asleep or something more serious. Here are a few things to look out for:

Tingling Sensation

A tingling sensation is one of the earliest and most common signs of hands or feet falling asleep. It might feel like pins and needles or a slight vibration, and it can be felt in any part of your hands or feet. It might be a warning sign that you're putting too much pressure on your nerves or that your blood flow is constricted.


The most obvious symptom of hands or feet falling asleep is numbness. Numbness can start off as a tingling sensation, but eventually leads to a complete loss of sensation in your hands or feet. You might feel like you're not able to grip tightly or pick up items. Numbness can be short-lived, lasting for a few minutes or up to a few hours, or it can be a prolonged and recurring issue. If you're experiencing numbness for an extended period or it's becoming a regular occurrence, it might be time to consult a medical pro.


Another symptom of hands or feet falling asleep can be weakness. Weakness in your hands or feet can feel like they're 'asleep' or 'dead,' and you might be unable to use them at full capacity. Weakness can cause instability, making it difficult or even dangerous to walk or carry objects.

Pain or Discomfort

The most severe symptom of hands or feet falling asleep is pain or discomfort. Pain can be dull or sharp and cause distress. It might be accompanied by a burning sensation or throbbing pain, making it challenging to go about your daily routine. Keep in mind that severe or chronic discomfort could be signs of a more serious health condition, so it's essential to consult a doctor if you're experiencing immense pain.

Knowing the signs and symptoms of hands or feet falling asleep can help you take steps to prevent it. If you're experiencing any of the above symptoms, try changing your posture or position, massaging your hands or feet, or taking breaks throughout the day to avoid prolonged periods of pressure on your nerves.

Prevention of Hands or Feet Falling Asleep

Prevention is key when it comes to dealing with numbness in your hands or feet. By taking some simple steps, you can reduce the likelihood that you'll experience these uncomfortable symptoms. Here are a few options for prevention:

Take Frequent Breaks

One of the most important things to remember is taking frequent breaks if you find yourself in the same position or performing the same activity for an extended amount of time. This can give your hands or feet a chance to get blood circulation. Even short breaks lasting 5-10 minutes can help you take care of your body and prevent numbness. If you're working on a computer or desk for an extended amount of time, taking breaks to walk around and stretch can be helpful.

Avoid Crossing Legs or Arms

Crossing legs or arms can create pressure points on the nerves, which can lead to numbness or tingling sensations. Make an effort to sit with your feet flat on the ground and place your arms and hands in natural positions to ensure blood circulation to your entire body.

Use Ergonomically Designed Keyboards and Mouse

Using ergonomically designed keyboards and mouse can also be helpful to prevent numbness in your hands or arms. These types of keyboards and mouse are designed to make it more comfortable for hands and wrists positioning. If you're a desk worker, make sure to invest in a good ergonomic chair and use a lumbar pillow to maintain the natural shape of your spine.

Regularly Stretch and Exercise

Regular stretching and exercise can also be helpful to decrease the likelihood of developing numbness. Performing simple exercises such as wrist rotations, leg stretches, and shoulder shrugs can help you stay flexible and improve blood flow. Additionally, regular exercise can help with your overall health and can decrease nerve pressure on your hands and feet.

Overall, preventing numbness is all about taking care of your body. If you're experiencing any signs of numbness, it's vital to take steps to prevent these uncomfortable sensations in the future.

Treatment of Hands or Feet Falling Asleep

If you're experiencing numbness for an extended amount of time, there are a few things you can do to relieve the uncomfortable symptoms.

Change positions

If you're in a position that's causing numbness, simply moving your body into a new position can relieve the pressure on your nerves and restore blood circulation. If you're sitting, standing up and walking around a bit can help. If you're lying down, adjust your body and pillows to provide support where you need it.

Massage the affected area

Massaging the affected area can help ease numbness and increase blood flow. Gently massage the area where you're experiencing numbness and tingling sensation using circular motions for 5-10 minutes. As you massage, you may feel your skin becoming warmer, which indicates better blood circulation.

Warm compression

Applying warm compression like hot water bags or towels can be effective in easing the numbness in your hands or feet. The warmth can help increase blood circulation, relaxing muscles, and relieve discomfort and pain in the affected area. Always wrap the warm compress in a towel to protect your skin from burns.

Consult with a medical professional

If the numbness is severe, you should consult a medical professional. Your physician may identify underlying health problems that are causing your symptoms and give you medical treatments that can ease the numbness in your hands or feet. Applying self-treatment before consulting with a medical professional or continuing to ignore the symptoms if they don't go away can worsen the condition and further damage the nerves.

The treatment of numbness in hands and feet is essential to maintain a healthy life. It's vital to identify the underlying causes of your symptoms and take necessary preventive measures to avoid the problem. If you do experience numbness, changing your position, massaging the affected area, or applying warm compression can relieve the symptoms. If numbness persists, seek medical care to prevent further nerve damage.


We have discussed the various causes of numbness in hands and feet and the importance of taking preventive measures to alleviate the symptoms. Poor posture, nerve compression, sleeping positions have often been the culprit of this problem. We've also touched upon the signs and symptoms of numbness, which can vary from person to person but mainly include tingling sensations, numbness, weakness, and pain.

Preventing numbness is crucial to maintain a healthy life. We've suggested several quick tips to prevent and relieve the symptoms, like changing positions, massaging the affected area, applying warm compression. If the numbness persists or worsens, seeking medical care is highly recommended.

Overall, it's essential to identify the underlying causes of the numbness and take necessary preventive measures to avoid the problem, leading to more severe conditions. Always consult with your doctor if the problem persists, and the quick tips don't alleviate the symptoms.

We hope this article has provided you enough insights and information to keep your hands and feet free from numbness and tingling for a healthy and happy life. Remember, prevention is better than cure, and taking care of your body is vital to leading a healthy and active lifestyle.

William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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