With winter here and the mercury dropping, you may be tempted to snuggle a little closer to your partner overnight. But one University of Toledo Medical Center physician warns your warm and snuggly sleep position could cause nerve problems.
Dr. Nabil Ebraheim, professor and chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, said a condition called radial nerve palsy could develop when the radial nerve is compressed near the elbow.
The radial nerve runs along the underside of the arm and controls the movement of the triceps muscle and is responsible for enabling extension of the wrist and fingers. It also controls sensation in part of the hand.
“Radial nerve palsy is often referred to as honeymoon palsy, due to the closer sleeping habits of newlyweds,” he said. “When your partner falls asleep while laying on your arm, the radial nerve and surrounding muscles are compressed, which can cause numbness and prolonged tingling in the fingers or even restrict movement in the hand or wrist.”
Wrist drop is a rare, but a disabling condition that causes paralysis of the muscles that normally raise the hand at the wrist and can make it difficult to move the hand or fingers.
Radial nerve palsy is treated by supporting the wrist with a brace or splint and through physical therapy that helps to maintain muscle strength and reduce contracture. The nerve usually recovers within a few weeks, but in some cases it could take four to six months. Extreme cases, including wrist drop, could require surgery.
Ebraheim said the best way to avoid developing these conditions is to re-evaluate the way you sleep.
“People should be mindful of their sleep position to reduce the risk of nerve injury,” Ebraheim said. “It’s best to avoid positions that place pressure on the upper arm either from snuggling up with a loved one or sleeping with your arm curled under your head.”