Why Is Carpal Tunnel Worse at Night?
How to Sleep with Carpal Tunnel
Symptoms of carpal tunnel include tingling or numbness of the fingers or hand. The thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers are often affected, and patients can feel a sensation that is similar to an electric shock in these fingers. Patients with carpal tunnel can also experience weakness in the hands because of the thumb’s pinching muscles. Carpal tunnel is caused by issues with the median nerve, which is the nerve that runs from the forearm through a passageway in the wrist to the hand. When the median nerve is irritated in the carpal tunnel space, an individual can develop carpal tunnel syndrome.
Why Does Carpal Tunnel Hurt More At Night?
It is not uncommon to experience the symptoms of carpal tunnel after periods of inactivity. This is especially true when you are trying to fall asleep at night. These symptoms tend to be worse at night because the tissue fluid in the arms becomes redistributed without an active muscle pump. The skeletal-muscle pump is a collection of skeletal muscles that help the heart circulate blood. When an individual is not active during the night, an increase in fluid causes an increase in carpal tunnel pressure, which makes symptoms worse. Some of the other reasons why carpal tunnel syndrome tends to worsen at night include:
- Fewer distractions
When you lay down to rest, you become less distracted by daily outside occurrences and more acutely aware of what is going on in your own body. If you are experiencing pain in the wrist area due to carpal tunnel syndrome, you might be more prone to dial into that. Your brain plays a role in this because as your brain focuses its energy to the painful areas, it is less likely to wind down for the day and allow you to sleep.
- Cooler temperatures
When the temperature drops at night, an individual’s perception of pain tends to increase. The damaged nerves tend to interpret colder temperatures by sending out signals that lead to feelings of sharp pain. Although many of us love to sleep in a chilly room, if you struggle with symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, keeping the area where you sleep nice and warm can help alleviate symptoms.
- Added stress and anxiety
Individuals who struggle with anxiety and panic attacks are more likely to experience symptoms at night because there are fewer distractions to prevent them from worrying. Not only does this increase in anxiety lead to poor quality of sleep, but it can also lead to an increase in carpal tunnel symptoms. This is because emotional and physical stress takes a toll on the body. While there is no single cure to anxiety, establishing a healthy routine and engaging in a relaxing nighttime routine can help reduce this problem.
Furthermore, a study by the University of Louisville showed that sleeping on the side is associated with increased instances of carpal tunnel syndrome. Patients who have carpal tunnel or who are at risk of developing carpal tunnel should be mindful of their sleeping positions. When it comes to wrists in particular, changes in position by as little as 20 degrees can alter nerve compressions. Examples of ideal sleeping positions for these individuals include:
- On the back
When you sleep on your back, there is less stress on the cervical spine and decreased risk of nerve compression at the shoulder, elbow, and wrist. If you would like to take pressure off of the lumbar spine as well, propping up the legs is advisable.
- Holding a pillow
If it is too difficult or uncomfortable to avoid sleeping on the side, holding a body pillow can prevent you from moving into a position such as fetal position that would increase tunnel pressure.
Neuropathy and Poor Sleep Quality
Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common types of neuropathy, a disease in which the body’s peripheral nerves are traumatized. In general, patients who suffer from neuropathy tend to experience disrupted sleep patters and poor sleep quality. This is because the pain that comes with peripheral neuropathy can make falling asleep difficult. The key to avoiding this type of pain interfering with your sleep schedule is to break this cycle of sleep deprivation. In order to sleep better with any time of nerve pain like carpal tunnel syndrome, we recommend taking some basic steps such as:
- Adjust your diet in a way that promotes healthy sleep, particularly at night
Foods that increase the level of tryptophan in the body are advisable to eat at night. Tryptophan is a naturally occurring amino acid that is used to help make melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin helps regulate the sleeping cycle and serotonin helps regulate appetite, sleep, mood, and pain. Some of the foods that are high in tryptophan are carbohydrates with a high glycemic index like rice and baked potatoes. Other foods that are high in tryptophan include lean chicken and turkey, beef, lean pork chops, firm tofu, fish, boiled soybeans, milk, squash, pumpkin seeds, oatmeal, and eggs.
- Practice yoga daily.
A multitude of studies, including one study conducted by the Department of Pharmacology and Neuroscience at University of North Texas Health Science Centre showed that older adults who practiced yoga regularly had better overall sleep quality, less episodes of disturbed sleep, less daytime dysfunction, less use of sleep medications, and they felt more rested and energetic in the morning. Some of the best yoga position for better sleep include wide-knee child’s pose, standing forward bend, standing half-forward bend, reclining bound angle, legs up the wall pose, corpse pose, and legs on a chair pose.
- Take a short walk in the evening.
In 2013, the National Sleep Foundation reported that exercising during any time of the day helps people sleep better. Plus, when you walk, your core body temperature increases and then drops because of the heat dissipation mechanisms of the body. The lower body temperature that results can help trigger your sleep cycle.
- Meditate and take deep breaths before sleeping.
There is strong evidence that leads us to believe that meditation helps fight insomnia and improves sleep. Similarly to the way that exercise helps foster physical health, exercising the mind is important for mental health and sleep quality. If you start to incorporate meditation into your daily habits, you might be surprised at how drastically it improves your sleep patterns.
Treatment for Carpal Tunnel
Thanks to the expert hand therapy treatment available at ProFysio, patients who are having difficulty sleeping due to carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms can find relief. Our board-certified occupational therapists have extensive experience in treating hand injuries and related ailments. We will personalize your treatment plan and work to meet the needs of your condition. Throughout the process, we will keep your goals in mind as we work towards the best physical therapies for you. If your main goal is to improve your sleep quality, for example, we will keep that in mind as we create a treatment plan that addresses whole-body healing.
To learn more about carpal tunnel treatment and other services we offer, contact ProFysio online or call us at (732) 812-5200.