Ahhh...sweet dreams.... It feels so good to snuggle up in a warm bed with a good pillow, all curled up on your side. Zzzzz..... And then you wake up, and your fingers are numb. WTH?
So many clients come to me with this syndrome, usually Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, where muscles in the neck/shoulder/chest area compress the neurovascular bundle that leads down to the arm/hand. And they always answer "Yes!" with surprise when I ask them if they sleep on that side.
Think about how you sleep. Do you snuggle up to your collapsed shoulder, so that it's almost close enough to kiss? Do you grip the pillow with your arm, as if it may make a break for it in the middle of the night? Or extend your bottom arm overhead to add to pillow volume? The picture below shows the muscles that are held in a prolonged contraction in this snuggly position. Not shown are the muscles between the shoulder blades that are held in a prolonged stretch due to the collapsed shoulder position, creating midback pain.
So what do you do about it? See a qualified massage therapist who knows how do access these muscles, which are not addressed in the typical spa massage. He or she can relieve the pressure by treating the muscle tension. At my clinic, I actually take the time to evaluate and modify sleeping positions of clients. Try to take a break from side sleeping for awhile to give your muscles a break. But when you do sleep on your side, stack your shoulders so your shoulder blades are in a neutral position (as if standing), pull your head back to a neutral position over your spine, and get your arm out from under your head/pillow. This requires a pillow that is generous enough to fill the space between your head & shoulder; a contour pillow does nicely.
"But I'm asleep!", you say, "how can I control my position?". Set yourself up in this position before falling asleep to set your intention in your mind and body. If you wake up during the night in the shoulder-snuggler position, correct it and go back to sleep. Eventually, your body gets the message. And your body will thank you.