Sleeping Positions: The Arm Under My Head

sleep positionsI can’t let go of my obsession with sleeping and sleeping positions. Since I bought my fit bit sleep tracker I dutifully record my sleep and suffer accordingly at my lack thereof. I haven’t had more than four hours and ten minutes of actual sleep since I began tracking (about four months)  what kind of rest I get at night and I have never gone over sixty percent efficiency, both features that the Fitbit informs me of at my own peril.

Caffeine is the latest of my pleasures to bite the dust in an attempt to up the duration of my slumber and I will give it a month and see if there is any effect. Sugar is going the way of all things as well. I am pulling out all the stops.

This past weekend my family and I had the pleasure of staying in a two hundred year old house in Cornwall Connecticut, a stunningly beautiful hamlet a couple of hours from the city. It was a wonderful weekend of reading and eating and letting the children run wild (with bow and arrows, among other things, which will be the subject of tomorrows post).

When it came time to sleep my wife and I shared a full sized bed—which is not at all an accurate description—with a mattress that seemed as soft as a pillow. As I have gotten older I have found it harder to sleep when I am not in my own bed which is odd for someone who used to be able to sleep anywhere at any time.

I managed to snare pillows to setup sleeping positions similar to what I have at home. Two pillows under the head with a third between my legs—one hand wedges between the pillow and my upper thigh and the other sits under the pillows by my head with my arm at a right angle. For whatever reason this arrangement which works like a charm in Brooklyn (though there have been some bumps in the road over the years) was a sleep ender in Connecticut. Regardless of which side of my body I was sleeping on I woke up repeatedly throughout the night with varying stages of numbness in the elbow, wrist and fingers.

It was a fairly unbearable experience.  I have been meaning to write about the brachial plexus, the network of nerves that emanate from the neck to feed the arm but haven’t gotten around to it. For whatever the reason my sleeping positions, due to the bed, the pillows, the change of environment or maybe something else that I can’t figure, were clearly compressing something in the nerves that innervate the arm and I was losing all sense of feeling in the bottom arm no matter which side I way laying on.

While I have had other issues with sleeping positions that I have previously documented on the blog, this experience blew my mind and ruined my rest.

Sleeping is so critical to a fruitful life and though I might be a tad neurotic about it, I truly think that the quality of our sleep can make or break the goal of living a long and healthy life. This weekend’s experience  with sleeping positions that so negatively affected me, actually made me grateful for how relatively good I have it, but also made me acutely aware of how environment and physical space can mess with our basic functioning.

I have worked with numerous clients who reported similar symptoms and though I could always empathize— feeling is truly believing. We got home late last night and I had a numb free sleep though it was only 3 hours and 12 minutes with a 50% efficiency.


Yoga and the Art of Archery
Ardha Navasana, Navasana and the Psoas