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Sleeping while pregnant: my arm is falling asleep!

I was talking to a mama today who came in for a massage and she asked for some pointers on preventing her arm from getting all tingly at night.

I hear about arms falling asleep a lot. But this time, mom was talking about lying on her side and her upper arm falling asleep.

It is quite common when sleeping on your side for the weight of your top arm to roll forward and lie against your torso at a sharper angle and compress your armpit-area, limiting circulation to your arm and causing some of those annoying pins-n-needles. This can be exacerbated if you start rolling forward a little bit onto your tummy as you rest (this can be particularly the case for women who are stomach sleepers when not pregnant).

The first thing you will want to try is tucking a pillow under that top arm. Teddy bear style. The pillow will help hold your arm away from your body and minimize compression in that area. Oh ya, and that pillow can be brilliant for some mamas to reduce strain on your upper shoulder and neck muscles (as the heavy arm is rolling forward, it’s pulling on your neck muscles).

(I took these photos awhile ago and can’t find where I had the mama sign a release form…so, I’m masking her identity. These pictures are so old, I bet her baby is in kindergarten already!!)

For some women this arm pillow alone will help tremendously. Others, will need a bit more help to prevent from rolling forward more toward the belly and exacerbating that “arm-t0-torso” angle.

Next, try tucking a pillow under your belly. We recommend a wedge pillow — not only will this minimize your tendency to roll onto your belly, it’ll support your ligaments and lowback. Also, be sure to check out how you are propping your legs. Make sure you have substantial leg support — the firmer your leg pillows, the less give, and the less you will roll.

And, there is much, much to be said about stretching out before bed. The chronic tension in the chest, arms and neck from all of our hours upon hours of computer, driving, phone work (what, you don’t use the computer??) continues to pull our arms forward and compress our chest area.
There is more involved for sure, such as fluid retention in your upper limbs (do your rings still fit??). Strategic pillow-ing and stretching won’t be a cure all for swelling, but they will help minimize compression in your armpit area and reduce inhibition of lymph drainage in your arm. Here’s a nice discussion on arms and breast-area lymph drainage — look for mention of the “elbow pit.”
Want more sleeping while pregnant tips? Check out our mini resource guide for strategic pillowing.
Hope that helps! Wishing you restful sleep. 🙂 Nicole

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