Can Sleep Loss from Carpal Tunnel Affect the Brain?

Question from Benjamin in Austin, Texas

I have been experiencing routine sleep loss from achy numb hands. At first, I thought I was sleeping on my arms and cutting off circulation to my hands, but then I read on your website from that sleep loss was a common symptom of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. The problem is I now feel like this is slowing down my brain. I cannot think as quickly, nor as clearly and I get upset much more easily and have a short fuse. Can Sleep Loss from Carpal Tunnel affect my brain in this way? I tried sleeping pills and pain medication but they give me brain fog and make me irritable. I hate this feeling. What do you recommend?

Answers from Doctors at First Hand Medical

Chronic sleep loss is a common symptom of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). Like you, most people believe that their sleep posture is causing their hands to “fall asleep” and then wakes them up. The reality is that for many people the first symptoms to show up from Carpal Tunnel is that their hands “fall asleep” at night during sleep causing them to wake up.

chronic sleep loss from carpal tunnel can affect your health

There are multiple factors going on that trigger this response and routine awaking with numb or even painful hands and wrists.

First, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is caused by trapped inflammation that builds up and puts pressure on the Median Nerve in the Carpal Tunnel at the base of the hand. The trapped inflammation also restricts full blood circulation which becomes worst at night during sleep when the muscles are still and not moving.

Second, Sleep is when our body’s healing processes go into hyperdrive repairing injuries and restoring brain function. A key part of restorative sleep is REM Sleep (Rapid Eye Movement Sleep). When our body’s go into REM Sleep the brain is very active with dreams. During REM Sleep our bodies go into a semi-paralysis state to prevent us from acting out our dreams. REM Sleep is essential for good health and for mental sanity.

To illustrate the point, it can be helpful to explore the extremes.

One sleep expert Doctor recently commented to me:

“If a person is completely deprived of REM Sleep for 2 months, they will go insane and risk death.”

Charles Czeisler MD

Charles Czeisler, MD, PhD

Dr. Charles Czeisler, a Harvard Medical School sleep expert, a consultant to NASA and the CIA, testified at the wrongful-death trial of AEG Live associated with the death of Michael Jackson said: “If the singer had not died on June 25, 2009, of an overdose of Propofol, the lack of REM sleep may have taken his life within days anyway.” “Michael Jackson went 60 days without REM sleep.” “He may be the only human to have ever gone 60 days without REM Sleep.” “Propofol deprives patient of vital REM sleep.” “Lab Rats die after five weeks of getting no REM sleep”, he said.

Czeisler testified that: “The coma induced by propofol leaves a patient with the same refreshed feeling of a good sleep, but without the benefits that genuine sleep delivers in repairing brain cells and the body.”

CNN Entertainment Article: Expert: Michael Jackson went 60 days without real sleep

These statements from sleep experts illustrates how important REM Sleep is to our mental health.

When your body drops into REM Sleep, it stops moving almost completely, and goes into a state of semi-paralysis. This lack of muscle movement causes blood circulation, that is already restricted to the hand due to trapped inflammation in and around the Carpal Tunnel, to be reduced further. Of course, Blood circulation is aided by muscle movement.

Yet Carpal Tunnel wakes you up during REM Sleep with Numb Achy Hands depriving you of REM Sleep.So, when the injured hand is trying to repair itself during sleep, it cannot get the healing nutrients it needs. Nor can it effectively access the fluid exchange needed for natural healing through the lymph system due to the pressure from the trapped inflammation and the lack of muscle movement. So, the hand starts to ache and becomes numb waking the person up and preventing the REM Sleep that Brain urgently needs.

Your body gets stuck in a: “Catch 22” Scenario.

rem sleep is essential for health

Some patients are awakened 4 or 5 times per night. Each time they fall into REM Sleep, their hands wake them up. It can take hours of sleeping for your body to fall into REM Sleep. It doesn’t just happen when you first fall asleep.

So, when a patient is being regularly interrupted and awakened from sleep by numb and aching hands, it can be very difficult to get the REM sleep you need.

People who are deprived of REM Sleep report:

Less Server Cases

  • Brain Fog
  • Irritability
  • A Short Temper
  • Day Time Grogginess
  • Slow Reflexes
  • Slower Response Times to mental challenges
  • Less Patience
  • Less tolerance for stress

More Server Cases

  • Memory loss
  • Lower Immune System Function
  • Reduced T-Cells Production – which are key to the body’s ability to destroy virus infected cells or cancerous cells
  • More susceptibility to Illness – more frequent respiratory illness can common colds
  • Hallucinations
  • Inability to notice you have made mistakes
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Difficulty dealing with complexity

You have likely been experiencing this phenomena to one degree or another. Routine sleep interruption from numb and painful hands is one of the most common symptoms of the Carpal Tunnel Condition. It can be quite confusing for most people that are suffering with CTS. It can be hard to think clearly and find the right solution when a person is suffering with this type of a condition. No worry’s we can help you.

Most people get some REM sleep every night, but being deprived of any of the most restorative type of sleep is not good over the long run.

Chronic Sleep Deprivation over many months or years can lead to a lot of serious issues including:

  • Lowering the body’s Immune Response which can increase the risks of cancer and other chronic diseases
  • Raise Inflammation levels which is a precursor to auto-immune diseases and many other chronic diseases
  • Increased risks of Depression, Anxiety, Mental Stress and potentially lead to Mental Illness
  • Frequently Leads to Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
  • Leads to Heart Disease
  • Increased risks of Stroke
  • Results in Hormone Imbalances
  • Higher risks of Type II Diabetes
  • Higher risks of Kidney Disease
  • Increases the onset of Obesity
  • Day Time Sleepiness and lower productivity at work which creates more stress and anxiety
  • Increased Risk of Accidents while driving or operating equipment or any activity that requires safety while moving
  • Irritability which can damage social relationships at home and at work which leads to more mental stress.

This is why we, the Doctors at First Hand Medical say:

chronic sleep loss is the most dangerous symptom associated with carpal tunnel syndrome

So, to answer your question and summarize: Yes, definitely chronic sleep loss caused by Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can negatively affect your brain function, your mental health and your overall health.

CTS is not something to be taken lightly.

What can be Done to Prevent Carpal Tunnel from destroying your healthy life?

The good news is that you can take proactive steps at home to jump-start your body’s natural healing and take control of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms in just a few weeks. You can put Carpal Tunnel in complete remission in 6 weeks for most people. It might take 10 weeks for a few people with persistent carpal tunnel symptoms. There is absolutely no reason to allow CTS to wreck-havoc and destroy your health. The Carpal Solution works for 97% of people with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Most people get relief of their worst symptoms in 3 weeks and complete remission of CTS in 6 weeks. CTS then stays in remission for years for most people.

The Carpal Solution is the Best first line of Treatment For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

The truth is there is no permanent fix for CTS. Carpal Tunnel reoccurs even after surgery for most.

However, there is a Permanent Solution.

Even though CTS comes back in 3 – 7 years after successful treatment with the Carpal Solution, it is easy to put it back in remission with this safe and reliable nighttime stretching treatment.

So, the Carpal Solution is a Permanent Solution for CTS for most patients.

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the carpal solution for the left hand

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Here is what Patients say in Video Reviews about how to cure Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and avoid the risks and complications of Carpal Tunnel Surgery.

pianist cures carpal tunnel pain
dr perrone discusses curing carpal tunnel

Extent and Health Consequences of Chronic Sleep Loss and Sleep Disorders
Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research; Colten HR, Altevogt BM, editors.
Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2006.

Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem.

Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research; Colten HR, Altevogt BM, editors.
Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2006.

Dream Deprived: A Modern Epidemic?
Michelle Carr Ph.D. (Dream Factory, Psychology Today)

Michelle Carr, Ph.D, is a researcher at Swansea University Sleep Laboratory. She holds a PhD in Biomedical Science from the University of Montreal, where she conducted research at the Dream and Nightmare Laboratory.  Prior to that, she received dual degrees, a BS in Brain and Cognitive Science and a BA in Psychology, from the University of Rochester in 2010. Her work focuses on the role of REM sleep and dreams in emotional memory, along with comparative studies of nightmare disorder and PTSD. Other research interests include sleep paralysis, lucid dreaming, consciousness studies, and the use of dreamwork in psychology.