You wake up in the middle of the night to get a glass of water, and upon standing your legs buckle underneath you as you clumsily collapse to the ground. An uncomfortable tingling travels through your limb, and the only thing you can do is wait out the uncomfortable sensation until that body part “wakes up”. Obviously this type of thing happens when you sleep on your arm, or you have it above your head, but the question remains, what is going on inside of the body to cause that pins-and-needles feeling?
When you sleep with your arm above your head, underneath your head, or position your limb in any way that puts excess pressure on a nerve, it causes paresthesia. When your arm is asleep or “paresthesia syndrome” occurs, the nerve that has pressure applied stops sending impulses to the brain, therefore instructions from the brain to the body part have a difficult time communicating.
Pins & Needles
To put it into perspective, think of when you get a kink in a garden hose. The hose compresses and water eventually stops flowing. Once the pressure is relieved, the hose (your nerve cells) can begin to flow normally. There is a certain amount of lag time that your body takes to regain circulation and nerve flow. The increasing pins-and-needles feeling that stops us in our tracks occurs when the body part is shifted so that the nerves can wake-up and regain their functionality. The lack of pressure and fast surge of blood flow sends messages to the brain in different orders depending on the nerve size.
The first nerves to wake are the smaller ones, which are in charge of controlling pain and temperature triggering the tingling feeling. It’s not until the larger “touch” nerves awake until you regain feeling in your limb. And finally, the moment you have been waiting for, the motor neurons are able to communicate with the brain and control movement, allowing you to regain your composure and get out of bed or off of the floor, and get your glass of water.
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