Last Updated on December 4, 2023 by Louise Carter
The T-Rex had tiny arms, with equally small hands bent at the wrist. This appearance is also linked with a common sleeping position.
If you stretch your arms and bend your wrists, you may be described as sleeping with dinosaur hands. While frequently associated with neurodivergence, anybody can wake up this way.
Dinosaur hands don’t pose significant issues if you only sleep in this position occasionally.
While your hands and fingers may be slightly numb or tingly, primarily due to lack of blood flow caused by flexed and bent wrists, full feeling and movement soon returns.
Regularly sleeping with dinosaur hands is more likely to cause long-term problems. Constant pressure on the nerves and flexing of the wrists can lead to inflammation and repetitive strain injuries.
Warm and relax the muscles around your hands and wrists before bed if you often wake up with dinosaur hands. Weigh your hands down with a pillow if they grow restless overnight.
Consider wearing a hand splint in bed if you can’t keep your wrists straight.
What Does Sleeping with T-Rex Arms Mean?
Sleep experts have coined the term “T-rex arms” to describe a sleeping position that resembles the so-called king of the dinosaurs. What does it look like to sleep with dinosaur hands?
If you wake up with your arms outstretched but your wrists bent at a 90-degree angle, you’ll be described as having dinosaur hands. In waking hours, this is widely associated with neurodivergent people.
Dinosaur hands are a common sight in people with autism or ADHD.
Anybody can experience dinosaur hands during sleep, including children and neurotypical adults. There will usually be a simple explanation for T-rex arms while you sleep.
What Does it Mean if I Sleep with Dinosaur Hands?
According to Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, tyrannosaurs had such tiny arms and adopted their unique posture to avoid biting their hands while feeding with their powerful jaws.
This concern doesn’t apply to humans, so why do we sleep with dinosaur hands?
Neurodivergent people tend to adopt a T-rex arms posture to feel comfortable, as they’re unsure how to hold their arms. Equally, many people with autism take solace in gripping and keeping an item close to their chest as an act of self-soothing.
During sleep, this item could be a stuffed toy, a pillow, a hot water bottle, or anything else that could be considered acceptable to bring into bed. The dinosaur hands pose makes clasping an object easier.
For neurotypical people, the answer likely revolves around your sleeping position.
If you doze off in a public place like a train with your head resting on your palm, on folded arms, or while holding a bag, you’ll likely wake up with dinosaur hands.
Another explanation for dinosaur hands is that you’re placing excessive pressure on the nerve endings found in your wrist or hand while sleeping. Your body may instinctively react to this and curl your hands and wrists inward like you have claws.
Think about your sleeping position and how this may lead to dinosaur hands. Do you like to doze off with your hand touching your face or place your hands under a pillow or other parts of your body?
This puts pressure on the nerves, and your hands will curl when you change position during sleep.
Is Sleeping with Dinosaur Hands Harmful?
If you wake up with dinosaur hands as a one-off or occasionally, you’re unlikely to experience any long-term ill effects. You may initially face stiffness or numbness in your fingers, but this will quickly pass and can be managed with brief exercises.
Regularly sleeping with dinosaur hands can be more problematic. This places significant pressure on the nerves within your hands and wrists. After a while, the numbness and pain will become more pronounced and last much longer.
Eventually, sleeping with dinosaur hands can also lead to medical complaints.
The likeliest is carpal tunnel syndrome. CTS is a repetitive strain injury caused by consistent pressure upon the primary vein that runs through the hand, wrist, and forearm.
If unfortunate, you may also experience tendonitis (swelling and inflammation in the wrist tendons).
Neither CTS nor tendonitis is life-threatening, but they’ll cause pain and discomfort in your hands and wrists alongside regular sensations of numbness and tingling in the fingers.
These symptoms can make everyday tasks that you take for granted surprisingly challenging.
These issues pass with time, especially if you allow the muscles and tendons in your hands and wrists to rest and recuperate, but it could be several weeks before you regain full use of your hands.
Painkillers will also be necessary to manage discomfort during your recovery.
What Should I Do if I Wake Up with Dinosaur Hands?
Upon waking with dinosaur hands, you may find your hands and fingers numb and tingly. This can make it hard to turn off an alarm, reach for water, or even support your body weight and get out of bed.
Your posture has been held for a while, and blood has ceased flowing to the hands.
Waiting 1-2 minutes will usually see these symptoms subside. Shaking your hands can also speed up the process, causing blood to rush back into your appendages.
Complete some exercises if you don’t regain control of your hands and fingers within a few moments. Flex, stretch, and wriggle your fingers, like a pianist warming up before playing a recital, and gently bend and circle your wrists.
Adults rarely need to see a doctor about dinosaur hands unless limited movement in their hands and wrists impacts their quality of life.
Consider a consultation for a child who sleeps this way if you suspect they may be neurodivergent.
How Do I Stop Sleeping with Dinosaur Hands?
While sleeping with dinosaur hands occasionally isn’t a concern, adopting this position isn’t ideal. As discussed, you may develop a wrist or hand injury caused by inflammation or lack of blood flow.
Consider your sleeping position when you get into bed, especially where you place your hands.
Sleeping on your left-hand side, with a pillow between your knees, will maintain a balanced spinal alignment overnight and reduce pressure on the hands and wrists.
Keep your hands above your heart while you’re sleeping, too. This will promote blood flow to your hands and reduce the risk of them curling.
Unfortunately, you’ll likely move while you sleep. Consider these measures if you find that waking with dinosaur hands is a regular occurrence and causing issues.
Increase Temperature Around the Hands
If you increase your hands’ temperature before bed, blood will flow to these appendages, making you less likely to experience dinosaur hands overnight.
Taking a bath or shower is a great way to raise your temperature. As a bonus, the rest of your body temperature will lower, promoting a deep and restful night of sleep.
Use a heating pad or hot water bottle if you prefer a more direct approach. This heat source could be kept beside the bed, enabling you to touch it periodically and regain warmth.
Weigh Down Your Hands
Using cushions or pillows to weigh down your hands and arms can prevent T-rex or dinosaur hands. You’ll likely need to sacrifice our previous suggestion to keep the hands above the heart to achieve this, but sleeping comfortably is paramount.
If you don’t feel comfortable with your hands and arms restrained, consider holding onto something while you sleep. Adopt a position whereby you wrap your entire arms around this object so you aren’t flexing your wrists unnecessarily.
A body pillow is an efficient solution. This should be large and wide enough to link your hands while cuddling the pillow, and the lower half can also be placed between the knees if positioned diagonally.
Apply Splints to the Hands
Hand splints are worn over your hand and run down the wrist, resembling a ping-pong paddle. Tape your wrists and fingers to keep them flat and extended so they can’t curl inward.
It may take a while to get used to wearing hand splints in bed, and you should weigh your hands down so you do not accidentally hurt yourself by touching your face in your sleep, but they are advisable if dinosaur hands are causing significant pain or injury.
Use Muscle Relaxants
Consider using muscle relaxants before bed if your wrists regularly bend while sleeping.
This will treat any spasms of tics that you experience in your sleep that may inspire the wrists to flex and bend overnight, leading to dinosaur hands.
If possible, avoid prescription medications. Benzodiazepines are often linked to sudden-onset snoring and sleep apnea, meaning you may be trading one problem for another.
Eating a banana before bed will have muscle relaxant properties, so bringing this snack into your sleep hygiene routine alongside heat will keep your hands relaxed.
Herbal teas also provide the same service, especially those that contain turmeric, ginger, or peppermint.
Sleeping with dinosaur hands may appear harmless but can cause moderate issues and pain if left unchecked. Take action if you regularly wake up with T-rex arms and experience discomfort.