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Why Do I Sleep with Arms Above Head?

Have you ever woken up to find yourself in a strange sleeping position with your arms stretched out above your head? What does it mean? Is it bad for your health? Is it a sign of something more serious?

Sleeping with your arms above your head is a common sleep position that many people adopt during their sleep cycles. Some individuals feel comfortable sleeping this way, while others have no choice, as it is simply their preferred or unconscious position.

However, while sleeping with arms above head may seem harmless, there are factors to consider. In this article, we will explore the reasons why you might be inclined to sleep in this position, and the potential benefits or drawbacks that can come with it. Whether you are curious or concerned about this particular sleeping habit, keep reading to find out more.

Table of Contents

What Does Sleeping with Your Arms Up Mean?

woman Sleeping with Your Arms Up

Sleeping with your arms up (starfish) is done consciously or unconsciously for many reasons. It is also a habit you have picked up, if you own a smaller bed, to create space for your partner.

Alternatively, it can be a way of positioning yourself to breathe correctly. Another common reason can also be if you are having breathing issues at night. Especially for people who snore at night, it can be because they sleep with their arms up.

The Better sleep council highlights that sleeping with your arms above your head can signal that you sleepwalk. Also, it is vital to note that your sleeping position speaks loud about your personality. For example, it is said that sleeping in the “starfish” position, you are said to be a great listener.

Here are some pros and cons of sleeping in a “starfish” position.

The Pros

  • It minimizes pain by aligning your shoulders, neck, and head well.
  • It also prevents acid reflux, especially if you suffer from digestive problems.

The Cons

  • You experience sleep apnea
  • Increases snoring
  • Not a good sleeping position for 20 weeks pregnant women.

Why Do I Keep Raising My Arms in Sleep?

As mentioned above, trouble breathing can be the main reason you keep raising your arms in your sleep. However, there are other common reasons you keep raising your arms in your sleep. Have a look at them:

  • To Get Comfort

You may raise your arms to get them and the back raised, especially if you have slept in the same position for many hours. This can be applied in our day-to-day activities, like when you have to sit down for a more extended period. You always raise your arms and stretch to get some relief and comfort.

As you sleep, when you raise your arms for comfort, you will probably keep them in the same position and not adjust them.

  • Family History

You can ask your relatives or family members if they sleep in the “starfish” position. You may find out you keep raising your arms in sleep because some of your family members do so. Also, in some scenarios, hereditary traits manifest when you have reached a certain age.

Is It Okay to Sleep with Your Arms Above Your Head?

It is not good to sleep with your arms above your head. If it is regular, it may cause you pain because you raise your back and arms. It can also cause difficulty in breathing because your tongue and throat will be pressing on themselves due to gravity. The chances of also suffocating in this type of sleep are high.

Moreover, your sleep cycle is interrupted, and this can lead to the following:

  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Headaches
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Irritability
  • Hard staying asleep

Additionally, raising your arms makes you sleep on your back, which can increase spinal cord problems, primarily if you use the wrong pillow and mattress for your back. Although some people find comfort for their back while sleeping in a “starfish” position, it can increase the chances of your back getting misaligned as you sleep.

How Do I Stop Sleeping with My Hands Over My Head?

Below are ways to optimize to stop sleeping with your hands over your head. Take a look;

1. Sleep on Your Side

sleep in one side

Consider sleeping on your side if you snore in the “starfish” position. If it’s a new position that you have not tried, you can start by lying on your side and using some pillows to support your back. This will prevent you from switching to the “starfish” position as you sleep.

2. Opt for a Narrow Bed

A narrow bed will help you because the starfish position usually takes up more space. With a narrow bed, chances of rolling back to sleep with your back are low since the bed is small.

You can also sleep on a couch, and after you have acquired the sleeping technique of side sleeping, you can return to your bed. If this option does not work for you, you can try this one.

3. Get a Most Comfortable and Right Sleeping Mattress

Comfort is critical for a night of better sleep. If you are using the “starfish” position and, with time, you start getting some pain or discomfort, you can opt for a comfortable sleeping mattress. Ensure you get a mattress that goes in hand with your:

  • Body type and weight
  • Your budget
  • Preferred sleeping position

Following the above considerations will make you wake up more relaxed and rested the next day. Remember that since you sleep in the “starfish” position, you must get a medium-firm mattress. It will help adjust any spine alignment problems that may cause sleep apnea and snoring.

4. Invest in a Good Pillow

Some pillows like memory foam, polyester, and down pillows will go a long way in improving your sleep quality. The pillows are comfortable, and they come in handy to help you sleep in the correct position so that you breathe correctly.

Another option is the wedge pillow. It has been proven to help people change their sleeping position. Besides that, here are several benefits of a wedge pillow:

  • Helps to minimize snoring: It elevates your body above your bed’s base level. This, in turn, helps your breathing pathway to clear up.
  • Reduces back pain: A wedge pillow has a slanting angle shape to realign your vertebrae alongside your hips with the spine. It helps your body be distributed equally, minimizing any lower back issues and minor body aches.
  • It clears up the nasal pathways: This is because your body is raised above your bed’s base level. Now it means that every mucus you have will come out of the nostrils rather than going to clog your nasal pathways.
  • Reduces heartburn: A wedge pillow reduces GERD symptoms, including heartburn.

5. Engage a Doctor

If the above methods do not work and you still experience health problems when sleeping in a “starfish” position, you should visit a doctor. They will advise and recommend any other medication to help alleviate the health problems you will be facing.


Can sleeping with arms above head cause chest pain?

Sleeping with arms above the head can sometimes cause chest pain, but it is not always the case. The chest pain could occur due to pressure on the chest resulting from the weight of the arms, as well as compression of the nerves and blood vessels. The pain might also be an indicator of a more severe condition, such as a heart attack or angina pectoris, which should be checked by a doctor immediately.

However, in most cases, chest pain due to sleeping with arms above the head does not present any significant health complications, and changing sleeping positions or using a supportive pillow can help alleviate the discomfort.

Why do I raise my arm randomly in sleeping?

There are a few possible explanations for why someone might raise their arm randomly during sleep. One possibility is that it is a natural part of the body’s movement during the sleep cycle, which includes periods of muscle atonia (i.e. temporary paralysis of the muscles) alternating with periods of more active movement.

Another possibility is that it could be due to an involuntary muscle twitch or spasm, which can be caused by a number of factors such as stress or magnesium deficiency. It is also possible that it could be a symptom of a neurological condition, although this is less likely if it only occurs infrequently and does not cause any other symptoms or discomfort.

Without more information, it is difficult to say for sure why someone might raise their arm randomly during sleep.


Sleeping with arms above the head can be attributed to personal comfort, habit, or even underlying health issues. While it may not be a cause for concern in most cases, being aware of potential drawbacks and making adjustments to your sleep position, if necessary, can help prevent future discomfort or complications.

The key to a good night’s sleep lies in finding a sleeping position that works best for your body and allows you to wake up refreshed and ready for the day ahead.

Author: Jessica

Jessica is a lover of both life and gardening. She loves to share his passion for both on social media. He often posts about his latest gardening projects, as well as tips and tricks for others who might be interested in starting their own gardens. She also frequently posts about the different aspects of his life that he enjoys, from spending time with friends and family to exploring new places.

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