"T-Rex Arms" While Sleeping: Should You Be Worried?

In this article, we will take a close look at the phenomenon of "T-Rex arms" during sleep. We will understand whether this phenomenon is a cause for concern. We will also understand the wider science of arm movements during sleep, and the role of the nervous system in these movements.
Frederika Malichová

Frederika Malichová

Neuroscientist at the University Of Cambridge.

A blue image with text saying "T-Rex Arms" During Sleep"

Observing T-Rex Arms During Sleep

While we don’t know exactly why we sometimes observe “T-Rex arms” while asleep, it is definitely not a sign of any arising condition.

While some people worry that "T-rex arms" are a sign of ADHD or even autism, these worries are not scientifically backed, as we discussed in our previous blogs.

Moving your arms while asleep is completely normal and should not worry you!

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Involuntary body movements during sleep can have various causes. Some common causes include sleep-related movement disorders such as periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) and restless legs syndrome (RLS). Other causes can include sleep-related epilepsy, sleep-related movement disorders associated with neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's disease, and certain medications. Stress, anxiety, sleep deprivation, caffeine, and alcohol can also contribute to these movements. It's important to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment if these movements are affecting your sleep. [1], [2], [3], [4]

There is evidence to suggest that sleep movements, such as abnormal movements during sleep or changes in sleep patterns, may serve as early indicators of neurodegenerative diseases. These sleep abnormalities can occur years before the onset of clinical symptoms. Studies have shown that sleep disturbances, including sleep fragmentation, altered sleep architecture, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder, are associated with an increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and dementia. However, further research is needed to fully understand the relationship between sleep movements and the development of neurodegenerative diseases. [1], [2], [3], [5], [4], [6], [7], [9], [8], [10], [11]

What Are T-Rex Arms In Humans?

The term “T-Rex arms” is not considered a medical, let alone scientific term. It is a colloquial expression used to describe a condition in which one’s arms are perceived to be disproportionately small compared to one’s body. It may also refer to bending your arms in such a way that the dinosaur Tyrannosaurus Rex did.

The term "T-Rex arms" originated from the forelimbs of the dinosaur Tyrannosaurus Rex, which were significantly smaller than its body.

In this context of shorter arms relative to the body, we can identify some medical conditions that lead to shorter arms, such as achondroplasia, which is a short-limbed dwarfism.

Please note that in any sense when we say “T-Rex arms”, we don’t suggest any structural, evolutionary, or functional similarities between the arms of the dinosaur and human arms. Human arms are used for much more complex situations [1, 2].

Do People Make Moves With Their Arms During Sleeping?

Yes, of course, we make movements with our arms during sleep. Although it varies from individual to individual, and some may not move during their sleep at all. This can depend on the sleep stage, age, but also on individual characteristics of the person.

In fact, a study found that around 68% of participants move their arms during the wakefulness stage of sleep, which is around the time we are just falling asleep or slowly waking up from sleep [3]. Another study also found that movements involving the neck, head, and upper limbs are often observed in various stages of sleep. For instance, during REM sleep, 93.8% of all respondents did such movements [4].

Age and BMI are also controlling factors for sleep movements. People aged 20-34 appear to move more than those aged above 34, including arm movements, and interestingly, obese people tend to do more movement while asleep than normal-weight people [5].

In conclusion, arm movements during sleep are quite common and can be influenced by various factors such as sleep stage, age, and individual characteristics.

However, research has shown that certain types of movements during sleep may be a predictor for developing neurodegenerative diseases in sleep.

For another interesting fact, try asking "Is there a link between "acting out in sleep" and Parkinson's disease?" in the above window.

What Are T-Rex Arms During Sleeping?

T-Rex arms during your sleep mean that your body is moving while you are asleep. The movement of the body can be due to various external factors and does not necessarily mean there is something wrong with you.

Let’s use Medisearch to help us understand whether the fact that you sleep with T-Rex arms means anything:

Can The Nervous System Affect Our Arms To Be Shaped As T-Rex Arms While Sleeping?

The nervous system plays a significant role in controlling our body's posture and muscle tone, including the positioning of our arms during sleep.

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Studies have shown that individual posture preferences and spinal alignment can affect sleep quality and comfort [1], [2], [3]. Additionally, sleep posture can influence neck muscle activity and musculoskeletal pain [4], [5]. The effects of the nervous system on sleep posture are less clear, but it has been suggested that baroreceptor firing and neural activity may play a role in sleep regulation and posture control [6], [7]. Further research is needed to fully understand the relationship between the nervous system and sleep posture.

However, the specific phenomenon of our arms taking a T-rex-like shape while sleeping has not yet been addressed.

But do not worry, sleeping with oddly bent arms should not signal any condition. However, it may cause some problems. Let’s use Medisearch to help us understand what:

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Frederika Malichová

Frederika Malichová

Frederika is a postgraduate researcher at the University of Cambridge, where she investigates new biomarkers for Frontotemporal Dementia and other tauopathies. Her research has been published at prestigious conferences such as the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2023. She obtained her BSc in Biomedical Sciences from UCL, where she worked closely with the UK Dementia Research Institute.