Why Do I Clench My Fists When I Sleep?

Clenching fists while you’re sleeping is a perfectly normal behavior in humans that happens due to brain activity. Your brain performs a lot of functions while you’re sleeping such as processing and sorting all the information that you gathered during the day.

If you had a hectic day, you might end up having a dream where you’re in a rage. In that case, you might end up clenching your fist, and waking up. But it won’t be a sign of concern. However, if it happens regularly or you start feeling pain in your hands after waking up, you should seek medical attention.

Reasons Why Do I Clench My Fists When I Sleep

Here’s a list of the most common reasons why people clench their fists during sleep. It’ll allow you to understand your situation better to address it effectively.

Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are two of the biggest reasons why people clench their fists and grind their teeth. These medical conditions can also cause fist-clenching while you’re sleeping. If you often wake up with clenched fists, you need to pay attention to your mental health. 

Additionally, you should visit a doctor immediately, if you’re suffering from increased anxiety and stress periods, to treat these medical conditions. That’s because these conditions can also lead to some other health problems. 

Stress can also be the reason why you bite your tongue in your sleep, and also why you might wake up with a tense jaw.


Some people are naturally quiet and reserved and their personalities don’t allow them to express their feelings. It’s especially true in the case of anger. According to studies, individuals who don’t show their anger directly usually express it indirectly.

If you have a passive personality then clenching your fists could be your mind’s indirect way to express pent-up anger. The best way to resolve this problem is to figure out and eliminate the triggers that make you angry.

Physical Pain

You naturally clench your fists when your body is in pain. So, if you’re suffering from a wound or any other injury, then you might find yourself waking up at night with your hands clenched.

The same can also happen due to extremely tired muscles that individuals usually experience when they start weight lifting.

If you clench your fists during sleep due to any of these two reasons, you’ll automatically stop doing it once your body has recovered.


If you drink less water and fluids than what your body needs to perform its essential functions, you’ll get dehydrated. According to AARP, dehydration can lead to severe muscle cramps and aches. 

In such a situation, the physical pain will make you clench your fists while sleeping. You can easily handle this problem by increasing your water intake.

Medical Condition

People who are suffering from certain medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, schizophrenia, and epilepsy can experience a clenched fist. It usually happens during the day but they can also clench their fists while sleeping.

Individuals with these medical conditions must follow their medical treatment plan to minimize the fist-clenching symptom.

Keep in mind that CFS (Clenched Fist Syndrome) is itself a medical condition in which patients suffer from flexion finger contractures. In this medical condition, the patient can’t open up their fists willingly and it’s not related to fist-clenching during sleep.

Reaction to Medicines

Many medicines have certain side effects but patients with chronic diseases need to take them. For example, antidepressants can lead to joint and muscle pains, and medicines used to control body cholesterol levels can cause cramping.

If you need to take such medicines then you might experience fist-clenching during your sleep. Keep in mind that different people react to medications differently.

It’s not necessarily true that the medicine you’re taking is the reason why you clench your fists while sleeping. While certain medications can cause this problem, there can be other factors at play as well. So, you must not make any changes in your treatment plan without consulting with your doctor.

How to Treat Night Fist Clenching

The following are some easy and safe methods that you can use to stop clenching your fists while sleeping.

Use Hand Splint

The easiest and most effective way to avoid clenching is to use a pair of hand splints for about a week or two. They’ll keep your palm and fingers in place and prevent you from closing your hands.

You can easily find them from your local drug store and you also won’t need a prescription to buy them. You might feel some irritation while going to sleep but they’re not too obtrusive to keep you from sleeping.

If you can’t find a hand splint, you can also use your blanket or pillow for the same purpose. Just hold onto the edge of your pillow or blanket while sleeping.

Reduce Stress

Stress is one of those medical conditions that affect your overall health. Not only can it cause fist-clenching but it can also lead to many other medical problems such as obesity, asthma, constant headache, gastronomical issues, diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s.

That’s why it’s critically important to get rid of stress. Exercising regularly, following a healthy diet routine, decreasing caffeine/sugar/nicotine intake, and spending time with family and friends are some effective ways to reduce stress.

You can also try using incense to help you sleep, or listening to relaxing music before bed. See our post on what to listen to while you sleep for some ideas.

Drink a Lot of Water

Staying hydrated is another effective method to prevent fist-clenching if it’s happening due to muscle fatigue. Ideally, you should drink at least four liters of water (3 liters for women) during the day. It’ll keep you hydrated and can help you prevent clenching your fists due to muscle pain while sleeping.

Use Magnesium Citrate

Magnesium is a natural mineral that comes with anti-anxiety properties and it also relaxes your muscles. You can easily buy magnesium supplements from a local drug store to relieve cramps and muscle stiffness and reduce generalized anxiety.

You should go with the magnesium citrate because your body absorbs it better than other magnesium supplements. However, you must not start taking magnesium without consulting your doctor.

Final Words

There is nothing to worry about if you clench your fists during sleep once in a while. However, you should visit a doctor for a mental and physical examination if it happens too often and you also feel pain in your hands. We hope this guide will help you understand why you clench your fists when you sleep to address the problem effectively.