Pain during sleep: when does it kick in?

Here’s the deal, my room is heated by a radiator that I cannot control (I live in a dorm room…), and the radiator gets really hot sometimes! The room is extremely small, and my bed is right up against the radiator. I’ve lived in this room, with this furnature configuration for 3 years now, and never a problem… until now.

The other day, I went to bed as usual. I woke up at maybe 3AM, with my left hand hurting… turned on the light to discover two HUGE 3rd degree burns on the back of my hand (immediatley below my thumb). The one closest to the thumb is 2.5 cm. long, and 1.5 cm. wide. The second one, below the first is 2.5 cm. long, and .5 cm. wide. When I first noticed them, they were blistered (and I’ve had blisters before, but nothing like this!). The next day, the blisters popped, and I now have two huge lesions on my hand; the smaller one may not scar, but the larger probably will… I give measurements to point out that these are fairly sever burns, that one would normally notice.

The only explanation I can come up with is that I rolled up against the radiator in my sleep… My Q is this: why didn’t I wake up when my hand began to burn? How long does it take pain to kick in when you’re asleep?

An actual third degree burn would kill off your nerves, but that really doesn’t answer your question.

I sleep very light unless I am tired. If I get up at 5am workout go to work, work till 9pm come home eat and go to be at 11pm I sleep sound. Because I am very tired.

OTC drugs can dull your pain perception.

Or maybe it is akin to a sunburn. You really don’t feel a sunburn right away it takes (at least in my case) about an hour after leaving the sun.

[aside]What you’ve got there doesn’t sound like a third degree burn, where the tissue is actually charred and bunrt away. Blisters are a second degree burn. Of course, a second degree burn is still pretty serious.[/aside]

Right you are, Chronos! I shoulda checked before I wrote that… OK, I modify it to a heinous 2nd degree burn! I still wanna know why, however…

I’d like to know exactly how hot it gets. 40 degrees C, 50?

The neural pathways for extremes of temperature are in short reflex arcs that don’t pass through the cerebral cortex. In other words you don’t have to think about moving your hand off a hot surface, it’s one of the fastest reflexes. So even asleep, you probably moved your hand away quickly, and the sensation of pain never reached consciousness enough to wake you. Even a moment on a very hot surface can cause a 2nd Degree burns as I can attest from my experience making a home made smoke bomb in my kitchen in high school.


Exactly! That’s why I wanna know why I have these two huge burns on my hand…

How hot does it get? I don’t know… I don’t have a thermometer here to measure it with, but as a guess: it’s a steam-powered radiator, so it probably gets somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 or 95 degrees C (maybe a bit cooler than that, as I don’t know much about how these things work…but it definitely gets hot enough that you can’t hold your hand on it for more than a second or so. Hot enough that I can put my hand on it as long as I can stand it, and immediately transfer said hand to Astrofiancee’s naked butt (much to her annoyance), and have her yell "OW! You [censored][censored]! Stop it!! :D).

Astrofiancee’s reaction to my burns was: “WTF? Were you drunk??” No, I wasn’t… but I DID drink 3 or 4 beers about 4 hours or so before bedtime… could that small amount of alcohol account for it? Seems doubtful to me, as I’ve gone to bed WAY drunk on several occasions in the 3 years or so that I’ve lived here, and never had any problems…

Hmmm… :confused:

Have you considered that you might have been laying on your arm, so it was “asleep” and numb? combined with contact with the radiator, it might account for being burned without feeling it. There is an instinct that causes healthy people to shift their weight during the night, but it might have only taken a few minutes to get they burn, followed by a shift which took the pressure off the nerve, followed by, “HEY WTF???”

That’s my guess.

Coming from experience (I used to work in a kitchen) it only takes a split second of contact with something ridiculously hot (like a radiator, hot pan or the floor to ceiling pipe in my bathroom)to seriously burn you. You may have made quick contact with the radiator in the night as you slept, pulled your hand quickly away and (if you are a heavy sleeper) gone swiftly back to sleep, forgetting the whole episode and awakening when the burn started really hurting after a while.

I am reminded of a time my college roommate dressed as a death-looking type creature and kept tapping me until I woke up. Naturally, I screamed in fright upon seeing him but realizing it was my roommate muttered something about his mother and went right back to sleep. I relate this story second hand because I remember none of it. I am assured it occured by others who were supposedly in the room. I don’t remember them either. It’s a amazing what a deep sleep can do.

Hey! Frolix8! That might be just what happened! I am prone to sleeping on my arm and having it go numb…

Thanks! Even if that’s NOT what happened, at least I have a plausible explanation. :slight_smile: