When you lay in a hammock, you’ll notice that both your head and your legs are slightly raised above your abdomen. So, are there a benefits to sleeping with your legs elevated?
I was curious to see what the experts said, so I did some research. Here’s what I found out…
Get Better Blood Circulation:
In his book, Everything You’ll Need to Know, Vol 14 Human Circulatory System, RC Ellis says that if you want to increase circulation and blood flow to the legs and feet, you want to elevate them with a foam wedge or an adjustable bed. This sounded counterintuitive, until I researched more…
I also noticed that numerous yoga practitioners suggest raised-leg poses to boost blood circulation, to the feet as well. The following short video clip explains how this method works, draining “stale” blood from the feet. Although this pose is not designed for long periods of sleeping, it demonstrates how elevating your feet can indeed provide health benefits.
Mid Walsh at Dancing Crow Yoga explains it well, in that the parasympathetic nervous system is in charge of resting and digesting. “When the legs are above the head, gravity helps blood to return to the heart, which then becomes more full than otherwise. Since more blood is pumped with each stroke, the heart doesn’t need to pump as much or as fast. So it pumps slower and softer.”
Elevate Your Legs for Brain Pressure Relief:
An article in the Hawaii Reporter by researcher Sidney Ross Singer that laying flat while sleeping can be a contributing factor to a variety of health issues. Laying in a flat position eliminates the effects of gravity on brain circulation. This, in turn, increases intracranial pressure and can cause a back-up of blood in the brain.
HealthRising.org agrees that this increased blood pressure can be a problem, potentially resulting in chronic fatigue syndrome and migraine headaches.
Singer continues, stating that sinus congestion, glaucoma, strokes and even Alzheimer’s disease are associated with brain pressure and chronic brain congestion. However, there is a simple sleeping solution.
Elevate the head about 10-30 degrees, using pillows or a foam wedge. Legs should be elevated too, similar to laying back in a recliner chair. Sounds like similar positioning as a hammock, doesn’t it?
Does it Reduce Leg Swelling?
The Vein Center says that leg elevation is a great way to reduce foot or leg swelling, sometimes called edema. This is especially important for people who sit or stand for long periods throughout the day.
Although sleeping with legs elevated will not prevent or stop varicose veins, simply raising your legs above your heart can make them look and feel much better. And that in itself is a big benefit.
Can Sleeping with Your Legs Elevated Alleviate Back Pain?
Might there be a benefit if you suffer from back pain? The University of Utah Health Care says that back sleepers should place a pillow underneath their knees to reduce stress on the spine, plus support the natural curve in the lower back.
For some people, switching up your sleeping position may not have a big impact. However, for those of us with sleeping disorders (ie. snoring, sleep apnea, restless legs) or health issues, it make make a significant difference. It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before making any big changes.