Last Updated on: 25th September 2023, 04:10 pm
You likely spend hours preceding bedtime with your feet up. Surprisingly, many of us fail to elevate our legs in bed despite this posture offering various health benefits.
Sleeping with the legs above the heart improves the circulatory system.
Any muscular or tissue injuries will heal faster as blood flows around the body, promoting good organ health. It can also ease back pain and reduce pressure or swelling throughout the body.
The process needn’t be complicated. You can lift your legs using everyday items around the home, so purchasing equipment is unnecessary.
Why is it Good to Sleep with Your Legs Elevated?
According to the North American Journal of Psychology, our preferred sleep position is linked to our personality. However, most people sleep on their backs and sides.
In these instances, the legs remain flat and in line with the rest of the body. If that feels comfortable for you, and you wake up refreshed and ready to face the day, continue as usual.
Many of us are affected by everyday pains and discomforts, especially as we grow older. Sleeping with elevated legs can go a long way to resolving issues we’ve learned to accept.
There are five good reasons to sleep with your legs elevated:
Circulation and Heart Health
Lifting your legs while sleeping prevents blood from pooling in the lower extremities. Anybody unable to live an active lifestyle should sleep with elevated legs.
As the journal Circulation explains, age and immobility lead to vascular stiffening. Keep your legs up at night to counter this if you can’t work your muscles during the day.
It’s never too early to start thinking about heart health. If something as simple as sleeping with elevated legs can promote better health later in life, it’s worth considering today.
Reduced Back Pain
Back pain, whether temporary due to hard manual labor or chronic damage to the sciatic nerve, can significantly impact sleep quantity and quality. People with severe back pain often struggle to achieve comfort in bed, so elevating the legs can lessen this issue.
If you sleep on your back, you’ll exert pressure on the spine. If you elevate your legs, the strain is reduced. Lifting the knees will rotate the pelvis enough to make a difference.
This will help the spine regain natural alignment. It’s easy to develop bad habits with posture, like sitting in an inappropriate chair at work or failing to observe best practices when lifting heavy objects.
Elevating the legs while asleep, alongside the right head and neck pillow, can be beneficial.
Lower Body Inflammation
A common issue when we sleep is blood pooling in the lower body, leading to inflammation. Keeping the legs elevated is the first step toward resolving such concerns.
Swollen Feet And Ankles
Swelling in the ankles and feet (edema) is a common complaint. Pregnant women and people carrying excess weight are most at risk of this medical condition.
Elevating the legs will be beneficial due to the law of gravity. If your legs are elevated, blood can’t gather and pool around the feet. As a result, the lower legs and feet are less likely to be puffy and swollen.
Elevating your feet in bed can only do so much if you have edema due to an inactive lifestyle. Engage in essential exercise, like taking a late-night walk, to prevent fluid buildup and keep the blood flowing.
Blood Clots and Deep Vein Thrombosis (DBT)
DBT and blood clots are associated with low air pressure levels, like air travel. The concerns can occur anytime, especially when we’re not as active as we should be.
As with varicose veins, keep the legs elevated to reduce the risk. It may prevent blood clots from forming and reaching other critical organs, like the brain and heart.
Also known as ‘spider veins,’ these deep blue veins are often associated with aging, but they can be avoided, most notably by elevating the legs while we sleep.
Elevated blood pressure levels cause varicose veins. Blood pools in the impacted area and pushes the veins closer to the skin. Eventually, the veins become more prominent.
Elevating the legs will keep blood from pooling around the lower legs. Instead, it’ll be redirected to the body and away from the legs, possibly preventing varicose veins.
Reduced Bladder Pressure
If you find your sleep disturbed by regularly needing the bathroom at night (nocturia), you may write off the frustrations as part of the aging process.
While our bladders weaken with age, we can take steps to reduce the incidence of nocturia.
Sleeping on your back with your legs elevated means you’re less likely to place pressure on your bladder overnight. It’ll need to be emptied, but reduced pressure means less agitation.
The brain is less likely to receive panicked messages about going to the bathroom. While you may still need to pee at night, elevated legs may mean this is once rather than 2-3 times.
Injury or Trauma Recovery
Sleep is critical to healing if you’ve injured yourself playing a sport, are recovering from a surgical procedure, or have an injury. To get quality sleep, elevate your legs at night.
As is often the case, the reason for healing is a lack of swelling. An injured body part must be left alone to heal, whether the injury is due to a fracture or muscular tear.
Unfortunately, the circulatory system will flood the injury with white blood cells to assist. That will lead to swelling and, most likely, a painful throbbing that keeps you awake at night.
Elevate the legs because better blood circulation will keep the body working optimally.
Risks of Sleeping with The Legs Elevated
Of course, there are some disadvantages to elevated legs while you sleep:
One side effect of sleeping with elevated legs is paresthesia or ‘pins and needles.’ It’s common for the lower extremities to feel numb after a prolonged period of elevation.
Your circulation hasn’t been cut off, and this lack of feeling is temporary.
If you experience the warning signs of paresthesia, place a small, safe amount of pressure on the feet until full feeling returns. You may need to take a few steps for this to happen.
Dizzy And Faint
Dizziness is another intense but short-term side effect of sleeping with elevated legs.
Blood will rush to the feet if you immediately try to stand after a night with your legs positioned upright. After all, this part of the body has seen little flow overnight.
This sudden descent can leave the brain lacking blood flow for a second or two.
As a result, you’ll feel dizzy or faint. Lower your legs and wait a minute before standing for your safety. This is enough time for the body’s circulation to regulate itself.
How Long Should You Keep Your Legs Elevated while Sleeping?
Eventually, the goal is to sleep with your feet elevated all night. Ideally, this will help you sleep throughout the night, leading to an uninterrupted 8 hours of restful sleep.
Don’t spend the entire night with your feet up immediately because you’ll need to adjust to this posture.
Take naps during the day while elevating your feet using the same technique you’ll use at bedtime, and rest for around 15 minutes. Attempt this 3-4 times a day, and soon, you’ll sleep well with your feet up.
Comfortable Positions for Sleeping with the Legs Elevated
Most people associate sleeping with the legs elevated with lying flat on the back in the supine position. Side sleepers can elevate the legs with pillows by placing a cushion between the knees.
Adjusting to comfortably sleeping with elevated legs may take a few nights. However, you may need to rethink the position if you struggle to rest consecutively for 2-3 nights.
The most important thing to consider is how high you lift your legs.
Sleeping with feet above your head is unnecessary and likelier to be uncomfortable. If it works for you, that’s fine. If not, lowering the legs slightly while remaining above the heart will suffice.
There are various ways to elevate your legs in bed, from DIY solutions to buying equipment. What matters most is finding a technique that benefits you and helps you enjoy uninterrupted, quality sleep.
Legs Up a Wall
It may seem like the simplest way to elevate your legs at night is by pushing them against a wall. That makes sense in theory, but we don’t recommend this approach.
You’ll likely need to concentrate on keeping your legs in place.
Even if you’re doing so subconsciously, this will negatively impact sleep. You’ll react every time your legs slip, which may lead to a night of disturbed rest as you constantly adjust your posture.
Even if you keep your legs up, you may lift them too high. Blood will rush to your head if your legs rise above your neck for prolonged periods.
Legs Lifted by a Cushion
The easiest way to sleep with legs elevated is by using a cushion.
You can even use a pile of blankets if you prefer. Cushions will be soft enough to avoid discomfort and will keep your legs up without effort or concentration from you.
You can use a pile of cushions or pillows or purchase a specialist wedge pillow.
Discuss your sleeping posture with a specialist if you decide to get a wedge pillow. A new neck pillow used in tandem may keep your back and spine in perfect harmony.
You may benefit from a mattress raiser. Think of these as wedge cushions under the mattress, ensuring the legs remain elevated without risk of being kicked out of position.
Nursing: Research and Reviews stated that adjustable beds improve patient comfort.
An increasing number of consumer adjustable beds are now available. This could make all the difference if you intend to sleep with elevated legs.
Unfortunately, there’s a big price difference between a pile of cushions and a dedicated elevated bed. You won’t find one for less than $1,000 and need an appropriate mattress.
Sleeping with elevated legs isn’t a miracle cure, but can resolve day-to-day discomfort. Consider lifting your legs at bedtime if you’re prone to fluid buildup, minor aches, strains, and other ailments.