7 Benefits of Sleeping on an Incline

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Individuals who struggle with breathing issues during the night may need to re-evaluate how they’re positioned. Laying flat could obstruct the airways of those who snore, have sleep apnea, deal with post-nasal drip, or find it difficult to breathe.

Raising your head during the night using a pillow, reclining bed, or riser could mitigate issues for those who struggle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), frequent snoring, migraine pain, and other problems. Opening up your airway by sleeping with your head elevated could help your breath pass through your airway with less obstruction, making it easier to breathe with less difficulty.

Semi-Recumbent Position

Studies have shown that sleeping in a semi-recumbent position with the upper body at an incline of 30 to 45 degrees helps decrease sleep apnea severity. Individuals who struggle with snoring or other breathing issues could find relief in this inclined position.

Resting on your back can cause gravity to pull down on your jaw, soft palate, and tongue, causing them to dip back towards your throat, narrowing your airway. The semi-recumbent position works to resolve this issue by opening up your throat. In fact, some professionals recommend that sleep apnea patients avoid the supine position or lying flat altogether.

Benefits of Sleeping Elevated

Sleeping while slightly elevated could improve not only sleep apnea and other breathing disorders but could mitigate heartburn, dark circles, and your nervous system. Additionally, individuals who suffer from post-nasal drip and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease could benefit from a raised position as well.

Improve Sleep Apnea

Laying down on your back in the supine position is typically not recommended by medical professionals. When you rest face up, gravity pulls down on your airway, tongue, and soft palate which could block your air passages, exacerbating breathing issues. Using a soft foam wedge, firm sleep apnea pillows, bed riser, or recliner at night could help open up your throat and gain access to better airflow while you’re unconscious.

End Post-Nasal Drip

Post-nasal drip can significantly impair one’s ability to gain a good night’s sleep, but using an inclined bed could improve your condition. Adjustable beds are fantastic but expensive; if these happen to cost more than your budget, you could create an incline yourself by putting books under your headboard to create a subtle slope. This elevation should help open up your airway and let you recline in comfort.

woman sleeping in adjustable bed

COPD Relief

Sleep disturbance resulting from trouble breathing is a common issue for those afflicted with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). According to the Center for Respiratory Health, the best way to keep airways open is to avoid laying down.

However, sitting upright isn’t often comfortable for sleepers. Individuals could try to ease this issue by resting at a slight incline, as this helps to keep air passageways open so you can get some rest.

Alleviate Heart Burn or Gerd

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive issue that affects the ring of muscle between your esophagus and your stomach. GERD can often cause heartburn or acid indigestion, and if this flares up at night, it could be challenging to get some shut-eye.

Raising your torso so that your upper body is elevated should decrease heartburn or acid reflux symptoms. Gravity’s pull should make it more difficult for stomach acid to creep back into the esophagus, thus mitigating acid reflux symptoms.

Prevent Snoring

If you suffer from a partner who saws logs in the night, salvation may be a 20-degree incline away. According to a 2020 study, “avoiding the supine position can reduce snoring in most habitual snorers.” Results showed snoring was successfully mitigated in 22% of individuals who slept at a 10-degree incline and stopped in 67% of those who slept at a 20-degree angle.

Partner Can't Sleep Because The Other One Snores

Reduce Dark Circles

Sleeping on your stomach or side could cause fluid to accumulate and gather near your face and eyes, leading to puffiness and dark circles. Propping yourself up using an adjustable bed, foam wedge, or pillows could help fluid drain out of your face and disperse into the rest of your body evenly. This simple trick could help to minimize dark circles around your eyes and puffy skin in the face area.

Relieve Migraine Pain

Lying flat on your back could increase pressure on your head, causing the brain to get congested. When this happens, the oxygen level decreases, and blood vessels become restricted, thus increasing pressure to clear the brain with new fluid.

Sleeping elevated with your head slightly raised in the semi-recumbent position has been shown in certain studies to relieve over 60% of migraines. If you suffer from these frequently, an adjustable bed might be an excellent remedy.

Illustration of a Man Who Suffers from Exploding Head Syndrome

Help for Nervous System

Individuals who struggle with their nervous system may be in luck, judging by recent studies on Inclined Bed Therapy (IBT). The strategy is currently being researched as a remedy for helping those with nervous system issues.

By elevating the head, studies by Andrew K. Fletcher have seen noticeable improvements in those with spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and Parkinson’s. Further, many subjects needed no medication following the use of IBT.

Read More: Inclined Bed Therapy

How to Elevate the Head of a Bed?

Adjustable Beds

Convenient adjustable beds often come with remote controls or adjustable settings, allowing you to customize the angle you sleep and rest to whatever feels comfortable. These can be excellent when recovering from injuries and terrific solutions for those who struggle with breathing issues or nervous system impairments.

Interested in exploring further? Check out our complete best mattress for adjustable beds guide.

couple relaxing in adjustable bed with two sides

Pillows and Bed Recliners

Bed recliners can come in a variety of formats, letting you adjust the angle at the push of a button or by manually adjusting the angle yourself. These handy portable recliners are designed to either sit under your mattress, pushing it up to the desired angle or behind a pillow or wedge, letting you snooze at a comfortable incline.

Bed Risers

Risers are often used in smaller bedrooms to raise beds to make space underneath for storage. However, they’re also great for creating an incline at the head of the bed. An aspect that is particularly nice about risers is that, when compared to pillows, they create a much more stable sleeping environment that shouldn’t shift in the night, letting users rest comfortably.

Can Sleeping Elevated Cause You to Suffer Back Pain?

Sleeping elevated may not be for everyone. Before doing so we recommend you consult a medical professional to properly assess your condition and situation to suggest a personalized, tailored solution.

When deciding to rest in an elevated position, it’s critical to remain aware of how it affects your body; if you wake up feeling more achy and stiff than you did before adjusting your posture, the change is likely not ideal for you. Further, those who sleep on their stomachs or sides shouldn’t sleep at an incline as it could cause painful hyperextension.

Illustration of a Man Waking up With a Back Pain
Content Writer

Rachael is a content writer for Sleep Advisor who loves combining her enthusiasm for writing and wellness. She’s had a passion for writing since she was a kid when she wrote awful poetry. She’s honed her craft quite a bit since then and considers herself a lucky duck to get paid to do what she loves.

Embracing the remote work life, she occasionally takes her work on the road and lives out her travel writer pipe dream.

In her free time, she attempts to meditate regularly, rides her bike to Trader Joe’s, and enjoys trying every type of food that she can get her hands on.

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