Sleeping with Legs Elevated – The Benefits and the Drawbacks

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There are scientific reasons many people enjoy sitting on a cozy couch with their feet up to relax, and sleeping in a similar position could be good for our health.

Putting your feet up helps take the pressure off your veins, especially if you’ve been standing or sitting all day. Additionally, elevating your limbs is known to help blood flow, rather than forcing your circulatory system to work against gravity when it pushes blood up to the heart.

Before committing to an adjustable bed, consider the pros and cons of sleeping with your legs elevated; while beneficial for some, the position might not be right for everybody.

Putting Your Feet Up

There are a few reasons not to elevate your legs, however, the case for doing so is strong. Raising your legs helps blood to circulate more efficiently and relieves pressure off your lower extremities, giving your heart a much-needed break from having to do all the work.

The position can also reduce inflammation which can help keep swelling down, which some individuals may find particularly burdensome due to advanced age. If you have tense muscles, this could also be relieved by putting your limbs up, helping blood circulate, and giving your extremities a rest.

Benefits of Sleeping With Legs Elevated

Illustration of a Legs Elevated on the Wedge Pillow

1. Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis

Deep-vein thrombosis (DBT) is the medical term for blood clots that form in leg veins; this can be a severe condition, with some cases leading to death. Pulmonary embolisms are when a piece of a blood clot breaks away, travels through the veins, and becomes trapped in the lungs, which can lead to life-threatening circumstances.

If you have health conditions that already put you at risk for blood clotting, elevating your feet could be a great way to mitigate this issue.

2. Better Blood Circulation

Many advanced age individuals develop varicose veins, and while some cases do not cause concern, other varicose veins can be a source of discomfort, pain, itching, or throbbing. If this happens to you, it’s always wise to see a doctor to diagnose the issue.

However, promoting good health through blood circulation could help you avoid this issue altogether. Sleeping with legs elevated may help improve blood flow and prevent varicose veins.

3. Reduce Edema Pain and Swollen Feet

Edema is the swelling of a body part due to built-up fluid in body tissue, which commonly affects the arms, legs, and feet. Edemas can be caused by many factors, including sitting or standing in one position for too long, eating too much salty food, poor diet, and even pregnancy.

Elevating your limbs is a simple trick to help reduce swelling and relieve discomfort and pain caused by swelling or edema.

4. Relieves Back Pain

While it may not necessarily cause bad posture, sleeping on your back is known to put pressure on your lower back. Resting in this position while elevating your feet or knees could be a more comfortable way to sleep, as it may relieve your lower spine from uncomfortable pressure by counter-rotating the pelvis.

If you have severe back pain or suffer from chronic back pain, you might want to raise your legs significantly by using a considerably large pillow or knee bolster. Play around with different products to see which works best.

Read More: How to Sleep Better With Lower Back Pain

5. Improves Spine Alignment

Many individuals assume sleeping straight on our backs is suitable for spinal alignment. However, our spines are naturally curved, almost in an “S” shape, especially towards our lower backs. Resting in a flat position could put uncomfortable pressure on this natural curvature, causing discomfort, pain and subjecting our spines to unnecessary stress.

Back sleepers could address this issue by placing a pillow under their knees, which should rotate the pelvis upward and relieve the spine. Additionally, an adjustable bed could be a great solution as well.

6. Faster Recovery From Injuries

Injuries often result in swelling, and while this isn’t necessarily concerning, swelling can be uncomfortable. Injured body parts become swollen because our circulatory system sends extra fluid and white blood cells to the area to help our body heal.

Swelling can not only be uncomfortable; it can be straight-up painful as well. The pain occurs because swollen tissues press against our nerves, which send pain signals to our brain. However, we can mitigate this pain or discomfort by elevating our legs to reduce swelling and promote greater blood circulation.

7. Reduces Strain on Heart Muscles

Our heart is a vital organ and is responsible for pumping blood through our entire body. When we’re sitting or standing, the blood in our legs has to work against gravity to travel back to our hearts.

If we elevate our legs, especially above our heart, this relieves this organ from the hard work it does to pump blood all day. Putting our legs up can help to improve blood flow and facilitate a healthy body.

Is it Bad to Sleep With Your Feet Elevated?

Illustration of a Lady with a Restless Leg Syndrom

In short, no, it’s not wrong to sleep with your feet elevated. Granted, we’re not suggesting you sleep with your legs straight up against a wall. However, if you’re a side sleeper, snoozing with legs raised may not be an easy position. Additionally, it may not be comfortable for those with restless leg syndrome.

Keep in mind using only one pillow likely won’t make a significant difference because you’ll want to raise your feet higher than your heart. Using a bolster pillow made explicitly for this purpose is an excellent way to boost your feet to a comfortable height without overdoing it.

How to Sleep with Comfortably Elevated Feet

There are a few ways to snooze comfortably with your legs raised, and many people practice this by using a pillow or existing items they already have at home. However, if you need further assistance, there are multiple products to help.

Adjustable Bed

Resting with pillows under your body may seem like a great idea at first, but we often shift and adjust during the night while we’re subconscious, so we may not realize when we’ve kicked them out from underneath us, negating the practice.

An adjustable bed could help ensure your body is positioned in an advantageous position all night long without having to worry about ruining your assistive accessories in the night. Further, as we all come in various shapes and sizes, an adjustable bed can help you raise your legs to just the right height for your body, allowing you to snooze in comfort.

Get More Info: Best Mattress for Adjustable Beds

couple relaxing in adjustable bed with two sides

Pillow Strategy

Some individuals sleep “like a log” and rarely move all night long. If you don’t shift much during the night, using pillows could be an excellent strategy to help alleviate any swelling or blood circulation issues.

Remember that one pillow likely won’t be enough to raise legs to a height that will significantly help, as you’ll probably want to raise your legs above the heart. A great solution could be a wedge pillow which will likely be more stable than a regular pillow and more comfortable for your legs with the wedge’s steady incline.

Solution for Side Sleepers

Snoozing on your side as a side sleeper who needs leg elevation can present an issue, as this isn’t an ideal position for elevating legs. Elevating legs too much while resting on your side could affect your spine, creating more discomfort, so it’s essential to take a gentle approach before you find a solution that works.

A way around this issue is by using folded-up blankets instead of pillows. Blankets could be folded up so that you can adjust the height to suit your needs. Additionally, a leg elevation pillow could provide an excellent solution, as they are created specifically for the purpose of raising one’s legs.

Content Writer | + posts

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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