Sleep is both beneficial and necessary, and if we don’t get any, we put our bodies at risk. Personally, I know what benefits a good bed offers, which is why I wrote at length about the different mattress sizes, as well as noise-free sleep. And I’m sure you’ll agree that few things are as important to your working day as decent eight hours of sleep to rejuvenate the body and get you back on your feet.
However, you might have run into someone — a friend or a relative — who frequently falls asleep while sitting upright in a chair or a recliner. Senior citizens do this most frequently, but it can happen to adults of all ages, and even children.
Naturally, 99% of us sleep predominantly lying down, so wondering if there are any health risks to doing it upright is an expected reaction. And since it’s a question I’ve been asked dozens of times, I’ve decided to present you with a quick article on the potential dangers of sleeping in chairs or recliners.
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“Potential” Is Key
As odd as this might sound, there are lots of benefits to sleeping in an upright position. I will cover those briefly later in the text.
Of course, whether we’re talking about the potential benefits or dangers of sleeping upright, we have to stress the word “potential.” Your body is different from mine, as is mine from everyone else’s, so it’s more than likely that we have different sleeping patterns.
In fact, even regular sleeping positions can cause a host of health problems; really, it all depends on whether you’re already facing any issues or not. So, I’d urge you to take every piece of information on sleeping upright with a grain of salt.
What Do the Doctors Say?
This will sound like a bit of a cop-out, but medical experts agree that there is no definitive answer. For example, experts from Harvard Health Publishing claim that sleeping in this position shouldn’t be harmful, but they do provide several key caveats.
How Important Is It to Know About Sleeping Positions?
Interestingly enough, knowing about how you should sleep isn’t just vital to your health. In fact, it’s quite a useful way of letting bed and chair manufacturers know how to design their products.
I’ll use a similar example. A little while ago, Gillette put out a video talking about the different ways that men shave. Based on all of the styles, the experts at Gillette were able to work on the best razor that most men would find useful. The same thing applies to your sleeping patterns; a manufacturer will consider various sleeping patterns, be they on chairs or beds, and take them into account when designing new furniture.
Now that we got most of the basic information out of the way, let’s talk about the actual potential dangers of sleeping upright. Granted, some of them are quite silly, but most are nothing to giggle at.
Sleeping Upright — Possible Health Problems
Back Pain, Leg Pain, and Bad Knees
If you happen to fall asleep upright, your legs and back might not get enough blood flow. That may cause you to wake up with nasty back and leg pain. Our body needs movement, and if you were to sit in the same position for hours on end, the lack of blood circulation would cause pain. Similar things can happen if you’re on an airplane or if you tend to sit for long hours in one spot in general.
In addition to leg and back pain, sleeping in an upright position can have a negative effect on your knees. As you sleep while sitting, your center of gravity shifts to the middle of your body and recliner. In other words, your knees feel a bit more relaxed and loose than before. That’s why you might need to exert a bit of force when getting up and why your knees might ache after your upright nap.
Other Blood Circulation Issues
As I stated above, decent blood flow is crucial to our bodies, and sleeping upright might cause our veins and arteries to narrow and less blood to move about. A serious condition linked to this narrowing of blood vessels is called PAD (peripheral artery disease). Without enough blood flow to your heart, you will feel stiff and tired after waking up.
Some of the blood that doesn’t circulate around the body will accumulate in your thighs, ankles, and calves. This accumulation can lead to swelling and the skin around your ankles will turn dark. You’ll also feel discomfort and even outright pain.
Resting your body in a lying position actually helps you achieve deep sleep. It will rejuvenate your brain and get it ready for the following day. However, if you fall asleep upright, you might not get the full rest you need. Instead, you can wake up tired, sore, and generally unfit to go about your day.
The expression “someone got up on the wrong side of bed” has become a bit of a cliche. However, it’s a proven fact that lack of sleep can make you feel irritable and short-tempered. After all, your mind hasn’t gone through the rejuvenation it needs. Irritability is your body’s way of trying to “catch up” to the waking world, so to speak.
Sleeping upright once or twice can lead to some temporary problems. However, if you do it too often, your muscles will contract around your joints and restrict the body from moving properly. More often than not, you’ll suffer knee and hip contractures. They can cause you to lose balance, fall down and injure yourself.
Thrombotic clotting, also known as airplane stroke syndrome, is one of the most serious issues that can result from sleeping upright often. The best way to prevent it is to stretch right after your nap. In addition, try stretching before you move from your recliner to your bed. That way, you avoid any blood clots in vital areas of your circulatory system.
A Few Benefits of Sleeping Upright
While there are plenty of dangers to falling asleep in your chair, as listed above, I’d feel remiss not to mention some of the benefits, as well. For instance, if your recliner (or chair) has proper lumbar support, it can greatly help with food digestion. In addition, it can reduce the risk of several health conditions, including:
- Acid reflux
- Sleep apnea
- Lumbar pains (if the chair’s lumbar support is good)
It’s definitely not safe to always sleep upright in a recliner or a chair. There are some benefits to doing it occasionally, however. But you need to make sure that the piece of furniture you’re sleeping in has sufficient lumbar support. Also, try to assume a proper posture before you start slumbering away.
Did you find the information on the dangers of sleeping upright useful? Feel free to share your answers in the comments below.