You’re dizzy? Have gotten injured recently or have problems with blood pressure? Many doctors advise sleeping with your legs elevated, but there are also health experts who are strictly against it. It’s hard to argue when it comes to the opinion of medical experts, but it’s safe to assume that sleeping with legs elevated is justified from time to time.
Nevertheless, given that there are both advantages and disadvantages of sleeping with legs elevated, we decided to write an article that would give more insight into the key pros and cons of sleeping with legs elevated and whether it poses a certain health risk on your body and mind.
Many health experts, as well as research studies throughout the years, show that it’s necessary to get an adequate amount of sleep every day. Usually, you should sleep between 7 and 9 hours every night to feel optimized and rested which prepares you for the next day. However, other factors matter such as the time going to sleep and the general quality of your sleep.
Yes, you heard us, the quantity of sleep is not the only determining factor of health and restfulness of your body, you should also consider the quality of your sleep, which is determined through various factors that affect the sleep like how much you ate and how much water you drank, when did you go to sleep, was the ambient where you sleep dark and quiet or was it loud. These are all the factors that affect your sleep.
If you’re entering older age, or you suffer from a chronic condition that affects the body absorption in your body, retains the water, and causes your joints, feet, knees, and hips to swell, you may feel difficulty sleeping through the night, as those joints and muscles could likely get painful.
There are many ways to reduce the swelling and water retention, such as diuretics, but even diuretics in the long term could be bad because they cause you to lose other elements such as potassium which are essential to the proper functioning of your digestive tract and cardiovascular system.
To reduce swelling, another methodology can be used, applying one or more pillows under your feet, which will elevate them and straighten your blood circulation to allow proper reduction of swelling, but also the alignment of your spine and other benefits.
We want to talk about the benefits of elevating the feet and legs up, in general, to ensure that the swelling comes off your feet and you get a more relieving sleep quality over the night. Still, there are certain risks involved with it, so we’ll look at them later too.
Pros Of Sleeping With Legs Elevated
Let’s dive into all the pros of sleeping with legs elevated and see whether the good outweighs the bad.
It Improves Blood Circulation
As you age up, you may notice that you feel colder than usual, especially on your fingers or feet, and that’s okay because it means that your blood circulation reduced. Nevertheless, if it’s consistently happening, even when it’s remarkably hot outside, you may have a chronic condition that contributes to poor circulation.
Those problems may be associated with varicose veins, anemia, diabetes, or other conditions, sometimes even some overwhelming stress. If the doctor didn’t diagnose you and you don’t know what’s causing it, the good news is that you can try to elevate your legs above the pillow and see if it helps with your circulation.
The belief of rising your legs up may be contradictory. Some may think that it will cause the blood to flow in the opposite direction and reduce in even more poor conditions. However, it’s important to note that giving your legs a break from blood may not sound like a bad idea and in addition to that, it reduces the pressure put on your heart to pump it towards your legs.
Editor’s notes: Poor circulation can also happen when there’s too much blood being stuck and built up in the affected area. If you elevate your legs up a bit before the bed, your heart will be able to distribute it towards the areas that make you feel cold.
It Can Reduce The Pain In The Legs
Whether your legs hurt because of bad circulation, as stated above, extra weight put on them, or water retention that is mostly focused on your joints, elevating your legs could mean a proper solution to your problem. Whatever may be the reason, you likely feel like your legs are tired and heavy when going to bed.
When there’s too much water retained in the body, it feels like the legs, particularly joints, are constantly vibrating, and causing dull pain that either keeps you from falling asleep easily or wakes you up in the middle of the night.
Luckily, elevating your legs in the air using one to two smaller pillows or special ergonomic pillows like wedge pillows will help you set your legs at the appropriate angle.
Editor’s notes: You can either elevate your legs using simple or wedge pillows, or some other ergonomic type of a pillow that would make it more comfortable. The last and most expensive option would be sleeping on an adjustable bed.
Faster Recovery Times If You Get Injured
You don’t have to be an athlete to accidentally trip over or slip that can result in a severe injury. All you have to be is not careful enough, clumsy, or suffering from a certain chronic condition that makes you more susceptible to injuries.
Athletic injuries are treated with a special “RICE” method. The RICE method is also known as Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Now, what does that mean? While not every letter may be relevant to your injury, the elevation option is available for you to try it out and see how it will help you get better.
Studies, as well as many health experts, suggest resting by lying in bed, on your back. Additionally, elevating your legs with the use of pillows and other accessories above the level of your heart will also help get rid of unpleasant swelling and make your leg more functional.
Editor’s notes: The RICE method is highly effective, especially because it’ll help your body reduce the strain on the muscle and joints, as well as get rid of edema which refers to fluid retention. It’s most commonly used for treating sprains, but also other kinds of athletic injuries.
It Can Soothe Sciatic Nerve
As you age, many chronic problems arise, and more often than not, these problems are associated with the nerves in your body. Unsurprisingly, many people experience piercing back pain that is associated with the sciatic nerve, the longest and one of the most sensitive nerves in the body.
Sleeping properly, in an aligned position is of utmost importance for protecting your sciatic nerve from the effects of your lumbar disk pressing on it. Oppositely, you will have to deal with excruciating pain, especially if you’re a back sleeper and have a less comfortable mattress that you sleep on.
One study even identifies the relationship between sleeping with sciatica and sleep posture that it feels more comfortable to sleep on. Not surprisingly, sleeping on the stomach is one of the worst positions for sciatic pain. However, sleeping with legs elevated can greatly improve your condition depending on your individual preferences.
Editor’s notes: Sleeping with your legs elevated can reduce problems with the sciatic nerve. You can either elevate your knees or your feet. However, we also advise finding a wedge pillow that you can put under your lumbar area. Your spine will be in a neutral position then, so you won’t pose any pressure to your sciatic nerve.
It Can Reduce Leg Edema
Leg edema refers to the retention of fluids that gets trapped in our limbs. If you’re physically active, or work while standing for many hours, there’s a possibility that your body will retain the fluids and cause the water to bind to your cells, which usually results in painful or swollen legs. According to science, this condition can cause extremely swollen knee caps and feet, but oftentimes you’ll feel the swelling elsewhere too.
Sleeping with your legs elevated can reduce the retention of fluids in your legs because the blood circulation is also improved, as we mentioned above. That said, the water from your legs can slowly disappear.
Editor’s notes: You should eat potassium-rich nutrients and also try using some sort of diuretic supplements. We reviewed the best ones in the market that won’t compromise the potassium values in your body.
Neutral Position Of Spine
Spinal alignment is one of the most important things to consider when sleeping with your legs elevated. It will help you better your posture, not only when you sleep but also during the day. Oftentimes, people with poor sleep habits and poor sleep posture will not remember to straighten their back and improve their posture during the day which will only worsen the condition during the day.
Editor’s notes: Sleeping with your legs elevated can help with other chronic conditions that aren’t similar to sciatica. Some of them include arthritis, scoliosis, discus hernia, and others. Elevating your legs also leaves you in a fixed sleeping position so you won’t toss around and risk sleeping on your stomach which can be risky for your health.
Reduced Risk For Vein Thrombosis
Vein thrombosis, as well as deep-vein thrombosis (DBT), refer to forming of blood clots in the leg veins and many factors can affect that. Vein thrombosis, if not treated immediately, right after being discovered can lead to a series of complications and even death in some cases.
It happens as a result of pulmonary embolisms, which can occur due to some medications, as well as conditions. It happens when blood clots break off and travels through your veins via the blood flow. Being too big, it may not be able to pass through some blood vessels and could end up getting stuck in the lungs where it can cause serious problems that can result fatally.
Editor’s notes: If you have chronic conditions that could result in deep blood thrombosis, you should definitely start sleeping with your legs elevated to prevent more issues.
Potential Cons Of Sleeping With Elevated Legs
As you can see, there are so many pros of sleeping with legs elevated and even more so. However, sleeping with elevated legs may not feel ultra-comfortable for everyone, which is why we listed some disadvantages.
It May Feel Uncomfortable
One of the only cons that we could think of when it comes to sleeping with legs elevated is that it can feel extremely uncomfortable for people who tend to turn around a lot when they sleep. In addition to that, it may distract you to have your legs elevated unless you own an adjustable bed that moves your entire body in an upward position.
Nevertheless, people who sleep on the side can find some workarounds that will generally improve the feeling of sleeping with their legs elevated. More about that below.
Editor’s notes: Sleeping with elevated legs may be uncomfortable if you use normal pillows. Avoid sleeping on the stomach so that it won’t worsen some chronic conditions such as sciatica. Instead, focus on getting a proper wedge pillow or even buying an adjustable bed.
It Can Make You Feel Irritated
Additionally, if your wedge pillow or some other type of pillow you’re using to sleep with elevated legs is uncomfortable or doesn’t have an ergonomic shape, it can cause skin irritation and in rare situations, result in blisters and rash. That can make the whole experience of sleeping with legs elevated inconvenient, causing them to give up.
Editor’s notes: Use a pillow case or cover made out of cotton or linen, or some other material that won’t be harsh on your skin. Adjust the position of your wedge pillow or adjustable bed to conform to your body.
How To Sleep With Elevated Legs
But, how to sleep with our legs elevated? A lot of people toss and turn during the night and can’t sleep in the same position. That’s why we wanted to help you make the sleeping time with elevated legs easier and maximize comfortable sleep.
Sleeping On The Back
Most people sleep on their back, which makes sleeping with elevated legs significantly easier. However, for that, you will need a properly sized and shaped wedge pillow that you will place under your feet or your knees.
In both situations, elevating your legs using a wedge pillow will allow you to tackle various health problems from poor blood circulation and water edema swelling to reduced risks of deep vein thrombosis.
However, another alternative is sleeping in a bed with an adjustable base and adjustable mattress. That makes it significantly easier because it allows you to set the angle under which you want your legs to be elevated. That said, it’ll be easier if you’ll have a wedge pillow but everything works.
Sleeping On The Side
Sleeping on the side is more difficult when it comes to sleeping with your legs elevated. But, that doesn’t mean the end of the world is near. Sleeping on the side also means that you can use a wedge pillow, but only to raise the leg that hurts you, as rising both will result in pressure on your joints that one leg is putting on the other one.
Another alternative is using adjustable blankets. Adjustable blankets are special types of blankets with adjustable layers. You can use them to elevate your legs just as much as you want them, and not worry about anything.