We have to sleep at least some portion of every single day for all of our lives. Many of us have been doing it for years and years. Every night for an average of eight hours each night, adding up to tens or even hundreds of thousands of hours over a lifetime. Sleep is something that even babies are good at.
But, as it turns out, many of us may be doing it wrong! Well, not the actual sleeping part, but the position that we take when we are sleeping. While most people tend to sleep flat on their backs, this is actually a very bad idea. As it turns out, the better way to sleep is with your legs elevated above the heart. This is especially true for people with certain issues and problems with their health.
Is it Healthy to Sleep with Your Legs Elevated?
Actually, there are a number of health benefits that can be attributed to sleeping with your legs lifted. This is particularly true when you make sure that your feet are positioned between six and twelve inches above your heart.
While propping your legs up on some stacked pillows is probably the simplest and most affordable way to get your feet up, it may not be the most effective. This can eventually become uncomfortable and the pillows might fall if you try to turn over. Getting a bed with adjustable reclining settings (like this Adjustables by Leggett & Platt) may work well, or spending time in a zero gravity massage chair could help with getting your legs up above your heart.
Some people find that it’s difficult to sleep the entire night with legs elevated, but even getting them lifted up for 20 minutes during a midday nap can certainly help your health in a variety of ways. But, of course, the benefits are even greater if you can maintain the position of keeping your legs high for the hours at night when you are resting anyway. One of the least expensive and easiest ways to achieve this is to get an elevating memory foam leg rest pillow (like this one by Restorology)
Benefits of Sleeping with Elevated Legs
Getting those legs lifted up is a great habit to get into! And the more prolonged period of time that you can keep your legs elevated, the better. Let’s take a look here at some of the most important, healthy benefits of sleeping with your legs elevated:
Promote Better Heart Health.
When you sleep with your legs elevated just 6 to 12 inches above the heart, you’re promoting better circulation. This is because the gravity works in favor of your circulatory system, making it easier for the blood to circulate back up to your heart without having to fight against gravity like it does during the day. This gives your heart a bit of a break during sleep, allowing you better overall heart health. When your circulatory system functions better, your blood flow more easily throughout your body, and you may even lower the risk of getting blood clots in your legs. Plus, you’ll be less likely to experience numbness and cold feet that comes from poor circulation to the extremities.
Reduce Inflammation in the Feet and Lower Legs.
Swelling of the legs and feet is a common condition as people get older, but also very often happens in women who are pregnant. The more time you spend with your feet below your heart during the day, the more benefit you may receive from elevating your legs when you sleep at night. As your feet sit below you during the day, gravity can cause a pooling of fluid to take place in the feet and ankles. Raising the feet just 6-12 inches during sleep (and putting them up while napping during the day too!) can significantly reduce the inflammation and swelling in your lower extremities. This helps you avoid the look of ‘cankles’ and makes your legs feel better too.
Minimize Back Pain.
When you lie flat on your back, the pressure builds on your lower spine. When you sleep with your legs elevated, either fully lifted up or with a pillow tucked under your knees, you are doing your back a favor. This type of position more closely mimics the natural curve of the spine. When your spine stays curved during sleep, it helps keep the back better aligned, reduces pressure, and keeps your back feeling better. Of course, if you have severe chronic back pain, you should be under the care of a physician or chiropractor to make sure you don’t have serious problems.
Reduce Pain in the Legs.
Legs and feet can hurt for a number of reasons. Sometimes due to standing on your feet all day, other times simply from having them sitting below you. Gravity doesn’t do any favors for the legs, so getting them elevated above you heart helps to promote better circulation. Better circulation means that the toxins can be carried away from your leg and feet and out of your body. When swelling causes pain, then lifting your leg can reduce inflammation and keep the pain at bay. And if leg muscles are tired, keeping them elevated is a great way to drain the tension out of them.
Reduce Severity of Varicose Veins.
Although sleeping with the leg elevated will not keep varicose veins from starting in your legs, nor will it act as a cure, it may possibly help. At least temporarily, lifting up the legs reduces the amount of impact gravity has on your legs, promoting healthy circulation. Other methods of helping with varicose veins may also be necessary, such as wearing compression stockings. But the regular habit of sleeping with the legs raised may relieve varicose veins symptoms, reduce related pain, and make the appearance of your legs much more pleasant at least temporarily.
How to Sleep with Legs Elevated
You have a few options if you want to get started with sleeping with your legs elevated. Many people like to give it a test run by starting out with just naps. To do this – you can get creative at home and simply prop your legs up underneath a pillow or two. If you plan to use this strategy more permanently – I suggest trying a a nice soft body pillow (like this one by Milliard). It will feel like your legs are resting on a cloud! Another popular alternative is to get a wedge-style pillow that is designed specifically for elevated leg sleepers (like this elevated leg pillow by DMI on Amazon).
If you’re the outdoorsy type – you may want to try a hammock (like this Vivere Double Hammock on Amazon) for an afternoon nap with legs elevated. Another idea is to go to the beach and build a nice little elevated platform with sand then lay your blanket or towel over it. Lay down on your back and place your legs up on your sand platform and take a snooze with the sound of the waves crashing to shore!
If you’re completely sold on the benefits of sleeping with your legs elevated and you want to make it a more permanent sleeping habit – you will likely want to consider upgrading your bed to an adjustable bed. There are many options available if you want to do this that range from somewhat inexpensive to insanely really expensive. Here is a middle of the road option for a higher end yet average-priced adjustable bed base (available on Amazon). Once you get to Amazon – scroll down at look at the many different options and price ranges.
Obviously there are many benefits to sleeping with the legs elevated. Not only does it help your heart and reduce swelling, but it can also relieve tired leg muscles. On the other hand, As long as you are sitting or lying down, getting those legs lifted will benefit you and your health in a variety of ways. Prop your feet up and get started. You won’t regret it!