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Sleeping in a recliner vs bed: Is it bad to sleep sitting up?

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Sleeping in a recliner vs a bed: which is better?

While some people fall asleep within seconds of falling onto their mattress, others struggle. People with neck pain, acid reflux, and various other conditions often find lying flat is a big problem. If they want to sleep well, they need to be slightly elevated. 

Finding out which sleeping position works best for you could be the key to a better quality of sleep. 

Since getting the right amount of sleep is crucial to good health, some experimentation may be in order. As odd as it may sound, you may find sleep sitting up makes you healthier. 

If sleeping in a recliner means you get more hours of uninterrupted sleep, why not give it a try?

Let’s look at the pros and cons of sleeping in a recliner vs a bed and how you can decide which position is right for you. 

Should you sleep in a bed, or sleep sitting up?

Experts say only around 8% of people sleep flat on their back. The rest of us explore positions ranging all the way from laying on our side, to the full starfish. 

To explore the benefits of sleeping in a recliner vs a bed, let’s take a closer look at the benefits of beds. 

By design, beds are intended to place your body in the best position for a good night’s sleep. A bed allows you to spread your weight evenly across your body. This means you have fewer cramps and cricks when you wake up. 

Sleeping flat on a bed ensures you’re not placing excess pressure on your spine, hips, or neck. 

The benefits of sleeping on a bed include:

  • Position flexibility: You can adjust your position easily through the night. Sleeping on a bed ensures you can switch from laying on your back, to your stomach, to your side — no problem.
  • Weight distribution: Sleeping in a chair may cause you to push more of your weight into your hips or shoulders, increasing the risk of muscle and joint issues. Sleeping in a bed distributes your weight evenly throughout your body. 
  • Excellent support: Depending on the type of bed you have; you can enjoy extra support for certain parts of your body. You can even get orthopedic beds. 

So, why would you want to sleep sitting up instead?

The common answer is we don’t always feel most comfortable when fully horizontal. If you’ve noticed you feel better when you’re sleeping in a recliner, you may need something else. People who use a lot of pillows can also enjoy sleeping in a chair. 

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The benefits of sleeping sitting up

Let’s consider the other side of sleeping in a recliner vs a bed. Sleeping in a recliner won’t be ideal for everyone. 

If you have breathing problems, a hunched back can impair airflow in your lungs. Sleeping in a recliner can also cause stiffness in the knees and joints. Some people even worry about the risk of deep vein thrombosis

So, is sleeping in a chair good for you, or bad? 

Sleeping upright can help with:

Acid reflux
Acid reflux happens with the esophageal sphincter at the end of your esophagus doesn’t close properly. Stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, causing heartburn. When you lie down, gravity stops pulling acid away from your esophagus. This makes the acid reflux even worse. 

Sleeping sitting up prevents this problem

Recovery after surgery
You might have gone through abdominal surgery such as liposuction or a tummy tuck. To have less pressure on your wounds, sleeping in a recliner for a while, could be the way to great recovery.

Sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is one of the most common forms. In people with this condition, the muscles in the throat relax and block the airways. The result is snoring, abrupt awakenings during the night, and snoring. 

Elevating your head helps to prevent your throat muscles from blocking your airway. Research has found an elevation of 7.5 degrees can reduce sleep apnea without harming sleep quality. Sleeping in a chair could be useful if you suffer from airway issues.

When heavily pregnant, women often find it difficult to get to sleep. But getting plenty of sleep during pregnancy is crucial. Pregnant women in their second and third trimester are often advised not to sleep on their back

Sleeping on your back can compress the inferior vena cava. This vein returns blood to the heart from the lower body. Choosing to sleep sitting up could be a way to improve comfort and reduce risks during pregnancy. 

Back pain
In some cases, sleeping sitting up can be worse for your back than lying on a bed. This is often the case with lower back problems. However, there are people who find it easier to get out of a reclining chair than to move in and out of bed. 

Sleeping in a recliner is a common choice for people coming out of back surgery. Be sure you get a chair with plenty of back support if you take this route. 

Sleeping sitting up could help to improve circulation for those with circulatory problems. The position between sitting and laying down encourages a regular movement of blood around the body. 

The effect of gravity also helps to improve blood in your feet. This may be helpful if you’re trying to encourage healing in the lower body. 

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Is sleeping in a recliner bad for you?

The biggest concern most people have when considering sleeping in a recliner vs a bed, is sleep sitting up may be unhealthy. 

So, is sleeping in a chair bad for you?

As with most things, it depends on you. 

In general, sleeping upright is safe. However, you might not be able to try this out for yourself if you have certain conditions. 

People who shouldn’t sleep sitting up include individuals with:

  • Breathing problems: A reclined position may exacerbate breathing issues. Don’t try sleeping in a chair if you have lung issues or a respiratory illness. 
  • Joint stiffness: Sleeping upright can worsen joint stiffness by placing additional pressure onto your hips and knees. 
  • Deep vein thrombosis: If you have a high risk of deep vein thrombosis, do not sleep sitting up without a doctor’s advice. 

Tips for sleeping in a recliner

If you’ve done your research on sleeping in a recliner vs a bed and you’ve decided to go down the recliner route, make sure you’re well prepared. 

The answer to “Is it okay to sleep in a chair every night?” will differ depending on your medical background. Ask your doctor if you’re unsure. Make sure you do your research on the right recliners too. 

Aside from looking for something stylish, like the GDF Studio Elizabeth, make sure your recliner is adjustable. 

You should be able to change the depth of the recline, swivel the chair, and get in and out easily. If your chair is made of leather, like the Best Choice massage chair, try covering it with a sheet. This will reduce sweating and discomfort. 

If the headrest is hard, use a pillow, and consider putting an extra pillow behind your lower back for support. Those with trouble getting up after sleeping might prefer a chair with a power lift function. Products like the Pawnova padded seat can lift you back to almost standing position. 

Other tips for sleeping sitting up include:

  • Protect your hips and knees: If you’re sleeping in a recliner, make sure you don’t place excess pressure on your joints. A regular routine of stretching will be crucial. Keep your back, hips, and knees stretched to avoid tightness. 
  • Support your back: Don’t make the mistake of underestimating back support when sleeping sitting up. Make sure your recliner comes with an ergonomic pillow, a few rolled up towels, or whatever it takes to keep your back feeling strong.
  • Follow a similar routine: Try to follow the same sleeping routine you have when in bed. Don’t leave the television blaring as you snooze. Ensure you’re in a space where you can control the darkness, temperature, and sounds surrounding you. 
  • Track your sleep: If you’re not waking up feeling your absolute best, it might be worth tracking your sleep. Using sleep tracking devices will show you how much time you’re spending within crucial sleep stages. 

Remember, it’s worth speaking to your doctor before you consider sleeping sitting up. Don’t run the risk of sleeping upright if it’s not suitable for you. If you decide you want to give sleeping in a chair a try, great! 

Check out some of the best recliners for sleep we’ve found so far. 

Siestio. Sleep Matters.

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