Blood circulation is vital to your body’s overall health. It delivers oxygen and nutrients to cells while removing waste products. Efficient circulation maintains organ function, promotes cell growth and keeps our immune systems robust and happy. That is all straightforward and good — but what does that have to do with your sleeping position?
The short answer? A lot. The average U.S. citizen gets roughly seven hours of sleep every night. If you lie in the incorrect position, that could mean numbness and severe pins and needles. You could contribute towards restless leg syndrome (RLS), increase your risk of vein thrombosis and get sleep apnea.
Understanding How Sleeping Positions Affect Circulation
Different sleeping positions either improve or impede blood flow. For example, sleeping on your back can hinder it, especially if you already have existing health issues like varicose veins and sleep apnea.
Sleeping on your front puts pressure on your chest and stomach, which can cause diaphragmatic breathing. The second issue is that if you sleep on your front, you have to turn your head to the side for long periods, which can strain your neck muscles and restrict blood to the brain.
The Role of Gravity in Blood Circulation
Gravity pulls everything from your head towards the floor when you stand or sit. The circulatory system works hard to counter this and pump the blood back up. However, when you lie down, there is less pull on the body. The heart can rest a little, and it reduces the strain.
Gravity also affects blood pressure, as when you are standing, your liquids tend to pool in the lower extremities. Lying down neutralizes this effect, leading to a more even distribution of blood pressure. This is one of the reasons health care professionals always ask you to sit with your legs unfolded and feet on the floor when taking your blood pressure.
The Impact of Pressure Points on Circulation
Areas of the body that bear weight or pressure while you lie down are known as pressure points. If the body experiences sustained pressure, it can lead to compressed blood vessels, restricting blood flow to that area. You can see this in areas such as hips and heels or in the buttocks when you sit too long.
Prolonged pressure can also cause nerve compressions. This is the sensation known as “pins and needles” that you get sometimes. The numbness and tingling sensation then leads to discomfort and occasionally pain. Sleeping in certain positions can reduce the impact and increase blood circulation in these areas.
Best Sleeping Positions for Enhanced Blood Circulation
What sleep position is best for circulation? Generally, you should sleep on whatever side makes you feel more comfortable. Sleeping on the right or left side can be beneficial, depending on your unique health conditions. For example, many people with heart failure choose to avoid the left side because this position impacts the way the heart functions. Sleeping on the right side can protect your heart by ensuring your lungs hold it in place.
Sleeping on your left could be beneficial for those without heart conditions. The stomach and pancreas are left-leaning. The stomach can empty its contents easily into the small intestine, reducing acid reflux and heartburn.
Sleeping With Legs Elevated
Another option is to sleep with your legs elevated. If you have varicose veins, sleeping with your legs elevated may be beneficial, as it removes the pressure from the lower legs. The position uses gravity to assist the blood flow from the lower section of your body into the central and upper regions.
For individuals experiencing swelling in the lower legs and ankles, elevated sleep helps with this as well. You can achieve this position by using a pillow or a wedge under your knees when you lie. The elevation should not be too high, just a gentle rise.
An adjustable bed works, too. Ensure your spine remains aligned when you lie and you do not cause strain on your back or hips.
The Semi-Fowler Position
The best sleeping position for peripheral artery disease is the Semi-Fowler position. It is the best sleeping position for leg circulation, as the Semi-Fowler position is where the upper part of the body is elevated with pillows or an adjustable bed. The elevation is between 15 and 45 degrees. Your legs are straight or just slightly bent, depending on what is comfortable for you.
The goal is to be comfortable. If at some point you do get uncomfortable, then change positions. Often, people with the following conditions use this position:
Respiratory improvement: Muscus and liquids that ordinarily build up in the sinus area when sleeping are gently pulled away by gravity in this position. It opens up the airways and creates easier breathing.
Acid reflux: This is another great position for acid reflux as the digestion is able to move downward with ease.
Frequently Asked Questions About Sleeping Positions and Circulation
Here are a few of the FAQs we often get asked. If you have additional questions that we have not answered here, reach out to us.
How Should I Sleep to Improve Circulation?
Try elevating your legs and resting in the Semi-Folwer position. What you want to try to avoid is crossing your legs. Make sure you are sleeping on a firm but comfortable mattress and pillows.
What Else Helps With Circulation?
Regular exercise will get the blood flowing and increase your circulation across your whole body. Keep your liquids up by rehydrating often, and include a healthy diet in your daily life. Wear compression stockings or socks to help if you suffer from varicose veins or circulation issues in your legs. If you have a job that requires you to sit at a desk all day, remember to take breaks and move around.
Texas Vein & Wellness Institute Is Here to Help
If you find that your circulation needs help or have any questions regarding vein thrombosis, PAD or even pins and needles, contact us. We specialize in all vein wellness and would love to listen to your story. Request an appointment or screen with a TXVWI specialist by either calling (281) 888-1464 or chatting with us online.
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