Is Sleeping in a Recliner Bad for You? Are there any Side Effects?

Sleeping in a recliner has long been attributed to a comfortable sleep. Their supportive feel and ergonomic design make it impossible for us to not delve into a fitful sleep through the night.

However, sleeping continuously on a recliner for a longer period of time can have adverse health effects. So while a recliner brings about a multitude of benefits to individuals, carelessly lounging on it for extended periods of time can do more harm than good and leave you with a variety of health issues instead.

So how exactly do you use a recliner in a responsible manner? Let’s find out!

Sleeping in a Recliner vs. Bed – Which One is Healthy?

Since doctors often recommend recliners to patients who find it difficult to sleep on a flatbed, the recliner is therefore generally regarded as the healthier option. Bed, for the most part, fails to comfortably support the pressure points of your body and thus becomes the main cause of back pains.

A recliner on the other hand tends to slightly elevate your legs and knees as you lie down in a reclined position. Doing so takes the pressure off of your spine and helps to redistribute weight throughout your body. Back pain, therefore, is effectively reduced.

Moreover, sleeping in a reclined position in contrast to the flat one on a bed tends to make your blood circulation more efficient. This in turn reduces your risk of developing most blood circulatory diseases such as edema.

By sleeping upright in a semi-reclined position on a recliner chair, you also effectively reduce the risk of respiratory diseases. This is because the reclined position opens up your airways and makes breathing easier and more fluid. Sleeping on a flatbed, on the other hand, tends to constrict your nasal passageways, unless you prop yourself up using a wedge pillow, which can prove to be uncomfortable in the longer run.

There are however certain side effects of sleeping on a recliner as well, making them an unsuitable option in some  scenarios. While beds are generally safer to sleep on for extended periods, recliners tend to provide a cramped space where your muscles remain inactive for an extended period. This restricts the body’s efficient blood circulation and thus causes swelling of the feet and stiffness in your joints.

woman sleeping in a recliner chair

Benefits of Sleeping in a Recliner

Sleeping with your legs and knees elevated above your heart has often been identified as a healthy sleeping position, to keep your spinal alignment in check. A recliner, with its ergonomic and efficient design, tends to elevate your body at exactly the right angles, thus making it easier for you to fall asleep. Moreover, its cushioned armrests in addition to a highly comfortable design and build tend to offer a spectacular surface to simply lounge on as you watch T.V or read a book.

Let’s take a look at the variety of health benefits that sleeping in a recliner brings about.

1. Faster Post-Surgery Recovery

Surgery of any type can end up restricting your movement for the most part. This makes your muscles sore and results in slower blood circulation, which makes it difficult for your body to recover from the after-effects of the surgery.

A recliner, on the other hand, enables you to sleep sitting up and switch between several reclined positions by adjusting your bed. Your muscles therefore can be forced into movement without putting stress on the affected area of your body that went under surgery. This in turn makes your blood circulation better and thus helps speed up your recovery process.

Moreover, the ability to switch between various reclined positions helps you to adjust your position in a way to ensure no pressure is exerted on the affected area of your body. With little or no stress on the joints and relatively vulnerable operated areas, faster healing is pretty much guaranteed.

2. Helps with Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea has been known to cause severe sleep disruptions in patients. The disease is categorized by a momentary period of breathlessness as you sleep, after which you wake up momentarily, gasping for air. Breathlessness is caused by the relaxation of your throat muscles, which causes them to block your airways.

A recliner helps in a way that it prevents your throat muscles from blocking your airways. It does so by keeping your head elevated at a certain angle, to ensure unobstructed breathing. Around 7.5-degree head elevation is proven to be substantial enough to ease symptoms of sleep apnea.

This semi-reclined position is best achieved through an ergonomically designed recliner. Sleeping in a reclined position opens up your diaphragm and enables unobstructed breathing patterns, which ultimately helps you sleep better.

3. Ease Symptoms of Acid Reflux

Acid reflux is a condition characterized by a burning sensation in your chest, stomach pain, and burping. It is caused by the flow of acidic contents of your stomach back into your esophagus.  In many severe cases, acid reflux can even cause difficulties in breathing.

In patients of GERD, the contents of their stomachs can travel up into their esophagus due to a weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter. When you lie down on a recliner chair with your head elevated, your sphincter muscle is positioned relatively above the stomach.

For the stomach’s contents to leak into the esophagus, they will have to travel against gravity. A recliner, therefore, offers you a slight recline which helps your body to make use of the power of gravity in preventing the escape of acidic contents from your stomach. It also helps you to quickly return any reflux that managed to escape your esophagus, back into your stomach.

4. Reduces Stress

stress due to covid19

Recliners are designed with a slight incline to help support your head and neck region as it is elevated above the rest of your body. This position tends to evenly distribute your body’s entire weight and prevents pressure buildup.

It is the pressure points in your body that cause compressions and muscle soreness when they are activated. When these pressure points are not triggered, you enter a zero-gravity state where your muscles relax. The strain that you often experience when sleeping on your back, is practically non-existent with the recliner.

In addition to preventing your muscles from fatigue, a recliner sofa also allows your body to relieve all the tension and soreness it has been holding on to. With the help of an adjustable recliner chair, you can therefore truly rest comfortably and allow your body to detoxify itself from all the anxieties and tensions.

5. Better Digestion

A bad posture is one of the less cited causes of most digestive problems. This is because digestion requires a lot of blood bringing sufficient oxygen to flow through your gut. A bad posture significantly reduces the rate of blood flow to the vital organs of your body and thus makes digestion sluggish.

To allow your body to properly digest the food you consume, what you need is to set it on a “rest and digest” mode. A recliner helps you do exactly that by helping you correct your posture. Since recliner chairs have practically customizable recline angles, you can adjust your recliner to the angle that makes you most comfortable.

As you lie down on a recliner, with your head elevated above your torso, your muscles start to relax and release stress. Your breathing slows down as you ease into the recliner sofa and your blood circulation becomes more efficient, thanks to the relaxed state of the muscles. Your body then shifts into its “rest and digest” mode instead of fight or flight one. It will therefore effectively digest anything that you have consumed.

Side Effects of Sleeping in a Recliner

While the fact that recliners make a pretty good investment in your sleeping habits is fairly accurate; there are however some health concerns that need to be addressed before you start using one. Even though a flatbed cannot compare to the advantages of sleeping on a recliner, the latter does come with a bunch of side effects as well.

So, before you finally decide to put your money on purchasing a recliner chair, it is only fair that you give the following side effects of sleeping in a recliner a read. It will help you determine whether or not a recliner will help you in the long run.

1. Disrupted Sleep

If you are one to toss and turn around in sleep, let it be known that a recliner would restrict your movement. Unlike a bed’s flat surface, a recliner doesn’t offer a lot of space for you to move around and thus can become cramped and uncomfortable for many. It is therefore more than likely that you are going to wake up in the middle of the night with a sore neck or shoulders, as you sleep on a recliner.

As long as your posture on the recliner is accurate, the problem won’t be quite noticeable; however if during sleep you hunch your back or move your spine out of alignment, you shall experience difficulty in breathing. This too will make you wake with a jolt, gasping for air.

2. Poor Blood Circulation

It is true that recliners do help improve your blood circulation. However, this benefit tends to turn into a side effect as you spend more time on a recliner. Lying in the semi-reclined position for longer periods tends to restrict your muscular movement and cause them to strain.

As your muscles become cramped and your movements become slow, your blood capillary system starts narrowing and restricting the smooth flow of blood. Your blood circulation also slows down, thus preventing oxygen and nutrients from reaching your body’s vital organs.

What you can do instead of sleeping in a recliner throughout the night, is to lie down for a few hours every day. This way you get to minimize the stress induced on your muscles and joints and thus improve your blood circulation.

3. Joint Stiffness

joint stiffness due to sleeping in recliner chair

As discussed earlier, a recliner tends to restrict your movements and makes it difficult for you to toss and turn around when lying on it. This results in reduced mobility of your muscles and joints and thus causes them to get stiff.

Joint contractures are a direct result of reduced movement while you sleep. When the muscles around the joints stiffen up from a lack of use and being held up in a single position, the agility of your joints is significantly reduced. The muscles around a stationary body part tend to tighten up and gradually make movement painful.

Then again, it is generally a lack of movement for a longer period which causes joint stiffness in individuals. When used for brief periods, recliners reduce stress on joints by evenly distributing your weight across the entire body.

4. Swelling of the Legs

Your legs and feet swell with continued use of recliners over an extended period. The science involved behind it is fairly simple. Once your blood has completed its first round and circulated throughout the body, it then needs to be collected back and pumped to the heart. Since this movement generally takes place against gravity, sufficient pressure needs to be built to allow blood to be collected from your lower body.

A recliner tends to limit your mobility and make your muscular movement sluggish. What this does is adversely affect blood vessels that ultimately fail to develop adequate pressure to bring back blood to your heart. The blood, therefore, pools into the legs and feet, promoting water to seep in from the surrounding tissues and cause further swelling.

This swelling only continues to get worse with time, since the water seepage damages your blood vessels and allows more blood to leak, thereby causing further swelling.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it ok to sleep in a recliner when pregnant?

It is ok for pregnant women to sleep in a recliner, as long as they make sure they don’t lie down flat on their back on it. The slightly elevated position of the head and torso while using a recliner allows pregnant women to relax their muscles and get comfortable.

Since recliners are associated with a decrease in symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn which are quite common during pregnancy, they allow you to sleep better and wake up more refreshed. However, don’t lie down in recliners for extended periods, since doing so limits your movements and thus increases the chances of the formation of blood clots.

Why does sleeping in a recliner help back pain?

When sleeping on a flatbed, the weight of your body rests on the pressure points at your back. This causes back pains to spring up, making your sleep experience uncomfortable. Sleeping on a recliner however demonstrates the use of a certain recline angle. It is the angle at which your spine is kept at its natural alignment, while the entire weight of our body is distributed evenly throughout.

With little to no pressure being exerted on your back, your chances of developing a back strain are significantly reduced. This is why sleeping in a recliner is considered a good option for back pain relief.

Can sleeping in a recliner cause blood clots?

Recliners can cause blood clots to form within your body. It is however not the recliner nor its ergonomic design that causes the blood clots to form, but an extended period of inactivity that does.

Blood clots are generally formed as a consequence of muscular inactivity which lowers your blood pressure and fails to allow proper blood circulation to your body organs. Restricted mobility on a recliner tends to do the same. The longer the inactivity period, the greater the chances of you developing a blood clot.

Does sleeping in a recliner help sciatica?

A recliner does help alleviate symptoms of sciatica in patients. Sciatica generally results from compression or damage to the sciatic nerve that follows a lack of alignment of your spine. A recliner tends to help elevate your body at a slight elevation to allow your body weight to be spread evenly. Since no weight is exerted on the sciatic nerve of your body, it is left to heal and recover undisturbed, to allow a faster recovery.

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