Sleeping in a Chair: Is it Bad for You?

Last Updated on June 17, 2024

by Marc Werner, Founder - GhostBed

We’ve all been there. Sometimes you just can’t get comfortable in your bed, no matter what you try. After a few hours of tossing and turning, you head over to your living room recliner, where you drift off to sleep within seconds.

What gives? In this article, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about sleeping in a recliner or chair. Why do some people sleep better in recliners? What are the long-term effects of sleeping in a chair, if any? Keep reading to find out.

A woman sleeps in a chair with a book.

The Risks of Sleeping in a Recliner Chair

First, why is it so comfortable to sleep in a recliner? Structurally, a recliner chair is designed to offer the ultimate in comfort. The plump armrests, the velvety fabric and the ability to kick your feet up make a recliner an inviting place to take a quick nap.

But here’s the thing. Even though sleeping in a recliner chair may seem like a comfortable way to catch some sleep, there are some unexpected risks associated with this habit. For example:

  • Falling out of the chair. This can lead to injuries, such as a concussion or broken bones.
  • Deep-vein thrombosis. Some doctors warn that sleeping in a chair can cause deep-vein thrombosis (or DVT). DVT is when blood clots occur when your arms or legs stay bent for hours at a time. This sometimes happens to people who sit all day at their job or take long flights.
  • Breathing issues. If you suffer from lung problems like asthma, sleep apnea or COPD, sleeping in a recliner probably isn’t the best thing for your health. Bad posture can block airflow, reducing the amount of oxygen your lungs can take in.
  • Limbs falling asleep. Most of us have experienced discomfort when our muscles start to fall asleep. Because a reclining chair won’t properly support your body for long bouts of sleep, there’s a higher chance of encountering this situation.
  • Poor balance. One of the most common dangers of sleeping in a recliner is that it can lead to hip and knee contractures. This happens when your muscles tighten over these joints, making standing or walking difficult.

Pros of Sleeping Upright

If an adjustable bed or wedge pillows aren't accessible, you can try to get the benefits of sleeping elevated in your recliner chair. But remember, we don't suggest you consider your favorite chair as a place to crash for the night regularly.

Sleeping in a chair every once in a while won’t harm you, but sleeping in one every night may not be a good idea. Always talk with your doctor about best sleep practices if you’re recovering from a surgery or currently living with chronic pain or a serious illness.

Benefits of sleeping with your head elevated:

  • Reduces post-nasal drip
  • Curbs sleep apnea and snoring
  • Improves circulation of the blood
  • Encourages lymphatic drainage
  • Reduces heartburn
  • It helps with relaxation

Benefits of sleeping with your legs elevated:

  • Minimizes sciatica symptoms
  • Reduces swelling
  • Helps reduce snoring
  • Lowers your risk of DVT and blood clots
  • Helps reduce varicose veins
  • Alleviates back pain

As you can see, sleeping with your head and/or feet elevated is a genius move for your health. Yes, you may get these benefits when you sleep in a recliner, but you probably shouldn’t do it for an extended period. You may end up causing more problems than benefits (as we explored above).

A couple relaxes on their GhostBed Adjustable Bed Base.

Sleeping in a Chair FAQ

Recently, our Sleep Experts took the time to sit down and talk with some of our most valued customers. The following questions arose when the conversation shifted to sleeping in a chair.

Is it OK to sleep in a chair every night?

Most experts recommend against sleeping in a chair every night as it doesn’t support or encourage proper spinal alignment.

Is it better to sleep flat or elevated for back pain?

If you struggle with chronic lower-back pain, sleeping on an incline may help. Many people experience back pain when lying down flat, so it’s definitely worth experimenting with!

Does sleeping in a chair help with sleep apnea?

According to a 2012 study, sleeping in a chair can be beneficial if you have sleep apnea. This is rooted in the fact that a recliner chair allows you to raise and lower your head so you can sleep on an incline. Again, we wouldn’t recommend this regularly. An adjustable base can give you the same effect!

Sleeping in a recliner after surgery—is it a good idea?

Ultimately this is a conversation you will need to have with your surgeon or primary care provider. If an alternative isn’t available, sleeping in a recliner chair can help encourage surgical recovery.

Chairs Are for Napping; Beds Are for Sleeping

Chairs may be the perfect place to plop down and take a quick cat nap, but beds are undeniably the best place for sleeping.

If you're looking for an inclined place to catch some ZZZs, an adjustable base may be just the ticket! Pair it with the mattress of your choice, and get ready for customized comfort and the touch of a button.

GhostBed Adjustable Bed Base.

GhostBed Adjustable Base

Relax and put your feet up (literally) with the luxury GhostBed Adjustable Base. Enjoy independent head and foot adjustability, massage settings & more.

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Marc Werner - Founder, GhostBed

Marc Werner

Founder - GhostBed

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Marc has spent the last two decades designing & manufacturing mattresses and other sleep products, drawing on a lifetime of experience working with the material sciences. With several patents to his name, he works closely with the GhostBed team to create products with the perfect balance of comfort & support. Learn More

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