Sedentary lifestyles are more common today than ever before. The reasons for this are many, such as the exponential increase of conveniences in almost every area of life. Besides reflecting on the causes of this lifestyle, we should also look into how one can overcome its side effects. Constantly sitting in front of the screens can seriously impact our health. Considering this, the best way to deal with this situation is with movement! Exercise is an age-old remedy for many illnesses. Not only this, but it is also a means of preventing health issues. When discussing ways to deal with a sedentary lifestyle, most fitness experts often vouch for the benefits of elevating legs. This simple exercise can flip your fitness score and energize you like nothing else. In this article, we have rounded up the benefits of leg elevation and some tips to make the right positions. Dive in!
What Are The Benefits Of Elevating Legs?
Lying down or just sitting with elevated legs carries many potential benefits. Some of which are:
Swelling occurs when there is inflammation or fluid accumulation. Some injuries and health issues may be causing your legs to swell. Raising your legs above the heart level may also drain the excess fluids more effectively (1).
Boosts Natural Flow
The natural blood flow comes easier when the legs are elevated. Our veins must exert more effort to flow the blood against gravity and back to the heart. Give them a break by elevating your legs at least 6 inches above the heart.
Reduces Symptoms Of Vein Diseases
Vein diseases appear in numerous ways. Initially, it could be spider or viscose veins which may not be painful at first. Overtime, these issues can lead to other complexities, which include:
- Restless Leg Syndrome – A prickling or crawling sensation in the legs impacts around 5 – 10 percent of US adults (2). Studies show that 22% of individuals with RLS also experience venous insufficiency.
- Lymphedema – This is a condition in which the lymph nodes in the body fail to drain excess fluids from the tissues. This may cause edema or swelling in the legs (3).
- Varicose Veins – This condition is featured by dark blue bulges sticking from the skin like raised tunnels. Some people may not experience symptoms, but others may face intense medical problems (4).
- Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) – When blood clots form in any body vein, it could become life-threatening. As a result, patients experience swelling in their legs, burning sensations, or pain in their legs/feet (5).
- Phlebitis – This is a condition where veins become inflamed due to damaged vein walls or blood clotting. This inflammation may cause swelling or pain as the surrounding tissues become inflamed (6).
One of the benefits of elevating legs on walls is lowered pressure. It drains the pooled blood, reducing the pressure on the veins. This enables them to get much-deserved relief. When left untreated, pressure may also lead to varicose veins or other serious vein issues.
Like every exercise, following precautions when elevating legs on the wall is essential. In some conditions, people may experience discomfort or pain instead of enjoying the benefits of elevating their legs on the wall. It is always wise to consult a healthcare professional to ensure this practice is safe.
What Are The Dangers Of Sleeping With Feet Elevated?
Do you often lie down on your couch with your feet elevated? It is quite a relaxing pose, especially when you have your favorite show on the TV! You may feel like all your stress is leaving your body.
Putting the feet up relieves pressure from the veins. We have seen how this posture brings numerous health rewards for practitioners. The benefits of elevating legs while sleeping may not come our way if we do it incorrectly. That said, it is recommended to learn the right position from a professional trainer or a medical expert.
Sleeping with elevated legs may be uncomfortable if you are a side sleeper. Also, it isn’t favorable for those with restless leg syndrome (RLS). These individuals have a constant urge to move their legs, making it difficult for them to sleep. If they add a prop to lift their legs, it gets more difficult to move them as they have to move the support too.
Additionally, combination sleepers find it hard to sleep well with elevated legs. They tend to change positions through the night, and shifting from one position to another is difficult. They must move the mount or support as they change positions, making sleeping difficult.
Some people stress about cramping. Keeping your feet up while sleeping can cause the feet and calf muscles to become sore or tense (6). This is a rare occurrence, but people should be vigilant when they notice such circumstances.
Sleeping positions have a significant impact on one’s health (7). One of the cons we can think of when sleeping with elevated legs is discomfort. If you are someone who turns a lot in their sleep, you should avoid sleeping with elevated legs. Some people may get a wedge pillow to help them keep their legs elevated during sleep. If this pillow doesn’t have an ergonomic shape, it may result in a rash or blisters.
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How Long Should You Elevate Your Legs?
Now that we have discussed the benefits of elevating legs while sleeping let’s discover how to do it correctly. When done correctly, sleeping with elevated legs can bring loads of perks.
Here is how to do it right:
Use A Folded Blanket Or A Small Pillow
If you sleep on your side, you should look for props to elevate your legs. For instance, you can put a wedge-shaped pillow or a folded blanket between your legs to sleep comfortably. This position will align your spine and make blood circulation easier.
Pile Some Pillows
The best and easiest way to elevate your legs is to stack some pillows. Ensure that you get the right height according to your preference. Choose firm and medium-sized cushions that collapse easily under your legs’ pressure. However, you may need to shift the pillows when you turn or toss them around during sleep.
Find An Adjustable Base Bed
An adjustable base bed is yet another way to elevate your legs. These beds are quite popular in medical circles and are equipped with multiple features. For example, they allow you to raise your head and legs at the same height. Some beds also have a massage option and LED lights to facilitate the users.
Those who want to enjoy the health benefits of elevating legs should try elevating legs for at least 15 – 20 minutes daily. If you elevate your legs for less than this duration, your blood and fluids may not get enough time to drain out of your legs (8).
Similarly, some people are advised by their physicians to elevate their legs because of swelling in their legs. If the swelling is more, they have to elevate their legs longer. It is recommended to initiate with 20 minutes twice a day. Once they start noticing the benefits of elevating legs for 20 minutes, they can go for 30 minutes or even an hour.
Do Elevating Legs Increase Blood Pressure?
Yes, elevating the legs for longer might increase blood pressure. It is, thus, recommended to practice it in intervals. If you have low blood pressure, this position tends to regulate blood pressure (9).
Sometimes, shock causes low blood pressure (10). If you find someone in shock, you should immediately call for medical assistance. This happens because raising your legs raises your blood pressure because more blood is pumped out with each heartbeat. This increased pumping is more efficient and can improve your performance and how well you do physical tasks.
Usually, sitting or standing in the same position for long hours restricts circulation in veins. This increases blood pressure in the veins, so putting your feet upward will lower the pressure by draining the vein from pooled blood.
How To Improve Circulation In Legs While Sleeping?
Poor circulation is a common problem in people who spend much time standing or sitting. The following are some telltale signs that you are suffering from poor circulation:
- Swelling in the feet or ankles
- Numbness in legs
- Cramping in legs while walking
- Skin feels cold to touch
- Fatigue or heaviness in legs
If you notice any of these symptoms, you should consult a healthcare professional to help you. But here are a few things you can do to improve blood circulation while sleeping:
Wear Compression Socks
Compression socks work by applying pressure on the legs. This pressure boosts blood flow and may reduce swelling or cramps (11). These socks are mostly used during traveling or exercise but could be worn during sleep to improve circulation.
Elevate Your Legs
We usually suffer from achy and tired legs when we spend a long day at work. Elevating your legs above the heart level may help to overcome this trouble. As discussed above, this allows the blood to flow back to the heart easily. One could elevate their legs by placing pillows under the feet or knees.
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Sleep On A Side
Gravity can make blood collect in your legs when you sleep on your back, leading to swelling. Nonetheless, sleeping on your side allows blood to flow freely through your legs, reducing swelling and improving blood circulation.
Sleeping on your side can also help prevent varicose veins from worsening. If you are not accustomed to sleeping on your side, it might take a while to get used to it. And, once you do, you may discover it is a more comfortable and healthier way to sleep.
Overall, sleeping with elevated legs has a lot of benefits. Raising your legs six to eight inches above the heart level allows for better circulation from the veins and keeps the blood from accumulating in the legs. Not only this, but it can also be a fun position and make you feel at ease while you sleep.
Gravity helps the extra blood in your legs to go back up to your heart and circulate throughout your body. This reduces the likelihood of having leg pains, tingling sensations, soreness, or numbness in your legs and feet when you wake up.
The Bottom Line
Elevating legs is often considered a good practice for individuals with circulation issues and vein diseases. Remember that leg elevation provides relief from temporary symptoms. Elevating legs has many benefits, but you can’t rely on it as a permanent relief from ailments.
Practicing leg elevation as a part of your routine can help you to maintain a good posture and overcome pressure in the legs. One should understand how to practice it correctly. Headaches, stress, digestive issues, and insomnia are aftereffects of incorrect spinal alignment.
Knowing this, you should seek advice from your physician to understand how to elevate your legs and for how long. You should notice that leg elevation positively changes your physical and mental health when done correctly for an extended period.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- What Are the Benefits of Elevating Your Legs? (2021, healthline.com)
- Prevalence of Restless Legs Syndrome in North American and Western European Populations: A Systematic Review (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Lymphedema (n.d., mayoclinic.com)
- Varicose Veins (n.d., clevelandclinic.org)
- Conditions Similar to DVT: How to Tell the Difference (2023, webmd.com)
- What You Need to Know About Phlebitis (2023, healthline.com)
- What Causes Leg Cramps At Night? (2023, sleepfoundation.org)
- How Sleeping Position Affects Your Health (2019, sleephealthsolutionsohio.com)
- Leg Elevation the Wrong Way: 15 Common Mistakes to Avoid (n.d., loungedoctor.com)
- Low Blood Pressure (2022, msdmanuals.com)
- Shock (n.d., betterhealth.vic.gov.au)
- How to Choose and Use Compression Stockings (2023, webmd.com)