Even though it may seem a simple action, the truth is that lying on the back while elevating the legs -also known as passive leg raise (PLR), shock position amongst others- doesn’t only feel incredible, it also brings many health benefits.
When this simple action is carried out, the spine aligns perfectly and the blood starts flowing more efficiently. Raising the legs is something anyone can do with the simple aid of some pillows, no matter if there are heart or pulmonary diseases or any other condition.
If you are wondering why a retailer is talking about health conditions and sleeping with elevated legs then it may help to start off by mentioning that we sell a range of electric adjustable beds that can help with all of these conditions.
Raising legs Improves blood circulation
This may sound a little illogical -because the existence of gravity influences every single object in our atmosphere – but elevating the legs improves the blood flow toward the feet and legs of patients who suffer from circulatory conditions or problems.
Elevating the legs even 15-30cm (6-12 inches) inches above the heart takes pressure off the leg veins. It also improves the flow of blood from the leg veins, this allows blood flow to move away from the legs and travel around the entire body.
Additionally, sleeping with the legs elevated is simple to do and reduces the risk of inflammation instantly which of course feels great as you can feel the pressure reduce straight away.
According to a study focused on checking the fluid responsiveness changes in the aorta of 22 critically ill patients, which is considerably more difficult to achieve because they cannot move, the passive leg raising (PLR) significantly increased the circulatory volume of 10 responder patients and their hearts pumped between 150 to 300 more millilitres in comparison to the horizontal position. 4 of the patients experienced a drop in circulatory volume. The remaining 8 patients has only a small increase or no change.
To measure the process, the doctors injected a reversible volume expansion (500 ml of saline) and compared it with other positions. The results were the following.
The researchers found that the variation in respiratory pulse pressure was 0.78 ± 0.12, while the aortic blood flow change was 0.95 ± 0.04. Thus, it led the scientists to conclude: “We found that the PLR manoeuvre had a predictive value similar to that of a respiratory variation in pulse pressure greater than 12%.” This all depends on the person’s blood reservoir.
Even though 12% is not a huge amount, it is enough to reach statistical significance for many circulatory conditions after three or four hours.
Even though back in the day gurus didn’t -and most still don’t- have proper scientific information, yoga has been using this same position to help improve blood flow for centuries. Nowadays, we have adjustable beds that help everyone get in the same position more comfortably. Bodies may not speak, but they are certainly wise.
Minimises sciatica symptoms and back pain
The sciatic nerve is the longest one present in the body. It goes out of the spinal cord in the lower back, goes to the buttocks and then keeps its way down to the back of the thigh until it reaches the toes.
The medical condition that describes the inflammation of this nerve is called sciatica. According to Harvard University, patients often express it is a “sharp and stabbing pain” that usually tends to be located on the back of a thigh but it can also radiate, weaken and numb other locations where its branches are located, like the feet.
Sufferers of Sciatica will know that depending on where the pain is most intense that finding a suitable sleeping position can be difficult. An adjustable bed allows you to easily raise your legs to a position where the pain is relieved and to hold that position until you fall asleep.
A doctor that has studied Sciatica at Harvard, Moley, MD recommends: “acute pain relief can come from 24 to 48 hrs of bed rest in a recumbent position with the head of the bed elevated about 30° (semi-Fowler position).”
But as mentioned above – this will vary a little person to person.
Harvard University describes sciatica as a set of symptoms that often goes away with time. If it persists, it is necessary to treat it aggressively with surgery. Otherwise, doctors instruct conservative treatment with pain relievers, specific stretches and others.
Although painful during the day, this condition can be particularly painful during the night because bodies move involuntarily and pain at night affects sleep. Using an adjustable bed, the body tends to remain still the whole time, so it is a perfect way to avoid unwanted wakenings in excruciating pain. Otherwise, it would be best to sleep on a side (the one that doesn’t hurt) but this can lead to numbness and the pain can spread when the body is not fully supported.
The NHS describes edema as a “swelling in the ankles, feet or legs that often goes away on its own.” According to the organisation, there are many causes of edema but some of the most common ones are eating too much salty food, sitting or standing up for long periods, fluid retention, preeclampsia in pregnancy, being overweight, among many others.
The NHS recommends wearing comfortable shoes, doing gentle exercise and washing or moisturising feet to avoid infections, but most importantly it states: “lie down and raise the swollen area when you can.”
When it comes to oedema, the benefits of sleeping with elevating legs help most people. There is research that found a correlation between leg elevation and the reduction of leg enema.
The study was performed on 31 young women (20 to 40 years old) who worked in the Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Taiwan. They were asked to elevate their legs for 15 minutes or 30 minutes in five different angles to reduce their leg edema during 5 days after having gone through periods of prolonged standing or sitting (over 4 hours).
To analyse the method appropriately, the researchers decided to use two measurements of volumetric displacement after the period and the results showed that the 90-degree posture did bring results in terms of regression, but patients expressed feeling “numbness and throbbing pain over the lower legs or at the buttocks.”
On the other hand, great results came out of leg elevations at 45 and 60 degrees. However, there was even greater comfort and regression line in the patients who were using adjustable beds at a 30-degree angle during 30 minutes.
Helps with the pain of varicose veins and lymphedema
As with everything else, leg veins and valves start wearing out at some point, so they get weakened, enlarged and a little twisted. This is called chronic venous insufficiency or varicose veins and even though it is not exactly a medical condition -at least not a serious one-, it can become one if it is not taken care of appropriately, like blood clots or lymphedema.
This condition affects 40% of adults and is the result of poorly functioning valves. When they stop working appropriately, there is an accumulation of toxins (waste) in a single location that subsequently enlarges the vein and creates a spiraling problem.
When this happens, it is really painful and legs usually feel more tired and weaker. However, if the patient sits or stands for longer periods, these symptoms can worsen and, after some time without treatment, it may result in lymphedema.
In the study Varicose Vein and their management, Campbell explains that the simple action of elevating the legs above the heart level for 30 minutes several times a day may reduce the swelling and improve the blood flow through the veins. This helps flush all the toxins stuck in a single location -as long as it is mild enough- and even prevents the patient from getting varicose veins.
In that sense, doctors tend to instruct patients, in addition to the regular medicine, to perform this action several times a day and even sleep with feet in an elevated position using pillows or ideally an adjustable bed. This simple task may help relieve -and prevent- all of the symptoms that come with varicose veins and lymphedema, including leg swelling.
Prevents and treats Deep Vein Thrombosis
The NHS describes DVT or deep vein thrombosis as “a blood clot that develops within a deep vein in the body, usually in the leg.” It causes great pain and leg swelling and, when it travels and blocks a vessel located near the heart, brain or lungs, it can become a life-threatening condition.
According to the agency, this condition affects one person in each 1,000 UK inhabitants and it is especially common in people over 40 years old. Although there are many causes for this problem, the most recurrent scenario is seen on those have a family history of poor circulatory sufficiency and overweight people.
There are several ways people can prevent and treat deep vein thrombosis, including diet and exercise, but one of the most important ones is elevating the legs.
Charles McCollum, The author of Avoiding the consequences of deep vein thrombosis argues that the elevation of the legs is an essential element often forgotten at the moment of preventing and instructing patients who suffer DVT. The professor of surgery also states in his article: “Early anticoagulation combined with high elevation, carefully fitted elastic hosiery, and advice on lifestyle may help patients avoid a heavy swollen leg and venous ulceration in later life.”
If you are already suffering from DVT then it is also possible to improve the situation through elevating your legs and using elasticated stockings. The author explains that “Most patients who develop the postphlebitic syndrome have never been given appropriate advice on elevation and elastic stockings. Even if the advice is given years after deep vein thrombosis, symptoms can still be improved.”
Even though the appropriate sleeping position is often not considered, it can be incredibly beneficial to elevate the legs every night at a good angle (30 to 45 degrees). This simple but important action may prevent many medical conditions while improving any existing ones.
For more general information about the other health benefits of adjustable beds please read this article.