What Are the Dangers of Sleeping with Your Feet Elevated?

Understand the risks of sleeping with your feet elevated, including circulation challenges and the potential for blood clots. Read more here!


There are many sleeping positions to choose from, but one that you should avoid is sleeping with your feet elevated. Many people do this when they're injured, treat certain conditions, and more, but doing so regularly without the guidance of a health professional may be damaging to your health and lead to even worse issues than just numbness and the pins and needles feeling in your toes.

In this article, we will examine some of the most important dangers of sleeping with your feet elevated. We will also explore how it can lead to circulation challenges, pain or discomfort in the legs, and even potentially cause issues if you struggle with blood clots. Hopefully, this article will give you some deep insight into why you should try to avoid sleeping with your legs elevated and when would be the best time to do so.

Circulation Challenges

One of the first reasons why sleeping with your feet elevated could be dangerous is that it can lead to circulation challenges. Some studies have shown that sleeping with some elevation, whether just your whole body or your feet, can cause circulation issues. This means you're more likely to struggle with getting enough circulation to your lower extremities while sleeping. This could lead to problems with blood clots and more, especially if you find yourself sitting in the same position without moving for multiple hours on end (Source: Harvard Health).

However, it should be noted that there are some benefits to this position, especially when it comes to your circulation. If a doctor has guided you to sit with your feet elevated while you're sleeping, this can help with struggles about swelling in the legs or even edema, all of which are critical issues that are easily solved by further elevating your feet while sleeping. It's best to consult a doctor to see if sleeping with elevated legs would be good for you. Still, most healthy individuals need to be mindful that it could limit circulation throughout the body and cause issues within your lower body.

Discomfort or Pain in the Legs

Related to circulation, there’s also the potential that you may experience discomfort or pain in the legs as a result of putting your feet up and elevated while sleeping. When people elevate their legs or feet while they sleep, they may feel the pins and needles sensation because of the lack of sensation or the nerves reacting to the lack of circulation. The lessening circulation is not always a bad thing in the short term, but in the long term, it can actually lead to the lower half of your body feeling a little numb or even kind of pained if you lay in this position for a long time (Source: ScienceDirect).

However, as mentioned, this is most likely only relevant to those who do not have an underlying condition. For those who struggle with swelling, lying with their feet up, especially in an injury, can help them by ensuring enough circulation and alleviating swallowing. If you find after laying elevated that you have discomfort or pain in the legs, it's best to limit the instances in which you have your legs or feet elevated in order to avoid the pins and needles effect and the uncomfortable numbness that you face when you try to stand.

Blood Clots and Serious Concerns

One of the most serious reasons people should monitor how often they sleep with their legs or feet elevated is the potential for blood clots and other serious concerns. If you find yourself struggling with blood clots, putting your feet up can help, but ultimately, others may find a more pressing problem that can be life-threatening. This is especially true if you already have swelling and suspect that you may have an injury or clot in your leg to begin with!

Deep vein thrombosis and other related conditions can worsen due to putting your legs or feet up while sleeping. You may feel better because the act of elevating your legs helps you alleviate the negative sensations. However, elevating your feet or your legs in the long term can actually force the clot to travel up to your chest into your heart, leading to a pulmonary embolism or another potential blood clot problem. If you have the symptoms of deep vein thrombosis, do not elevate your legs, but see a physician or doctor as soon as possible.

Your initial swelling will ultimately go down as you lay with your feet elevated, but you should see a doctor as soon as possible to avoid letting the blood clot break free, travel to the lungs, and block the flow of blood and other vital parts of your body. This is one of the most pressing reasons why people do not sleep with their legs elevated and a major danger that everybody should be aware of—even if they do not suspect they have a blood clot.

Ensure Optimal Sleep with Proper Sleep Posture

By understanding the dangers of elevating your feet, you will know when and how to leverage the sleeping position to your benefit. Ultimately, for your health and wellness, elevating your feet in the long term for sleep can actually be damaging. It can lead to a lack of circulation, potential numbness or a pins-and-needles effect in the legs, and even the potential for blood clots that travel up to the lungs or other parts of the body.

It's always best to consult a doctor to see if the sleeping position will be better for you, but many studies show that for those without underlying conditions, it should be limited and kept to a minimum. To learn more about sleep health and to keep apprised of all the latest information and research in the field, check out Pillow today. You can also use Pillow to learn more about your sleep and improve your sleep hygiene—one night at a time!


Written by

Marie Soukup

Marie Soukup is a seasoned copywriter, editor, and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach with a certificate from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN). With years of experience working with brands across diverse industries, Marie is passionate about holistic health and crafting compelling content.

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