In general, aging leads to less physical activity and more time spent sedentary, as health conditions limit the strength, stamina, and capabilities of the body. Sleep is crucial for helping your body work at maximum efficiency, but not all sleep is created equal. Unfortunately, seniors are the most common culprits of sleeping while sitting, something with unexpected health detriments. If you are prone to dozing off while sitting up outside of your bed, we hope that today’s discussion will give you more insights into why this habit can be harmful to your health.

How Sleeping While Sitting Can Damage Your Health

Whether napping while sitting out by the pool or dozing off in front of a TV, midday rest isn’t inherently bad. In some scenarios, medical experts may recommend a patient find time to sleep during the day – if other health conditions make sleeping soundly through the night difficult. However, it’s essential to know what issues may arise when you sleep upright in awkward positions for extended periods of time.

Soreness – It’s not unusual for someone who falls asleep in a chair to wake up feeling sore and stiff all over their body. Even if you were comfortable when you dozed off, shifting while you sleep can cause you to be in awkward positions that strain your neck, joints, and limbs. This pain will, in turn, make it harder to sleep comfortably at night, further increasing the likelihood you doze off during the day.

Reduction in Quality Sleep – As we mentioned, finding times throughout the day to sneak back off to bed for a nap can benefit some people. The key difference between these naps and resting in an upright position is the sleep quality. Uncomfortable positions prevent your body from falling into a deep, healthy sleep that promotes body regrowth and healing. 

Imagine that you sleep 8 hours in total per day, with 2 hours occurring during a midday nap. If those two hours of midday sleep are not high-quality rest, then you effectively reduce your daily sleep quality by 25% – a huge detriment to your overall health.

Blood Clots – Seniors have an increased risk of blood clots due to various factors, and sleeping while sitting has a great chance of further increasing this likelihood. Legs locked in weird positions for long periods might cause blood clots that cause cascading effects on the entire body. Sleeping at night reduces these odds by putting your legs in a comfortable position that promotes blood flow throughout all limbs and extremities.

Breathing Issues – Slumped-over positions cause a similar increase in breathing concerns, as your body might be putting too much force on your lungs and diaphragm, limiting their ability to expand fully. As seniors have an increased chance of conditions like asthma, accidental midday naps can quickly result in sudden shortness of breath or long-term respiratory complications.

Naps might have limited benefits, but the average person’s best course of action is to find ways to sleep through the night. To give your body its best shot at staying sound asleep, here are some tips:

  • Exercise, which allows your body to expel energy. At the end of the day, you will have an easier time falling into a deep sleep.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Many people have sleep issues due to imbalances in their diet. High consumption of stimulants, like caffeine, can also harm nightly sleep.
  • Create a comfortable environment and limit screen exposure before bed.

A Banyan Residence is an assisted living and memory care facility in Venice, Florida.