Dangers of sleeping in a chair

  • By: Sam Shaw
  • Date: August 22, 2021
  • Time to read: 7 min.

Dangers of sleeping in a chair

Ever found yourself sleeping in an office chair?

You know, that moment when you wake up and all the blood rushes to your head. It’s not always a comfortable experience.

You might have heard that you can sleep while sitting in an office chair. This is true. However, frequently sleeping in an office chair has some drawbacks. Sleeping in chairs can cause serious health problems such as back pain, neck pain, headaches, and even muscle stiffness. 

This blog post has all that you need to know about sleeping in a chair- the dangers and how to avoid them.

Let’s get started!

21 reasons why you should stop sleeping in your office chair today!

Following are the reasons why you should avoid sleeping in a chair:

You wake up with headaches

If you suffer from a migraine or frequent headaches, sleeping in your office chair can worsen the problem. A chair is not known to provide great head support. It’s a common problem with office chairs and it can be quite agonizing when you wake up with a knot in your head.

Neck pain

Sleeping in an improper position while sitting in an office chair can cause neck stiffness or pain. Sleeping on one side for too long puts stress on the muscles of the neck causing them to become sore, tired, weak, and stiff causing extreme discomfort. The cervical disks also get affected due to improper sleeping posture resulting in pain in the shoulder blades, back of the neck, or even on the sides of your face.

Posture problems & stiff shoulders

If you’re like most people who frequently work long hours on the computer, you probably have poor posture. It is important to maintain a proper posture when sleeping in an office chair because if you tend to slouch or sleep with your head tilted forward, it can aggravate problems like rounded shoulders and neck pain. These scoliotic postures are the main reasons for the shortening of muscles which gives rise to stiff shoulder syndrome.

Increase in blood pressure

Sleeping in an improper position is hard on your blood circulation causing high blood pressure and narrowing of arteries. This makes it harder for blood to circulate through vital organs that include the heart, liver, and kidneys causing health issues related to these organs such as palpitations, irregular heartbeat, etc

Your neck is stiff when you wake up

Come morning time, if you’ve been sleeping in your office chair for weeks on end, there’s a good chance that by now, your neck has started to feel weird and stiff- because guess what? All prolonged sitting in the wrong posture is hard on your neck.

Your spinal cord gets pressure

Well, before you get too comfy and go off to sleep, you should know that sleeping with your head resting against the back of the chair isn’t very safe. It puts pressure on your spinal cord which can be quite painful when you wake up. There have been frequent reports of people suffering from temporary paralysis and numbness after spending a night in an office chair.

Risk of pulmonary embolisms

When you sleep on your back, it puts pressure on the major vein in your leg– resulting in swelling and clot formation which may move upwards to the lungs potentially causing life-threatening complications like pulmonary embolisms(blood clots that travel to lungs resulting in severe respiratory problems).

Risk of Deep-vein thrombosis

Sleeping and sitting in a chair for hours can cause Deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) which is a blood clot in the deep veins of the legs or arms. If left untreated, it can quickly turn into pulmonary embolism and cause death. Even though DVT’s occur most frequently in people traveling on airplanes, people who remain seated for a prolonged period often suffer from DVT too – more so those who sleep in their office chairs.

Sleeping in a chair is bad for your kidneys

You may not be aware but when you sleep in an office chair, the weight of your body is being forced down on your kidneys. This can cause pain and inflammation in and around these organs leading to renal failure if left untreated.

Sleeping in a chair can cause Heartburn

Sitting up too long can cause acid reflux disease as well as heartburn due to the slouching position. This puts pressure on your esophagus which makes it painful when you wake up. Aside from pain, the acid will flow upwards into the mouth and throat which can also result in sore throats.

Hands and arms stiffness

That feeling of stiffness you get after sleeping in an office chair could be due to swelling or muscle imbalance that may have occurred while you were asleep. Spending long hours in an office chair also strains your arms and hands causing pain and lack of sensation.

Sleep apnea

While sleeping in a sitting position, the airways are blocked resulting in breathing pauses that can go undetected in some people until it’s too late-developing into a serious health problem called sleep apnea. The risk of getting sleep apnea rises with back and neck pain as well as obesity which is quite common among people who spend most of their time sitting in a chair.

Sleeping in a chair is bad for the heart

People who go to work, sit in an office chair, and then drive home to their families are at risk of developing blood clots in the heart. This is because prolonged sitting puts pressure on the arteries in your legs causing blood to pool up resulting in increased pressure on your heart. This can be as harmful as to cause life-threatening complications.

Sleeping in a chair is bad for kidneys

When you sleep in an office chair, your back muscles lose support thereby putting pressure on the kidneys – something that’s quite painful when you wake up even if it doesn’t cause any problems for most people. However, if you’re suffering from severe back pain or kidney disease, sleeping in an office chair must be avoided at all costs.

Bad for the scapular stabilizers

You may not be aware of it but when you sleep on your back, your scapula stabilizes the weight of your arm and head by resting on top of the cervical spine (neck) via a mechanism called gravitational compression. Sleeping in an office chair squashes your scapula between itself and your desk – pressing down hard enough to impair muscle contraction thereby affecting proper function and potentially leading to shoulder pain, tightness, impingement syndrome, etc.

Painful hand-arm vibration syndrome

A recent study has found that sleeping with hands resting on vibrating surfaces like desks and wheeled office chairs can lead to painful hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) which results in tingling, numbness, and pain in the fingers. The prevalence of HAVS is quite common among nurses who rest their arms on vibrating computer monitors or on radiologic machines with an intensity of 2–10 Hz.

Paralysis

Yes, it may sound unbelievable but it’s true! Pain and numbness in the arms and hands can lead to permanent nerve damage which may even result in paralysis. The compression of nerves in the upper extremity causing inflammation and swelling. When you move out of this position, there is a period when your tiny sensory fibers are exposed to intense vibrations which cause them to tear resulting in loss of movement.

Insomnia

Sleeping in a chair is never easy. The inability to fall asleep leads to further insomnia which can result in poor performance at work. People who suffer from sleeplessness are more likely to develop many disorders i.e. depression.

Harmful for vertigo patients

Sleeping in a sitting posture often results in dizzy spells and low blood pressure due to poor circulation caused by your legs being in one position for a very long time. If you are one who tends to faint or suffers from vertigo (a condition where you feel like spinning when you stand still) then you should never sleep in a chair.

Urinary tract disorder

Sleeping in a chair that doesn’t have armrests can cause urinary tract problems like difficulty with urinating, incomplete emptying of the bladder, and all other kinds of problems.

Alzheimer disease

As a chair allows your body the least movement while you are in sleep, it affects your REM sleep. Lack of movement during sleep often causes inadequate nourishment of the body tissue which means you neither lose the unwanted fat nor gain muscle mass while sleeping. During REM, your muscles contract and relax very fast generating enough heat to make you feel warm.  This lack of REM sleep has been linked with Alzheimer’s Disease. It is said that results in memory loss and misplacing things or people. 

Final thoughts

In conclusion, frequently sleeping in a chair could be harmful to your heart and other internal organs. It can cause you to lose muscle mass while sleeping resulting in a lack of energy during the day. Sleeping without proper postures is never good for your back or neck. As a matter of fact, you can even end up with the degenerative spinal disease. It may also lead to paralysis in the hands and arms. Sleeping on your chair will make it very difficult for you to fall asleep resulting in poor performance at work. Hence, always try to avoid sleeping in your office chair.

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