Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a common problem affecting over 6.5 million Americans aged 40 and over. It’s essentially caused by a build-up of fatty plaque that blocks the arteries that pump blood to the extremities – typically the legs.
While managing PAD involves various lifestyle changes and medical treatments, optimizing your sleep position can also contribute towards greater comfort. So, what’s the best sleep position for peripheral artery disease? Here’s what you need to know.
#1 – leg elevation
Elevating your legs while sleeping can help to alleviate the discomfort of PAD. Raising the legs slightly above the heart level prevents blood from pooling in the extremities. When blood collects or pools in the leg, it can cause significant swelling and discomfort.
Moreover, any elevation allows gravity to take its course and helps to return the blood from the legs and back towards the heart.
If you sleep in an adjustable bed, all you need to do is to raise the leg section sufficiently. Alternatively, if you sleep in a regular bed, leg elevation can still be done using a series of pillows. Place as many as you need lengthways under your legs until they are raised enough to be comfortable and above heart level.
Additionally, raising your legs helps soothe muscle tension by removing pressure. If you experience a lot of swelling or discomfort caused by PAD during the day, elevation is the best sleeping position for those with peripheral artery disease.
#2 – Sleeping on your back
If you are one of the 90+ million Americans that reportedly snore, then this tip isn’t going to help. However, reports suggest that sleeping on your back does assist those who suffer from PAD.
So why is this?
Essentially, sleeping on your back helps distribute any weight evenly, and this, in turn, reduces pressure on any affected blood vessels. Reduced pressure equals less discomfort.
This position also keeps the legs and feet elevated naturally – albeit slightly- to support better blood circulation. However, when the legs are raised further with pillows, the technique provides the additional angle needed to reduce any straining on the lower back.
#3 – Side sleeping
If laying on your back with elevated legs is not an option, the next best sleeping position for peripheral artery disease is side sleeping.
Avoid tucking the legs towards the chest like the foetal position when sleeping on your side because this can restrict blood flow. Instead, ensure that your legs remain straight and aligned with your body. If this position is challenging to maintain naturally, consider placing a pillow between your knees. Doing so can help with better alignment while reducing any strain on your hips.
# Investing in quality pillows and mattresses
Investing in quality supportive mattresses and pillows can significantly improve sleep for PAD sufferers. For example, memory foam mattresses or contour pillows are beneficial for those with peripheral artery disease because they provide targeted support for instant pressure relief.
Mattresses with adequate body support, particularly in areas like the hips and legs, and pillows with proper neck and shoulder support can really help PAD suffers get a good night’s sleep
Now we’ve discussed the best sleeping position for peripheral artery disease and the tools to help you do it, let’s talk about how you shouldn’t sleep.
# Avoid sleeping on your stomach
Sleeping on your stomach is not recommended for those with PAD for several reasons.
Firstly, when you sleep on your stomach, the extremities (legs) are in a naturally lower position below the heart. A lower elevation can cause blood to pool in lower limbs, causing significant swelling and discomfort.
Secondly, sleeping on your stomach can also put excess pressure on the neck and spine. This, in turn, can cause discomfort and hinder blood flow.
As a top tip, if you find yourself sleeping on your stomach, consider placing firm pillows, extra blankets or a long body pillow on either side of your body. This technique should prevent you from rolling over onto your stomach when sleeping.
The best sleep position for peripheral artery disease – The key takeaway
While there is no one-size-fits-all cure for individuals with PAD, adopting certain sleep positions will help to improve blood circulation and significantly decrease discomfort. Elevating the legs above the heart or side sleeping with proper leg alignment are proven options that offer some degree of comfort.
By prioritizing proper sleep positions and investing in supportive bedding materials, it is possible to enhance the quality of sleep while managing the symptoms of your PAD more effectively.
The good news
When patients are diagnosed early, they only need to make slight adjustments to improve blood flow and avoid the discomfort and swelling that advanced PAD bring. Correct sleeping positions may be one of those adjustments.
Even when the veins are badly clogged, and the disease has reached an advanced state, advancements in vascular medicine mean that there are now several treatments that can alleviate the symptoms of PAD.
If you are having trouble sleeping because of the discomfort caused by peripheral artery disease, contact the team at the Midwest Institute of Non-Surgical Therapy (MINT).
Dr Akinwande is a highly skilled vascular and endovascular specialist who uses the latest non-surgical out-patient techniques like balloon angioplasty, atherectomy and stenting to alleviate the problems of peripheral artery disease.
Are you ready to tackle your PAD problems head-on?
Don’t suffer in silence! Pick up the phone and call 314-255-2204 or book a consultation today at one of our offices in St Louis, MO and Wentzville, MO and Swansea, IL, Evergreen Park, IL and Chicago, IL.
Photo attribution: image by Dragen Zigic on Freepik