Pros and Cons of Sleeping Sitting Up

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Osteopathic Consultant

Chris is a professional osteopath who qualified from the  European School of Osteopathy with an Integrated Masters of Osteopathy (D.O. M.Ost.), so what he doesn’t know about your body isn’t worth knowing. Learn more about our team.

So you’ve been sitting up all day, and your back hurts, or maybe you’re just too exhausted to lie down. Either way, it’s late and the only thing standing between you and sleep is a decision about sleep positions. Should you lie on your left side, right side, back, or stomach, or just sleep sitting up?

The sleep position you choose determines whether you will get enough sleep or not! Before making that call, here are some pros and cons of sleeping sitting upright that might help make the decision easier, especially if you’re considering getting a sit up pillow.

Table of Contents

Pros of Sleeping Sitting Up

Allergies and Common Cold

Sleeping sitting up is a good position if you are suffering from allergies or a cold because it keeps your head elevated and allows you to breathe easily. Make sure that you use a supportive pillow to keep your head and neck aligned. Ensure to also use a comfortable mattress and pillow. You can also want to try using a nasal aspirator to clear your sinuses before bed.

When you’re suffering from a common cold, your airways can block you while you sleep. However, when you are sleeping upright, gravity will help to keep your airways open. This will help you to breathe easier and get a good night’s sleep.

Remedy for Snoring

It is true that sleeping while sitting up can help relieve loud snoring. When you sleep in this position, the muscles in your throat are tighter, which will help reduce the amount of noise you make when you snore.

Takes Pressure Off Sensitive Joints and Muscles

One other benefit of sleeping upright is that you can reduce the pressure on your body. When you sleep in this position, you can also relieve pain in certain areas. Sleeping on your back or stomach agitates pressure points, and thus you may wake up feeling pain or sore. Sleeping sitting up is a great way to avoid these problems because it relieves pressure points, and thus you won’t wake up in pain.

Aids in Digestion

Have you ever gone to bed immediately after eating and woke up with a disturbed stomach? This is because digestion takes place smoothly when you are sitting upright. Sleeping sitting upright helps with nighttime digestion because gravity pulls the stomach’s contents down into the intestines. This position also allows for the lungs to fully expand, helping you breathe better at night.

Prevents Acid Reflux

Another benefit of sleeping sitting up is that you don’t have to worry about stomach acid coming up the esophagus. When you sleep in a reclining position, the stomach acids can move up into the esophagus, leading to heartburn and other problems. By sleeping sitting up, you can avoid these problems, and thus you will sleep better at night.

It is Comfortable for Pregnant women

A pregnant woman sleeps sitting up

When you are lying down, your uterus presses against your diaphragm, which causes the chest to the base of the abdomen to constrict. This constriction will make it difficult for the baby to breathe, leading to apnea and other breathing difficulties.

A fetus has a higher limitation of movements in utero, which means they cannot take deep breaths if their mother cannot move enough. Pregnant women need to prioritize getting enough oxygen by adjusting their position so that they are taking deep breaths.

When you sleep upright when you are pregnant, you reduce pressure on these pressure points and thus sleep more comfortably.

Eases Back Pain

Sleeping sitting up and propped up by pillows is excellent for the back because it allows the spine to maintain its natural curvature. It can help prevent or relieve lower back pain, which often develops because people tend to sleep on their back or stomach when they are pregnant or heavier. 

Helps To Manage Sleep Apnea

Young man sleeping with CPAP machine

Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that involves a person’s inability to breathe properly during sleep. This can be caused by the tongue or other soft tissues blocking the airway or by loss of muscle tone in the throat muscles. Sleep apnea is often associated with obesity, and people who have it are more likely to have high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.

Sleeping sitting up improves blood circulation, which can help reduce the number and severity of apnea episodes. For apnea sufferers, sleeping sitting up also helps keep your airways open, preventing obstruction of your airway and improving your sleep quality.


Sleeping upright also helps people with vertigo because it keeps the head and body in a neutral position. This reduces the amount of stress that is put on the neck and upper body, which can help to alleviate symptoms.

Cons of Sleeping Upright

Here is why uninterrupted sitting or sleeping upright for long won’t be a good idea:


It Is not Ideal If You Have A Sleeping Partner

Sleeping sitting up is not ideal for people who have sleeping partners. 

If you prop yourself up with pillows on your bed, you will disrupt your partner’s sleep by preventing them from being able to rest their head comfortably. This can cause them to wake up throughout the night and not get the adequate amount of sleep they need.

It Is not A Comfortable Position

For some people, sleep sitting up can end up waking up with a feeling of suffocation. Not ideal!

However, due to gravity and an individual’s sleeping habits before the condition that led to you sleep upright, you can face difficulties as you try to fall asleep and stay so for long. This is because the person is not used to sleeping in that position, and the body is uncomfortable.

Can Cause Neck Pain

When you sleep in an upright position without giving your neck enough support, you will most likely wake up with neck pain. When you sleep in this position, your head and neck are not in a neutral position, which can cause tension and stiffness in your neck. To avoid this, make sure to give your neck plenty of support when you sleep in an upright position.

Do not use a rough material to support your neck. If you have a sore neck, it is best to sleep with a soft pillow not to aggravate the pain. You can also use a neck roll or a neck pillow for additional support for your neck, especially if you have a long flight or road trip.

You Can Develop Deep Vein Thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis

If you sleep sitting upright for long periods, you risk developing deep vein thrombosis because the blood flow slows and pools in your leg veins. Blood clots can also develop because the blood is flowing under low pressure. This can cause problems with your cardiovascular system so ensure that you stand up frequently and move your body to improve circulation in any affected vein.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sleeping Sitting Up

Is Sleeping Upright Bad For Your Heart?

Sleeping upright has been shown to lower heart rate and blood pressure, which is why it is good for your heart health.

Therefore by sleeping upright, you are less likely to suffer from a heart attack, or worsen other heart conditions. It also regulates your heartbeat while opening up the airways, so it is a good position if you suffer from nasal congestion.

Can You Snore When  Sleeping Upright?

No, sleeping in a sitting position can help to stop snoring. When you are sleeping in this position, your jaw is held in a more stable position, which will help to keep your airways open. This is because when you are lying down, the muscles in your throat relax, which can cause them to collapse and obstruct your airways.

Sleeping on your back is a terrible idea if you snore in your sleep. You can put a tennis ball inside your clothes on your back, which will prevent you from rolling over when you sleep.

Does Sleeping Sitting Up Help When You are Coughing?

When you sleep in an upright position when you are coughing, it is less likely that you will cough because the pillow will hold your head. Sleep in this position if you are looking for a way to stop coughing at night.

What Are the Benefits of Sleeping Sitting Up?

Sleeping in an upright position has several benefits. Firstly, it causes you to sleep less deeply, which means that you won’t feel as groggy when you wake up. Another advantage is that it can help stop your allergies because sitting upright allows for better air circulation. A third benefit is that sleeping this way is healthier for your spine, as it maintains the natural curvature of your back. But you should ensure you add a spine pillow to support your spine as you sleep.

People who suffer from GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, often find it difficult to sleep because lying down can cause pain and discomfort. Sleeping upright can be a great solution for these people, as it keeps the stomach contents from going up into the esophagus. In addition, sleeping upright can help reduce the risk of developing GERD in the first place.

Is Sleeping Sitting Up Bad?

Sleeping sitting up is not bad, but like other sleeping positions, it has advantages and disadvantages. Therefore the best thing to do when sleeping upright is to ensure you sleep on a comfortable surface and support your body well with pillows.

If you need an extra cushion to use in place of your current pillow, there are many other options available to you. You can use a rolled-up towel to give your neck some extra support while sleeping, but this isn’t the same as using a firm pillow.

You can also sleep on a Lazy-boy or an adjustable bed which allows you to sleep with your head elevated while supporting your body well.


There is no one “best” sleeping position since what’s most comfortable for one person might not be comfortable for another. However, some positions are better than others for certain health conditions. For example, people with sleep disorders or back problems find that side sleeping is the best position for them.

The best way to sleep in an upright position is by using a bed wedge or pillow that will raise your head and feet while the rest of your body stays level. If you’re recovering from a major surgery or head injury, sleeping in an upright position might be the only option for you. It’s not an ideal position, but it’ll work as long as you’re careful.

Furthermore, prop your body well and support your neck and back to not exert pressure and wake up with painful pressure points and joint pain.

Medical Disclaimer

Although most positions are generally safe, do not hesitate to consult a doctor if you have breathing problems or sleep disorders.