Inclined Bed Therapy: Sleep on an Incline for A Better Night’s Sleep
By: Dave Asprey
November 5, 2018
Deep sleep is an essential part of high performance. Your whole body runs better after a good night’s sleep: you’re mentally quicker, your memory improves, you burn more fat, and your cells become better at making energy. And with 80 percent of people facing at least occasional insomnia, learning to hack your sleep has never been more valuable.
And now there’s a cool new sleep hack to add to your biohacking toolbox: inclined bed therapy. All you have to do is raise the top of your bed frame by a few inches. It’s simple, it’s free, and you can try it tonight.
Sleeping on an incline is a revolutionary sleep hack that I wrote about in my new book “Game Changers” — have you ordered your copy yet?
My kids and I have been doing this hack at home for a while now. Here’s why this hack will help you sleep better, and how you can do it at home.
Why an inclined bed helps you sleep better
As I explain in “Game Changers,” sleep psychologist, entrepreneur and author Dr. Günther W. Amann-Jennson noted that both wild animals and domestic livestock like to sleep on the ground with their heads slightly uphill. This observation led him to study the effects of gravity on sleep.
When you sleep, cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid that surrounds and runs through your brain) works with special brain cells called glia to flush out debris that has built up in your brain during the day — basically, it’s spring cleaning for your brain. The process is called glymphatic drainage, and it’s one of the most important aspects of sleep.
Inclined sleeping helps improve glymphatic drainage. Lying horizontally for 7-8 hours a night distributes cerebrospinal fluid more or less evenly across your brain, because you’re perfectly flat. That even distribution of fluid increases intracranial pressure (pressure inside your skull), decreasing your brain’s ability to clear cellular waste and recover while you sleep. Raising your bed height a few inches tips gravity in your favor, restoring your body’s natural orientation and promoting glymphatic drainage.
In addition to causing the brain to swell, sleeping horizontally also puts sustained pressure on the eyes, ears, face, sinuses, and even the gums. The entire head becomes overburdened due to the increased pressure in our skull.
Researchers in the field of space medicine have seen these effects firsthand. When astronauts are in space, they experience excess fluids in the brain, causing symptoms like migraines, glaucoma, Meniere’s disease, among others.
Medical anthropologist Dr. Sydney Ross Singer has tested the effects of inclined sleeping on people with migraines. One hundred patients slept with their heads elevated by 10% to 30%. The majority of them felt an improvement in their symptoms within just a few nights, and many experienced additional benefits, such as feeling better rested and having less sinus congestion.
According to Gunther, inclined sleeping not only helps migraines, it can lower blood pressure, reduce water retention, improve varicose veins, and may even have the ability to help prevent Alzheimer’s, as some researchers believe the disease is due in part to excessive pressure in the head. It’s an intriguing theory, and an area of research that deserves more study.
People who try inclined sleep report:
- Deeper sleep
- Fewer headaches and migraines
- Improvements in memory
- Better cognition
- Faster mental turnover
There’s also good research on elevating the head of your bed to ease acid reflux. Lying horizontally allows stomach acid to creep up your esophagus at night; keeping your head elevated prevents it from rising.
Sleep incline therapy works for me. I’ve been sleeping on an incline for years, and my sleep trackers have shown just how much better and deeper my sleep is because of it. I’ve seen a huge difference in my quality of sleep. And considering how simple it is to try, you don’t really have anything to lose.
Here’s exactly how to elevate your bed.
Inclined bed therapy: How to sleep on an incline for better sleep
To practice inclined bed therapy, you want to elevate the head of your bed between six and nine inches so that your head is 10% to 30% elevated. It may feel strange at first, and you want to be comfortable enough to get a good night’s sleep, so start with a six-inch rise and work your way up from there.
You can get six-inch bed risers like these for about $15 online or at your local hardware store. Traditionally they’re for all four bed posts; in this case you would just use them on the two bed posts near your head. Memory foam is another good option because it won’t slip and it will adjust to the perfect angle to support your bed posts. You can also use books, bricks, or wood pieces. Just be sure they’re secure.
If you’re new to Bulletproof and want to sleep deeper, start with the Bulletproof guide to sleep hacking. It has well-tested hacks to improve your sleep. If you’re already doing all them, this inclined bed biohack just might help you sleep even better. Give it a try and see how you feel.
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