This one is kinda out there, even for me. Nevertheless, I figured I’d give it a shot because the logic behind it is compelling, it is free, and takes zero time. Inclined bed therapy is sleeping with the head of one’s bed raised five or six inches giving the bed a 5 degree incline. At first glance, it seems pretty wacky. Nevertheless, allow me to explain the theory, potential benefits, and compelling logic behind the therapy.
In addition to seeming nutty, I further admit, there’s not much data to back it up. Well, there’s not really any at all. Yet, remember, guiding principle #2 of this endeavor, which states, “The only thing I know about aging and the human body is that I don’t know much of anything at all. In my view, neither do the so-called experts. I can, however, use common sense and experience to draw conclusions that will lead me down a path towards effective methodologies.”1 As such, Inclined Bed Therapy seems like the perfect N=1 therapy to use myself as a guinea pig. You’re wondering, “BBBBut John! There are no studies! Why waste your time?” Generally speaking, if there is no money to be made on a given therapy, there will be no money available to spend to study it. It’s a matter of simple economics. So, just because something hasn’t been studied at great length and there isn’t a ton of data based upon extensive expensive, double blind, placebo controlled studies, doesn’t mean that it’s not effective. It means no person or group can profit tremendously.
Why do we sleep on flat beds? The only reason as far as I can see is because that’s all we’ve ever done and that’s what everyone else does. There is no real reason or logic behind why humans sleep on a flat surface. Would it surprise you to learn beds found in the tombs of ancient Egyptian royalty were almost always at a 5 degree incline.2 Explaining why my bed is at a 5 degree incline may prove difficult the next time I have a guest, but it will be worth it if it works, even just a little. I’m happy to try anything that is free, takes none of my time, and has no potential risk to harm me.
Inclined Bed Therapy Theory
I stumbled upon this intriguing therapy while perusing Dr. Mercola’s website. According to Dr. Mercola,
“In plants, the interplay between gravity and varying density of fluids is what causes the sap to circulate up and down in a perpetual loop. The same mechanism appears to apply to human biology as well, which is the basis for inclined bed therapy. Sleeping on an incline affects intracranial pressure. Research by a medical anthropologist showed people with migraines were able to eliminate their migraines within a short period of time by sleeping with their heads raised.”3
I had never heard of Inclined Bed Therapy before very recently. There is widespread anecdotal evidence it has cured chronic migraines, which upon further reflection, seems logically possible. Shouldn’t this be common knowledge, considering millions of people suffer regularly from migraines?
The negative health impacts associated with sitting for extended periods of time is becoming common knowledge. Many have appropriately said, “sitting is the new smoking.” I encourage people to stop letting their employers sit them to death. NASA scientists have demonstrated that excessive sitting causes many of the same problems that astronauts experience in space due to the reduced force of gravity on the human body. The deficiency in gravity from sitting can cause physical degeneration of the spine, muscles, and connective tissue, as well as obesity and early death.4 When you think about it, gravity inclined sleeping, logically, has numerous potential benefits on body structure. The slight incline is enough to restore the force of gravity on the body, straightening out the spine, as well as strengthening the muscles, fascia, ligaments, and tendons.5 Most people, however, are not aware that sleeping on a flat surface has the same negative impacts as sitting or weightlessness in outer space. And we do it for about 8 hours a night every day; a full ⅓ of our lives. Why not let gravity work its magic on our bodies as we sleep?
Dr. Mercola writes that Inclined Bed Therapy,
“may improve your blood circulation, metabolism, respiratory, neurological and immune function. Inclined bed therapy may also ease symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s, diabetes, glaucoma, migraines, multiple sclerosis, sleep apnea, acid reflux, edema, varicose veins and more.”6
I don’t suffer from any of the diseases mentioned, other than possibly sleep apnea, but if it has a chance to improve circulation, metabolism, respiratory, neurological, and immune function, I am in. If it improves one of the aforementioned, even just a little bit, it is worth such a small effort.
Sleep apnea has become quite common, but most of it is undiagnosed. This is troubling because it is a major risk factor for many diseases due to lack of oxygen during sleep. How many other chronic diseases of old age are linked to obstructive sleep apnea? According to a study completed in March of 2016,
“We evaluated 100 patients with OSA (84 men and 16 women) with a mean age of 50.05 years (range 19–75 years). The prevalence of comorbidities were hypertension (39%), obesity (34%), depression (19%), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) (18%), diabetes mellitus (15%), hypercholesterolemia (10%), asthma (4%), and no comorbidities (33%).”7
Isn’t that astonishing? If we, as a people, attack this one very common condition, the rates of many of the other chronic diseases associated with it would fall precipitously. imagine how much we would save on health care costs! Merely sleeping on an incline helps to open the airway, alleviating snoring and restoring oxygen to the brain.8
Believe it or not, but Andrew Fletcher at Inclinedbetherapy.com claims the therapy has helped people with spinal cord injuries gain function and sensation below the injury site. If this interests you, check out the video below:
Another benefit of inclined bed therapy is improved circulation of blood and lymph, simply by gravity. When you sleep, your brain detoxifies itself through the glymphatic system. Adding a five degree incline to your sleeping surface can help the glymphatic system drain “downhill” to the gut to be excreted. This can help detoxify heavy metals, pathogens, and other harmful substances from the brain.10
I bought a four pack of 6 inch risers at Amazon.com for $12.99. You can just use books or wood or bricks if you prefer. There are many free smartphone apps that can measure the incline of your bed.
I’ve been practicing inclined bed therapy for about two weeks. In the beginning I found myself awakening in the middle of the night startled and thinking to myself, “What the hell is going on? Why am I lying at such an odd angle?” I also found myself drifting to the bottom of the bed. This therapy will definitely not work with silk sheets! But, like most things, our minds and bodies adjust and we get used to the change. Now, an inclined bed is already what I am accustomed to and what is normal to me. I no longer have any desire to sleep on a flat bed. When I recently spent the night visiting my parents, I was concerned about increased sustained blood pressure on my brain and face. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit the thought crossed my mind that one of my eyeballs might pop out because my head was no longer accustomed to the pressures endured by flat sleepers.
I really don’t know if inclined bed therapy works. I do know the premise behind it is compelling. I also know it is among the very easiest therapies to employ because it is free, takes no time or effort, and I reap the benefits while sleeping. I’ll try just about anything that has the potential to improve sleep quality because I recognize the importance of sleep as it relates to telomere length. Speaking of which, I am excited to share next weeks sleep related therapy. Stay tuned!
1 Reversing Aging. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2018, from https://www.reversingmyage.com/
2 Inclined Bed Therapy. (2017, September 19). Retrieved March 11, 2018, from http://www.sophiahi.com/inclined-bed-therapy/
3 How to Use Inclined Bed Therapy For Diabetes, Acid Reflux and More. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2018, from https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2018/02/15/inclined-bed-therapy.aspx
4 Inclined Bed Therapy. (2017, September 19). Retrieved March 11, 2018, from http://www.sophiahi.com/inclined-bed-therapy/
5 Inclined Bed Therapy. (2017, September 19). Retrieved March 11, 2018, from http://www.sophiahi.com/inclined-bed-therapy/
6 How to Use Inclined Bed Therapy For Diabetes, Acid Reflux and More. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2018, from https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2018/02/15/inclined-bed-therapy.aspx
7 Pinto, J. A., Ribeiro, D. K., Cavallini, A. F., Duarte, C., & Freitas, G. S. (2016, April). Retrieved March 11, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4835326/
8 Inclined Bed Therapy. (2017, September 19). Retrieved March 11, 2018, from http://www.sophiahi.com/inclined-bed-therapy/
9 Home. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2018, from http://inclinedbedtherapy.com/
10 (2017, September 19). Retrieved March 11, 2018, from http://www.sophiahi.com/inclined-bed-therapy/