How to Sleep on a Chair

As a kid, whenever I needed to sleep, I would just find the nearest adult (family, of course) and use them as a cushion. As an adult… that’s not possible, obviously. So for all the times I needed to stay awake for a college assignment or needed to work overnight at the office, my chair was my only support.

I am sure it is something most of us have experienced – having to fall asleep in a chair, whether in the office, waiting rooms, or at home when we couldn’t afford to drag ourselves back to our warm and comfortable bed (read ‘heaven’). 

We have gone through it in the past, and we will go through it in the future because that is something unavoidable in a lifestyle fraught with deadlines and back-to-back shifts. People have to choose sleeping chairs over beds nowadays.

But who said that our experience needs to be uncomfortable? Fortunately, there are many ways to sleep in a chair and not wake up with aching muscles and popping joints. Our nap in an office chair can be comfy enough with just a few adjustments, and this is what we are going to take a look at today.

There are a few different ways here since not everything is suitable for everyone. People have different lifestyles and different circumstances, so take a look at these points and choose whichever you think is perfect for you. 

You can combine more than one point or try all of them out one by one to figure out what method is best for you to sleep in a chair. So let’s learn how to fall asleep while sitting and not waking up with battle scars.

Table of Contents

7 Tips to Help You Fall Asleep Comfortable in a Chair

1. Adjust Your Chair Before Falling Asleep

This one is pretty obvious if you have an ergonomic office chair, then this becomes even easier to do. If you sleep in your chair once in a blue moon, any of the other easier methods might work, but if it’s a part of your usual routine, you can choose to invest in an adjustable or ergonomic chair.

They can be easily adjusted to accommodate your desired position, and it can make it easier for you to have a good sleep amidst the hectic schedule. The headrests and armrests can be adjusted to your needs as well, so your body isn’t put under much strain. 

You can also get a recliner so that you have support when working, and then when you need to rest, you can just recline the chair to get a comfy nap. Recliners are the perfect sleep chair, in my opinion!

2. Make Sure You Have Proper Back Support

Other than stiff necks, taut and aching backs are some of the most common problems when it comes to sleeping upright in a chair. So making sure that your back is properly supported is one thing you must do when looking to be comfortable. 

Though most of the chairs are padded and come with proper back support, they hardly adhere to the natural curve of our spine, making it hard for our back to actually be in a relaxing position. When you sleep upright, it can lead to severe aches. If you have a reclining chair or ergonomic chair with tilt adjustment, then it becomes easier.

If not, then having a pillow behind you can act as back support, and so can any blanket you might find or carry with you. It can be a rolled-up towel, even! In short, anything that allows the spine to be properly supported would work wonders in your endeavor to sleep in a chair.

3. Neck Pillows, Portable Pillows, All the Pillows

This is the first point because it’s a personal favorite. You can’t always choose your chair, especially if you are in an office and don’t have control over the furniture. In such cases, whether you are trying to sleep in a waiting room chair or in a car, neck pillows are something that will make sure that you are at least a bit comfortable.

Usually, a stiff neck is the major cause of discomfort while sleeping in a chair, and neck pillows are the best solution for it. When you use a neck pillow, your neck isn’t hanging in the air anymore, and it also supports your head to some degree, so whether you are traveling or just planning to work overtime, make sure to carry a neck pillow. 

Neck pillows come in all sizes, they are easily portable and so… so… comfortable! Not to forget the cute and pretty designs… After all, aesthetics are important too.

Bonus point: You can also use neck pillows or inflatable pillows while binge-watching dramas at home. That and unhealthy snacks are seriously cherry on top while binge-watching your favorite shows on a rare off day.

Portable pillows are a heaven-sent gift, really. They come in all shapes and sizes and for all your needs no matter where you are. So if you travel a lot or are frequently working overnight, invest in a few. I am sure you won’t regret it because you won’t have to sleep upright because of the lack of support. There are so many types to choose from, too, something for everyone, no matter who you are or what work you do.

4. Make Sure You are Not Cold

The temperature of the room or the surroundings and good sleep are inevitably connected. Perfect temperature can aid sleep in more ways than one. Breathing is easier in a temperature conducive to body functions, and so is relaxing. 

Since most cars, waiting rooms, and offices are air-conditioned, it’s easier to get cold while trying to get comfortable in your chair or seat. So make sure to carry a blanket, a light one would do in case the temperature is lower than expected. And even if you don’t feel cold, you can roll it up to use as back support!

5. Comfortable Clothes to the Rescue

I can’t stress enough how important they are. Comfortable or loose clothes allow the body to breathe better and are helpful in relaxing, even if the conditions are somewhat stifling.  So if you are traveling long distances in a car or need to spend the night sleeping in a chair, make sure to dress comfortably.

Even if you can’t wear them from the get-go, you can always carry them and change whenever you need to, especially if you are going to be spending the night. Also, you can keep an extra set of clothes in your desk drawers at the office if you expect sudden changes in plans. They don’t take much space, and even something little like this can have a major impact on how well you sleep.

6. Music to the Rescue

Did you notice how most of my tips on how to sleep in a chair eventually come around to relaxing the body? That’s because as long as the body is in a relaxed position, even a brick wall may seem like a comfortable bed, what’s more, a chair? 

Whether it’s the right temperature or comfortable clothes, sleeping position, or adjustable chair, everything rounds up to relaxation, and one of the surefire ways to relax even if other options are not feasible is music.

Listen to music, relaxing music, or whatever it takes to let go of the stress, both mental and physical. You can try some softer songs, ballads, or even instrumental music! Classics, popular or country – the music that helps you to relax is the best to listen to before going to sleep. I personally like classic instrumental, but you can try any music with around 60 beats per minute to relax.

7. Be Resourceful

But even if you say to carry portable pillows, blankets, and clothes, at times, it is not possible, or your plan to sleep in the chair is made last minute, to stay the night, to catch up on a report, or make it to a deadline. In that case, the only thing you can do is to be resourceful.

Look around you and collect anything that could be of help. A spare chair to prop up your legs or even two to make a makeshift bed along with your own, an unopened parcel or a well-bounded stationery to double as a headrest… there are many possibilities, many chances to use the things lying around you in your bid to get a proper rest even while being busy.

A Bit of Science – Zero Gravity Position

Yes, you read that right! We can use physics and biology for a more comfortable sleep in a chair, but don’t worry; it’s not something difficult. In fact, it’s a very simple concept that allows our biological functions to run unobstructed and therefore result in our body relaxing better and us in sleeping better.

You may already know this, but Zero Gravity Position is what works best when sleeping and is easy to try. You just need to make sure your head, as well as legs, are elevated with your knees on the same level as your heart. You can use another chair, a stool, or an ottoman to elevate your legs. 

Sounds simple right? Yet this simple position has lots of benefits.

  • Being in a Zero Gravity Position helps your spine to decompress and your muscles to relax, giving them a room to breathe. 
  • Your weight is distributed evenly, and no one part of your spine is put under more pressure than the other. 
  • Because your legs are elevated, and on the same level as your heart, it improves the blood circulation, and your body is able to relax better.

Another point is breathing. Zero Gravity position also improves breathing as the airways remain unobstructed in it, but even without it, deep breathing is really useful if you plan to sleep on a chair. This is because it not only helps you calm down but also provides more oxygen to the body. More oxygen means more nutrition for your cells, helping your body to relax.

One popular technique when it comes to breathing is 4-7-8. This relaxation exercise was given by Dr. Andrew Weil, and is really simple but effective. 

  • What you need to do is exhale completely with your mouth then inhale through your nose while counting to 4. 
  • Hold the breath and count to 7, mentally, of course, and then exhale through the mouth while counting to 8.

Quick and easy, right? It’s a great one to follow before going to sleep, but you can try other breathing exercises too. As long as it works for you and helps you sleep better even in an uncomfortable position, it’s all good.

The Bottom Line

Having your sleeping chair hacks, no matter the reason or place, is all about relaxing your body so as to have proper rest while avoiding stiff necks, aching backs, and sore muscles. For that, you can try propping up your chair with extra pillows or blankets, making sure your position while sleeping is a good one and that the overall atmosphere is comfortable, which can be achieved by proper temperature, cozy clothing, and even music.

You can also use things like eye masks and earplugs in addition to everything above to help you relax better. You can carry the necessary items with you if you think you would need to sleep in a chair, but if you are caught off-guard due to an abrupt change of plans, you can be resourceful and use whatever means are available to you.

Sleeping in a chair is never advisable, but sometimes people can’t help fall asleep due to a number of reasons. In those times do not worry too much, just relax and recall this article for better sleep! I hope you have a good one!

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