How to Sleep Sitting In A Chair Properly?

In this fast-paced world, we often find ourselves in a situation where we can’t sleep in the comfort of our beds. Sleeping in an upright position is no joke and people often find wake up with searing muscle pain after sleeping in a chair. So, if you’ve ever had to sleep in a chair and are wondering what is the right way to sleep comfortably in a chair, then you are in luck. In this article, we’ll focus on all the things you need to know and implement to get a good sleep session in a chair.

Why Is It Difficult To Sleep in A Chair?

When you normally lying down in your bed, your body normally goes through 5 phases of sleep. The last phase is known as rapid eye movement sleep. This stage starts when you have been asleep for around 70 to 90 minutes. Then, this stage makes up about 25% of your sleep. During this stage, the brain sends a signal down to your spinal cord asking it to initiate a temporary muscle paralysis that loses muscle tone.

Now, sitting and sleeping in a chair requires you to sit upright which is difficult with partial and temporary paralysis. This is why the sleepy person sitting beside you on a bus or plane tends to tilt their head on your shoulder. Clearly, sleeping while sitting in an upright position is quite hard to execute and that too comfortably.

How To Sleep Properly In A Chair?

Find the Perfect Sleeping Spot

If you have to sleep in a chair, then the very first thing to do is find the best place to sleep. Vertical surfaces that you can lean against, for example, a wall or a flat board can be useful. Here is a couple of things you need to keep in mind while looking for a sleeping spot.

It’s better if the surface is slightly sloped backward. If you are trying to sleep sitting up, then the cushioning of your chair or couch will be far more comfortable than a hard wall.

In case, you don’t have an ergonomic chair that comes with padding and cushions, you can try using your own pillow and get cozy with a blanket.

If you want to sleep in a chair to get a quick nap, then make sure your boss can’t see you. The best position would be behind a monitor or if your cabin is far from your boss’.

Setting Up The Sleep Site

Once you have found the perfect spot to sleep, it’s time to prepare to fall asleep while sitting in a chair. Sleeping comfortably is quite crucial to get rested properly and due to the same reason, this step is quite important.

Gather Some Bedding

If you have some time before you try sleeping upright, try gathering some supplies like a pillow, blanket, mat, etc. You don’t have to grab a pillow from your bed, rather, you could use a travel pillow like travelers do to catch some sleep on the go or maybe, a neck pillow.

A travel pillow is perfect to support your head and neck and can be used in many positions. Other than that, if you are someone who prefers sleeping cuddled up inside sheets, then a small blanket or towel will do. Another thing to keep in mind is to make sure your clothes are loose and comfortable and you are wearing light shoes.

Recline Your Body

Sleeping in an angled position is recommended to get maximum relaxation from your nap session. You can try leaning into your chair and recline the seat at an angle around forty to forty-five degrees backward. So, it would be best if you use reclining or an ergonomic chair for sleeping. On the other hand, regular office chairs don’t come with a flexible back, hence, sit close to a wall and lean against it at a slight angle.

Prepping Up For Comfort

If you are sleeping in an ergonomic office chair, then you are lucky, because these come with a pre-installed headrest to support your head, a tall backrest, and a lumbar pillow for neck support. However, if you are planning to sleep in a regular chair that isn’t padded or cushioned, then you need to make it sleep-appropriate with the help of all the bedding materials you have gathered. Here’s how:

  1. Support your back by putting some form of padding behind you like a blanket, pillow, etc.
  2. To properly support your lower back so that you don’t wake up with lower back pain, place a rolled-up blanket or towel to the lower position of your back. You can also repurpose and use a small pillow here, but, it’s always best to go for what is readily available.
  3. Make sure that your neck is properly supported. Use a neck pillow as an optional choice or a thin pillow which will allow your head to fall behind at an angle. This provides added comfort and helps you fall asleep faster.
  4. People who have a habit of sleeping under sheets could use a blanket for more comfort. This will help you fall asleep faster. In case you don’t have a blanket at hand, use a coat, sweater, or anything else as a cover and feel cozy.

Adjusting Your Chair

This step is specifically for people who have the privilege to sleep sitting in an ergonomic chair. These chairs come with several adjustable features that help to ensure comfort. So, if the chair reclines, then make sure to adjust it at an angle to maximize your relaxation. If the armrests of the chair are adjustable then, adjust their height to wherever you feel the most comfortable. Also, you could remove or flip them up to create more room for sleeping.

But, even if you don’t have an ergonomic chair to sleep on, still you can creatively arrange your regular chair to get the most out of your sleep session. Suppose, there are many chairs, then you can combine them together and make a sleeping platform. If you want to catch a nap at your workplace, then put your head down on the desk on a pillow, to support your upper body, and so on or buy a napping office chair to take a nap.

Feet Elevation

Sleeping in a chair with your feet placed flat on the ground could be uncomfortable for some. Not to mention, there will be leg circulation problems as well. Try elevating your feet while sleeping in a chair. For this, you can use a small stool, footrest (if available), luggage (if you are a traveler), etc. to rest your feet off the floor. Also, to prevent numbness and blood clots in your legs, you should slightly recline your chair backward if you do decide to elevate your legs.

Creating An Ambiance

Based on the location you are at, there could be several things to distract you from falling asleep. Try creating a peaceful atmosphere by dimming the lights, making the temperature cool, and listening to soothing music to calm yourself. Also, to get rid of all the noise, you could use some earplugs.

Breathing Technique to Relax

After you’ve done all the above steps, ensured that your head, back, and neck are comfortable, it’s time to finally fall asleep. If you’re wondering how to sleep sitting in a chair properly, then one of the easiest ways to do so is by using a breathing technique. It has been developed by a doctor from Harvard and involves breathing in counts of 4, 7, and 9. Such breathing exercises allow oxygen to better fill your lungs, hence, fall asleep faster. It also calms your mind and relaxes your muscles to ensure that you get proper rest.

Shift Periodically

You shouldn’t stay in a sedentary position for too long lest you’ll be vulnerable to body aches and sores. Sleeping in an upright posture means you’ll be staying in the same position for your entire sleep duration. Hence, you should alter your position time and again as you sleep to decrease soreness and set your body up for a night of better sleep. Also, always stretch your legs and turn your head and body from one side to another. This will keep your head in a comfortable position and ensure you get an undisturbed sleep session.

Safety Tips To Follow When You Sleep Sitting In A Chair

  • In case you are a traveler and are catching a snooze time while traveling, then make sure to set an alarm clock, otherwise, you might miss your destination.
  • If you are sleeping all along, then first ensure that you are safe and comfortable enough to put your mind at ease.
  • In case, you need to sleep for a long duration (like a full night’s sleep) in a chair, then don’t forget to alter your position periodically and stretch your feet and legs.
  • If you suffer from heart ailments, then, do ask your doctor if you are allowed to sleep sitting in an upright sitting posture for long hours.
  • If you want to sleep during flights or in buses and trains, then try to get the window seat as it will allow you to lean on the wall or window.


Is it bad to sleep sitting in a chair?

As long as you are sleeping in a comfortable posture in a chair, it won’t cause any harm. However, sleeping in an office chair is indeed quite bad for both your back and neck. It’s best if you can arrange an ergonomic chair for sleeping as it has padded seats and supports your spine and body posture properly for a comfortable sleep session. Also, sleeping every day in a chair is not good and could give rise to chronic pain and other health problems.

Is it OK to sleep in a chair every night?

Sleeping while sitting in a chair every night could pave the way for some serious and long-term musculoskeletal issues. It’s always better to sleep on a couch or your bed for optimum comfort and sleeping in a chair is fine only as long as you do it sometimes and not make it your habit.

Why is it hard to sleep sitting up?

It is quite hard to sleep upright because sleeping takes you to a state where your muscles are in a state of temporary partial paralysis. This could make it quite difficult for your spine to hold an upright posture. But, if you are sleeping in an ergonomic chair, then, it’s okay because these chairs can hold the proper body posture without you having put in any effort.

Is it OK to sleep propped up?

Sleeping in a propped-up position can reduce the risk of collapsing your airways hence, diminishing the chances of snoring and sleep apnea. But, this makes it quite difficult to change positions at night. Also, this is possible and comfortable enough only with an ergonomic chair.

Final Words

Before you go, we’d like to give you some more tips to ensure that your chair sleeping session doesn’t go wrong. It’s recommended that you plan in advance if you already know that you’ll have to take a nap or get a long sleep time in a chair. Before falling asleep, you could try drinking some chamomile tea as it has a calming effect but avoid stimulants like coffee, alcohol, and cigarettes.

It’s always better to sleep in a bed to ensure proper comfort and rest. But, it’s quite useful to learn how to sleep properly in a chair, especially in an upright posture, since, you never know when an undesirable sleeping situation might arrive.

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