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How does the way you sleep affect varicose veins?

I have varicose veins on my legs. During the work day I make sure to get up and walk around every hour. However, I was wondering how my sleeping habits might affect my varicose veins? Is there a sleeping position that is better than others? Should I consider elevating my legs while I sleep?

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Doctors Answers (6)

When you are asleep, you will unconsciously toss and turn, so the position you fall asleep in is only temporary. Venous blood will accumulate in the legs when you are standing and can feel sore, but are improved by walking, which helps pump the blood upward (by leg muscle activity) back to the heart to be recirculated. When you are laying down flat on a bed, blood does not accumulate in the legs and it can spontaneously flow back to the heart which is not flowing against gravity when you are laying down. Elevating the legs can be helpful for leg edema and swelling of the legs, which may not be affecting you.

Slight elevation will help, but is probably not necessary. Appropriate medical grade compression stockings can help during the day.

The most important thing is to avoid sleeping while sitting or reclining with the legs lower than the heart. A few patients who have a great deal of swelling or leg pain will benefit from sleeping with the legs elevated, especially in the initial phase of controlling the swelling.

Yes, it is important for you to sleep with your legs elevated above your heart. A pillow under your legs in a flat bed is best because it allows blood to flow straight to your heart. If your legs are crossed or bent, the blood will not circulate as well.

The best way to elevate at night is to lift the foot end of the bed frame 3-4 inches, generally. Sleeping position does not affect the natural history of varicose veins.

Unless you have extremely severe varicose veins with leg swelling, sleeping position does not affect leg veins. However, sleeping upright, such as in coach class during air travel, will certainly aggravate symptoms and varicose veins.

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