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Sleeping Chairs for the Elderly (When a Bed Just Won’t Do)

Although sleeping in a bed is the norm for most of us, it’s just not possible for some people. Whether it is because they are elderly, have back pain, or suffer from a condition such as sleep apnea, there are many people who prefer to sleep in recliner chairs. Some might even just like to sleep in a recliner chair because they think it’s more comfortable than a bed!

Especially for the elderly, sleeping in a recliner can make “bed” time much more comfortable. It might even allow them to sleep better and more deeply. Good sleep is fundamental to happiness, proper cognitive functioning, healing tissues, and hormone regulation. Some studies have even linked good sleep with a longer lifespan!

So, what is the best sleeping chair for the elderly? Here you go!

Buying Guide

Recliner chairs are popular with senior citizens and those with mobility issues. For someone who struggles to get in and out of a normal chair or bed, a recliner can be a good option. A good recliner chair can be comfortable to sleep in, too, but not everyone should sleep in a recliner.

Talk it over with your doctor before making a switch. And, before you start routinely sleeping in a recliner, you should learn the benefits and downsides of doing so.

What are Sleeping Recliners?

Put simply, sleeping recliners are designed to allow you to place the different parts of the chair in a reclining position. They are usually made from plush materials and are heavily stuffed to make sleep more comfortable.

Why Sleep in a Reclining Chair?

dog tired - bulldog stretched back resting in a recliner on white background

There are many reasons to sleep in a recliner. Many illnesses can make it difficult for you to sleep flat on your back. A recliner chair can allow you to sleep in a different position which will alleviate your symptoms. It is important to remember that good, deep sleep has many health benefits. Sleep is essential for our bodies to be able to function properly.

When sleeping in a bed becomes cumbersome, using a recliner can be the best option to let your body rest and heal. It also allows muscles to relax and gravity makes it easier for fluids to return to your heart. This decreases fluid retention and cardiac stress. People with mobility issues can also get a greater sense of independence from being able to change positions easily.

Of course, it’s important to choose the proper recliner. To help you out with this, I listed some of the best sleeping chairs for the elderly at the beginning of this article. An uncomfortable recliner with insufficient support can actually hinder mobility

The Pros And Cons Of Sleeping In A Recliner

A lot of people love to relax in recliners. After all, they are conducive to relaxation and comfort. Being able to rest and lift your legs up can be very comfortable if you are someone that typically stands on your feet all day. Now, you might be wondering whether or not it is good to sleep in a recliner. Below, I’ll discuss some of the pros and cons of sleeping in one.

Pros Of Sleeping In A Recliner:

  1. Back Pain. For those that suffer from back pain, sleeping on a recliner might be a good way to limit the pain you are experiencing. The reason a recliner is a good option for those that suffer from back pain has to do with the kind of support that you will get with a recliner. Typically, a recliner is going to offer greater support than what you would be able to get from a regular bed.
  2. Sleep Apnea. If you are someone that suffers from sleep apnea, you might find it beneficial to sleep on a recliner simply because it forces you to sleep in a position where your airways are much more open.
  3. Pregnant. Another good reason to consider sleeping in a recliner would be if you are pregnant. Sleeping in a traditional bed can be difficult while pregnant if you are not used to sleeping on your back. By sleeping in a recliner, it forces you to sleep on your back and it provides a lot more support.

Cons Of Sleeping In A Recliner:

  1. Positional Flexibility. The primary con associated with sleeping in one of these chairs is the inability to move around and to choose your optimal sleeping position. You are pretty much going to be stuck in a specific sleeping position no matter what.
  2. Lower Back Pain. While it can be good for your back pain if you are suffering from a lack of support and your recliner offers it, this type of sleeping can be disastrous for your back pain if your chair doesn’t offer optimal support.

As you can see, there are pros and cons that can sway either way largely depending on the quality of recliner you end up getting. With proper support, you can sleep in a recliner comfortably and safely here and there. However, if your recliner doesn’t offer the proper support or comfort, it could contribute to poor sleep and even back or joint pain, as a result.

Types of Sleeping Recliners

recliner at the center of a well decorated living room

Once you decide to buy a recliner, you’ll be able to find many options available. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the huge variety of recliners and different features. You might even find it complicated to settle on the right one. Keep in mind that there are different types of recliners, and they all have their own advantages:

  • Manual vs electric mechanisms: like their name suggests, you’ll have to change the position of a manual recliner, well, manually. Electric powered recliners come with a motor which does all the work for you –but of course, they’re usually pricier.
  • Rockers: some recliners allow for a soft rocking motion that users might find soothing.
  • Wall huggers: these chairs can be placed near a wall and still fully recline. This makes them ideal if you have a limited amount of space.
  • Lift chairs: these recliners have a mechanism at their base that pushes this portion of the chair up to allow the user to get up from the seat.These chairs are usually among the best sleeping chairs for the elderly. You can read my lift chair recommendations by clicking here.
  • Massage recliners: these are usually the priciest recliners in the market, and they incorporate rollers or vibration mechanisms that can massage your back and legs. Many of these recliners also feature heating pads.

Features to Look For in a Sleeping Recliner:

  • Comfort: look for plush materials and a heavily stuffed design to maximize comfort.
  • Manual vs. electric recline: this decision will depend on your budget and the needs of the person who will use the chair. An electric chair will be pricier, but it will make it much easier for an elderly or disabled person to change positions.
  • Lift Option: this is probably the best feature for those with mobility issues. It will allow them to get on their feet safely and give them greater independence.
  • Weight Limit: keeping the weight of the person who will use the recliner in mind, look for a chair that specifies the amount of weight it is made to hold.
  • Heat: this feature can be an amazing way to help muscles relax and ease chronic pain. Look for heating pads with adjustable temperature settings.
  • Vibrating Massager: what could be better than getting a massage any time you want one? Although these recliners tend to be pricier, they are great for sore muscles and will usually last you many years.
  • Easy to Use: features such as remote controls and battery backups will make it easier for you to use your new sleeping recliner.
  • Easy to Clean: durable fabrics which are easy to clean will help you prolong the life of your recliner chair and make your day much easier.

Quick Picks: Power Recliners for Sleeping

There are many different sleeping chairs for the elderly available in the market. But how do you know which is the best lay flat recliner? Here are some of my top picks:

Are There Health Benefits Of Sleeping In A Recliner?

brown power recliner for sleeping with remote control

If you’re like most folks, you’ve been trained to think that getting a good night’s sleep should only happen in a bed. However, there are actually times or circumstances where sleeping in a recliner can offer health benefits.(Sources: OnMogul.comThriveGlobal.com)

Better Circulation

Admit it. It feels good to put your feet up after a long day. Whether you stand up for a long time or sit at a desk, blood rushes down to your feet and legs. If you can elevate your feet higher than your heart, your lower body gets relief. Also, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard.

Relief From Back Pain

This common ailment hits everyone sooner or later. Your core and back muscles struggle all the time to balance your lower body with your upper one. Reclining takes pressure off your spine. It’s a chance for your core muscles to take a badly needed break. Sleeping in a recliner actually gives them a chance to recover and grow stronger. Who would have thought that time in a recliner could make you stronger?

Deeper Breathing

Some people suffer from sleep apnea. That can be a result of obesity or just sleeping on flat surfaces. A recliner helps your body avoid tissues putting pressure and even restrictions on airways, since you’ll always be at an angle.

Stress Reduction

This might be the biggest and best one. Stress never does any good. It poisons everything that it touches, including other health issues. Recliners are the opposite, since they’re just comfortable. Not only that, you can adjust them for perfect sleeping positions. That helps you avoid tossing and turning and constantly fluffing your pillows. Recliners might actually be better places to sleep than your own bed!

Do any of these sound like something you need? Try a recliner out to see what it can do for you.

Are There Dangers of Sleeping in a Recliner Chair?

man and baby sleeping in a recliner chair

Harvard Women’s Health Watch notes that sleeping upright for long periods could increase your risk of deep vein thrombosis. This is a condition caused by blood clots in the limbs and can occur if you spend a long time in a cramped position, without moving. Most recliners will allow you to get into a comfortable position with the body slightly tilted, so this should not be a concern.

Sleeping in a tilted position in an overly padded chair, with your legs flat, could put undue pressure on your spine. You can reduce this though if you use the footrest of the recliner and elevate your legs slightly. By raising the legs you improve the alignment of the spine. This means that a good recliner, properly set up, could actually be a better choice than an overly soft bed.

Some recliners have a PVC/faux leather outer, which may be quite slippy. If you plan to sleep in a recliner, choose one with fabric coverings instead to ensure that you do not slip or fall out of it.

If you are recovering from an operation or have a specific health condition, be sure to discuss your sleeping arrangements with your doctor. They will be able to advise you if there is anything specific that you should be worried about, or any special support your neck or back may need.

Is Sleeping In A Recliner Is Bad For Your Back?

Is sleeping in a recliner bad for your back? If you suffer from back pain, you’ll likely do anything to get some relief. Since you probably feel better when you spend time sitting in a recliner, you are probably thinking about spending the night in one. Keep reading to learn the pros and cons of this. (source: Healthy Living NewsWebMD)

The Upside

Recliners aren’t complicated. They help you relieve your back pressure and weight by distributing more broadly than a normal chair. On top of this, your spinal cord gets rest, which a regular chair won’t ever do. When you sit, there’s tension in your spine and contraction in your lower back muscles. Sit that way long enough, and lower back stress turns into back pain.

Recliner chairs also help since they elevate your legs. That reduces the stress on the spinal cord. Also, elevated legs improve circulation, minimizing inflammation everywhere your body.

The Downside

Sleeping too long in a recliner might result in contractures of the knees and hips. This is when muscles tighten up over their joints, which will limit upright walking and posture. Both of those will negatively impact your back over time, as well as risk your chances of falls due to an improper center of gravity.

Finding The Right Recliner

What you need is good lumbar support. That means there’s no gap between the chair and your lower back if you put up your legs. Your lower back needs support in all positions so you can relax fully. If any gap forms around the middle of the recliner as you put up your feet, then your body sinks down and you slouch. That will strain the muscles and ligaments of your low back.

Is sleeping in a recliner actually bad for your back? Obviously, there are benefits and risks alike. Finding the right lumbar support is what tilts the odds in your favor though.

Will Medicare Pay For A Sleep Chair?

I work with Medicare every day at the home medical equipment store where I work, And, unfortunately, no, Medicare will not pay for a sleep chair. They do not consider an item like this medically necessary. For people who have trouble moving around in bed, they will buy a hospital bed for home use if the beneficiary meets certain criteria.

Can You Really Buy a Sleeping Recliner Online?

Senior man sleeping on chair with glasses on and hands folded on chest.

Of course! Most sleeping recliners offer free shipping. In regards to assembly, many sellers offer a White Glove delivery for an additional fee; if you use this service, the chair will be delivered to you by someone qualified to install it in the place of your preference.

How to Clean and Care for a Sleeping Chair

Making sure your sleeping chair is clean and well cared for will ensure that it will be in top shape for many years. After all, recliner chairs usually represent an important expense, and taking proper care of it will maximize the benefits of your investment.

First of all, you should be aware of the materials your sleeping recliner is made from. The upholstery on your recliner can be made of leather, faux leather, cloth, microfiber, amongst other types of fabric. Keeping this in mind, look for a cleaning agent that is specifically made to clean the material your chair is made of.

Clean your recliner chair with the appropriate products at least once a week. Make sure you are vigorous enough to really clean the chair, but not so rough on the fabric that you damage it. You can also vacuum your chair before or after cleaning it to get rid of any small bits that might get lost between the folds of the chair. You should also make sure that sharp objects don’t come anywhere near your chair since they can puncture the upholstery and leave nasty holes that will be difficult to repair.

Summary And Final Recommendations

This guide will hopefully help you choose the perfect recliner for you or your loved one. These are some of the best sleeping chairs for the elderly on the market, but there are many more options out there.

Keep looking until you find your perfect fit! Now you know which features you should keep in mind when shopping, and how each one can help you or your loved one get better and more comfortable sleep.

In my opinion, Relaxonchair when it comes to a great price-quality relationship. It is well made, sturdy, comfortable, and comes with many additional features that will make it feel like you have a spa in the comfort of your own home!

Have you tried sleeping in a recliner chair? What tips and advice do you have? Please share in the comments below! Also, please share this on your favorite socials if you found it helpful!

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About Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®

Assistive Technology Professional, Custom Wheelchair Specialist, Medical Equipment Guru, Dad and Grandfather | I am a lucky dad to four awesome daughters and grandfather to three pretty terrific grandkids. When not working as a custom wheelchair specialist at a regional home medical equipment company, I enjoy early morning runs and occasional kayak trips. I am also a self-admitted nerd who loves anything from the 1980's.

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