Inclined Bed Therapy is the simple practice of raising the head of your bed by four to eight inches in order to improve circulation throughout the body while allowing you to sleep comfortably. You most likely would have come across this idea in the form of a commercial wedge pillow for acid reflux, but this natural treatment can offer the user a number of health benefits.
In particular, those who suffer from GERD or acid reflux often benefit from Incline Bed Therapy because it helps to keep acidic gastric juices from rising up the esophagus. It is also said to offer better circulatory system health than lying entirely prone, as the body somewhat relies on gravity to power the arterial and venous systems of the bloodstream. A wedge pillow is one solution, but various means of elevating your bed (the whole thing) are also described below.
Natural Cures: Incline Bed Therapy may be good for digestive issues such as GERD, sleep apnea and snorers, edema in the legs, skeletal and spine disorders or injuries, back pain, and respiratory conditions.
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[YEA] 05/31/2013: Jennywren from Perth, Western Australia, Australia: "Yay. After reading about Inclined Bed Therapy, my husband and I raised the top (head) of our bed by six inches last week as we'd heard there were multiple health benefits with doing this. We bought new, taller bed legs but others have used bricks, books and planks of wood. So I can report back after 10 days:
- I don't get heartburn at night anymore (not to say I don't still have a hernia or reflux, but I just never suffer from heartburn at nighttime)
- My husband's loud snoring has greatly improved (now a gentle murmur).
Others have reported improvement to varicose veins (meant to take 4 weeks: I'm waiting! ), deeper sleeps, more vivid dreams, fixing their backs, fixing their oedema (swollen feet/ankles) and less up and downing to the toilet.
Hope this helps, it's such a simple solution!"
[YEA] 02/20/2013: Mario from Dallas Tx, Usa: "I have been sleeping in a incline bed for few mounts , so far good improvement, back pain, gone acid reflux better, sleep apnea much better snore gone. The problem is I also have leg pain and to relieve that, I need to put pillows under my legs. I hear that may causes problem later on. Need some opinion, please."Replies
02/21/2013: Mmsg from Somewhere, Europe replies: "Mario, you can try sleeping one or two nights without the pillows and see what happens. When I first started putting the bed on an incline, I was afraid of swelled ankles. But to my surprise, the swelling went down - totally counterintuitive - whereas in the past, only putting the feet up a wall while lying flat, got the swelling down."
02/26/2013: Mario from Dallas Tx, Texas replies: "Thank you, I will try that."
[YEA] 10/09/2009: Beverly from Old Hickory, Tennessee/usa: "My husband and I started sleeping on the incline - head about 6-8 inches higher than feet approximately 10 days ago. What we have noticed so far:
1. husband no longer snores (did not sleep with him for several years on consistent basis because of this, even though he had $500.00 dental snoring device after trying every over-the-counter remedy available)
2. We are both sleeping through the night without having to get up and use the bathroom except on rare occasions - we are able to go right back to sleep if we do get up - best few nights of sleep I have had in years.
3. We are both starting to remember our dreams, which I have not had access to in years
4. Stools are more compact without being constipated
5. I am able to sleep in my own bed now instead of the sofa, which I had difficulty doing even when hubby was not in the bed
6. Have started to notice a decrease in husband's blood pressure - will continue to monitor since he is on medication for this
7. Have noticed that I do not seem to be as thirsty during the day
We are pretty much hooked. Will continue to observe how we do with this different mode of sleeping and report any further benefits."
12/31/2011: Tim from Denton, Tx replies: "Regarding remembering your dreams -- I have sleep apnea, and have found that when I am using my mask, my sleep is deeper with fewer dream recollections. Prior to using the mask my entire night was like an endless stream of movies one dream after another.
01/05/2012: Malikitheguy from Kc, Mo, Us replies: "Just going out on a limb from what I've researched on dreams, my guess is this is because you're not noticably waking up as much so you don't recall all the dreams and the intervals know what I mean? hope that helped a little."
01/29/2012: Dave from Roan Mt, Tn replies: "Been to that movie theater! Tom Cruise and I have fought many bad guys over the last few years. I will miss Tom as I now sleep quietly with my mask."
[YEA] 06/27/2011: Mmsg from Somewhere, Europe: "when I would get swollen ankles, I would elevate my feet in an "L" against the wall. It helped. but now that my bed is 2 inches higher at the head, I find I get up with non-swollen ankles even without elevation."
02/14/2010: Saba from Mentor, Oh: "Question: About INCLINE BED THERAPY isn't it the same thing as what sleeping on pillows does? Will I have the same effect if I sleep on a firm pillow that is 6inches higher rather than having to raise my bed? Thank you if anyone has any answer"
[YEA] 07/03/2009: Veesue from Sheridan, WY: "Inclined Bed Therapy: Hello All- I want to share my experience in the hopes that it helps others. My leg veins started "acting up," that is hurting and swelling after my first child was born in 1986. For 23 years I have suffered with burning, swelling, and discomfort in my legs. My feet also burn even more if the temperature gets warmer. I have tried the gamut: stockings, ice, elevating my legs, cooling creams...etc. I even went through the whole process to see if I could get them removed by laser treatment. Well, it was determined that I do not have varicose veins! While I do not have bulging blue/purple veins at the surface, I do have bulging amorphous bumps on my calves and thighs that look like deep veins are swollen and pushing out towards the surface. Just as unsightly as far as I'm concerned. And painful too. I was always aware of the discomfort, burning, swollen feeling...it just felt like my leg veins were being stretched. I was never, never, never without the urge to put my feet up just to relieve some of the pain and vein pressure. You could find me at my desk any day with my feet propped up on my computer tower under my desk.
Then I found some info about Inclined Bed Therapy and I feel like crying! At first I read something about propping the bed up at the feet.....that hurt my back and made sleeping difficult. Then I found this page on my favorite Web Site!! Earth Clinic! I am now sleeping with my head at the bottom of the bed (bed inclined approx. 4 inches--head higher than feet), and have done so for about a week. Already I am a new woman! I first notice a weird feeling last night, at the end of a long day...my legs just didn't feel normal. I walked around and was a bit freaked out...they didn't hurt nor feel extremely fatigued as usual. They felt like there was a cool layer of support on them...no feeling of veins bursting through, no pain, no feeling of my calves "jiggling," which I used to think was just fat, but now I know it was probably extra water retention. That is a crazy feeling. Now my ankles are normal size and although I have no pictures, the way my legs used to look is burned into my memory. They have a huge, definite improved appearance in just a week of Inclined Bed Therapy. I may even wear a pair of shorts above my knees in public this summer!!! For the first time in 23 years. Blessing to all!"
08/11/2009: Andrew from Paignton, Devon replies: "Could you please post your experiences on the Nakedscientists forum also as this would be a great help to my ongoing research and may go a long way to stimulating more interest in this simple safe common sense approach to varicose veins and oedema.
Andrew K Fletcher"
08/11/2009: Cindy from C, Wi replies: "i am very confused by this ibt. please explain as i do have problems with my legs as my job requires standing on cement most of the day. i had read elevating the legs was the thing to do. how can ebt work? Thank YOU."
[YEA] 02/02/2009: John from Escondido, California - USA: "Up until last June, I had been getting up two to four times a night for years due to an enlarged prostate. Then one day I was painting the base of my bed and didn't want to set it back on the floor, so I put a couple barbells under the head to keep the painted base off the carpet. Hit the sack that night and woke up at 5:00 -- couldn't believe that I had slept all night. So, I went to the Internet to do some research and ran across the "inclined bed therapy" concept.
Now I'm at 6 inches high and sleep well every night and only get up once. Also had a cough that would wake me during most nights... that went away. Varicose veins have subsided. My wife no longer snores. This one simple move has changed our lives - and it can change yours. Regardless of the problem you have, try it and see what happens. I don't take any drugs and sleep like a log every night."
01/11/2009: Andrew from Paignton, Devon: "Andrew K. Fletcher
Paignton, Devon U.K.
Inclined Bed Therapy (IBT) Varicose Veins Study.
Inclined To Sleep Inclined Yet?
We are seeking more people with varicose veins who are willing to put IBT to the test and feel that this is something that your readers and colleagues will definitely find fascinating and some who have varicose veins and oedema and wish to avoid surgery may want to Help in this important trial and join our Free study which has already produced positive results in only 4 weeks as predicted!
An Important Scientific Study into the cause of Varicose Veins and Oedema and Inclined Bed Therapy (I.B.T.) is now underway, which makes use of the way the body uses gravity to move solutes through the vessels to improve circulation and alter the pressure inside the veins to significantly reduce swelling and oedema. Our study is free for anyone to participate in. There are no products to be sold or marketed.
What is Inclined Bed Therapy?
Gravity was identified as the driving force behind circulation in trees in 1994 and was applied immediately to how circulation in the body benefits from the same interaction with salts and sugars in the circulation. A video showing the use of IBT with spinal cord injury can be viewed here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3D7tBQfCxQ
IBT is simply tilting the bed so that the head end is 15 cm's or 6 inches higher than the foot end providing a level but tilted bed, hence the name Inclined Bed Therapy.0 People with varicose veins, oedema (fluid retention) are needed to participate in an online Diary Study, in order to prove that simply altering our sleeping position can have a positive affect on these problems.
If you or someone you know has Varicose Veins, the standard advise is to raise your legs and tilt your bed the other way to IBT, Or to undergo risky and expensive surgery that is prone to fail because it does not address why the pressure inside the vein causes it to bulge.
Which according to current physiology books makes sense. But what if that logic is incorrect? All the evidence from our study is showing that gravity is not a force we are struggling to overcome but a force that drives the fluids within the body.
Are you prepared to take the 4 week challenge and provide us with your observations? Or do you know someone who has varicose veins and would like to watch them slowly but surely shrink and improve every night they go to bed instead of becoming more unsightly and uncomfortable?
Our study is located on the Naked Scientists forum, who have a regular slot on BBC Radio.
My wife's calf showing clearly her varicose vein shadow, which went flat after 4 weeks of Inclined Bed Therapy back in 1994 and has not returned to its former state since. http://www.thenakedscientists.com/forum/index.php?topic=9843.msg121037#msg121037
Alun has already confirmed my statement on the study thread that Varicose veins will shrink after 4 weeks of IBT and has supplied us with photographic before and after 4 weeks of IBT along with a diary account of his observations. And he is not alone. http://www.thenakedscientists.com/forum/index.php?topic=9843.75
We are hoping to find at least 50 more pioneering volunteers who wish to avoid surgery and it's inherent risks and failures, who are willing to provide us with photographic and a written account of their own experiences sleeping inclined.
So far our study is running towards a predicted outcome that flies in the face of current physiology literature.
Look forward to hearing from you.
Yours sincerely Andrew K Fletcher"
02/13/2012: Jianyin from Miami, Fl replies: "I have IBT for my varicose from last July until now Jan. 2012, but the effect is not so obvious. I think it may have some effect but not so dramatically. I am not sure if it is because I didn't make it right. I do raise the head 6 inch and the middle some 3-4 inch.
Please let me know if there is anything wrong with it."
[YEA] 01/02/2013: Martin from Dublin. replies: "Good Morning from Ireland. Last february(2012) I found that my left Calf muscle was starting to look roaring red and purple and I won't mention the pain and itchiness. I had heard years ago about elevating your feet in order to aid the return of blood to the torso. I googled this to make sure that it was what I needed and I came across your site and read and re-read the IBT to make sure I had it right so I said i'd give it a try and said i'd log my progress and gave it a trial of a calender month.
The first couple of nights I didn't sleep all that well as my body wasn't used to the position BUT during those couple of days I wasn't tired and had noticed that my calf condition was improved. But by week three I abandoned the trial and decided that the IBT was the way forward for me. It has given me Comfort for my calves and a brilliant nights sleep. So i'd just like to say thank you for your information and wish everyone would give this a try. Martin"
12/08/2008: Jerry from New Oxford, Pa: "Please review the Beds Up Insert at www.sleephealthy.com this is a safe and effective way to elevate your bed and still give your bed and mattress proper support. Thank you."
[YEA] 11/30/2008: Shetawk from PHILADELPHIA, PA, USA: "Incline bed... I raised the foot of my bed by putting shoe boxes between the mattress and boxspring. Foot swelling went away. Didn't want to lower the head by putting risers under bottom legs because it may have caused reflux."
[YEA] 10/04/2008: Cindy from Kansas, USA: "Just wanted to share my experiences with "incline bed therapy" that I read about here on earth clinic.
I've found IBT to be one of those things that one should just do, do now and do for the rest of their lives. I am 100% convinced that people should not sleep flat. Ever.
After sleeping inclined (6 degrees)for 3 1/2 weeks I slept flat for one night. 4 glaring differences were 1) I had to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, 2) I looked about 20 years older when I got up the next morning, 3) I was extremely dehydrated when I got up (I'm a big fan of the watercure and hydration, in general), and 4) what I thought was fat ankles - which I've had my entire life - was actually edema, which completely disappeared.
I was so amazed by the improved skin tone and younger appearance in the face and the fact that my ankles were no longer fat that I failed to noticed that I wasn't getting up in the middle of the night with a great urge to go to the bathroom. Nor had I noticed that the struggle to keep hydrated had disappeared when I started sleeping on the incline. After sleeping flat for one night, I felt as if I couldn't get hydrated all the following day.
I don't have any health problems, so I can't speak to that, but if one's circulation is disrupted when lying flat, as Mr. Fletcher discovered, then it stands to reason that even a "healthy" person would benefit from a 50% increase in the time the body spends in a state of proper circulation. I can only imagine what it would do for people with serious health issues!
Aside from the occasional experiment, I will definitely be sleeping on an incline for the rest of my life. And to clarify, that is a straight incline. It isn't the "hospital bed" position where only the head is raised."
EC: Thanks, Cindy -- new remedy page created! Question: what did you use to raise the head of the bed 6 degrees, bricks?
11/12/2008: Cindy from Kansas, USA replies: "I'm using books. I have a lot of huge, old reference books that work really well. I've also designed three permanent "bed incliners", but I haven't tried any of them because I can't decide which one I want to build. See:
For indigestion, I definitely suggest the watercure. I had indigestion from my early teens and got rid of it, for good, with my first two glasses of water. I seldom drank plain water until a couple of years ago.
Mr. Fletcher noted that some medical professionals will put a terminally ill patient's bed in the flat position to "help them along". Basically, to kill them."
11/12/2008: Cindy from Kansas, USA replies: "Forgot to clarify one point: The edema went away after sleeping on an incline for about a week - not when I slept flat for one night."
11/21/2008: Sandy from In the sticks, Nevada replies: "I could not find out who this "Mr. Fletcher" was on your site -- the one that Cindy from Kansas kept referring to -- I did a Google search and found this video about him on youtube -- I've inclined my bed tonight & let you know how it works. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3D7tBQfCxQ"
EC: Cindy was referring to Andrew K. Fletcher.
[YEA] 02/12/2008: Todd from San Jose, CA: "I have acid reflux only at night. I wake up with a sore throat in the morning. I put bricks under my bed making the head of the bed higher than the foot. (Actually I used one brick and one piece of plywood cut the shape of the brick. However the floor sloped from the foot of the bed down to the head. Thus the net effect was one brick. It was the sloped floor that gave me this idea.) My acid reflux went away. I no longer woke up with a sore throat. This worked for over five years. Then I slept without the bricks for a week. My acid reflux came back. I replaced the bricks. However, my acid reflux had grown worse. I now need two bricks, instead of one.
This might work only for mild cases. I tried it right away as soon as I got acid reflux.
Sleeping position might matter as to whether this cure works. I sleep on my back. I did not adopt sleeping on my back because of the acid reflux. I had slept that way most of my life.
Does anyone know whether some sleeping positions are better than others for acid reflux, i.e. back, left side, or right side? Which way does the connection between the stomach and the esophagus point? Is it the same for all people, or does it vary?"Replies
[YEA] 05/14/2008: Laurie from Springfield, Va. replies: "Acid Reflux Remedies: Hi, In answer to Frank's question about sleeping positions, it is thought, though doctors aren't sure why, that sleeping on the left side is best for acid reflux. Re the bricks under the bed. As someone else on the site pointed out, it is imperative to raise the head of the bed, either by using bricks, or by purchasing a foam pillow that is raised at the head. The recommended height is from 6" to 8", depending on tolerance. My husband just put the bricks under the front legs of my bed, as I found the foam pillow to be uncomfortable, and I finally did not wake up with acid in my mouth, and a sore throat. I have not tried the natural remedies listed on your site, but I plan to! I HAVE used a drug called Zegrid, which is Omeprozole and baking soda in a long-acting capsule, but I think I might prefer to just try the baking soda and see how that does. Thanks for all the ideas."
[YEA] 05/07/2006: William from Klamath Falls, OR: "Lifted head end of bed about three inches. Helps, doesn't cure, night time acid reflux."
[YEA] "Elevating the head of the bed 2" (use 2 pieces scrap 2"x6' board to elevate head of bed) cures acid reflux when you awaken in the morning. Doesn't work all day but its good for a nice part of the morning when you first wake up."Replies
[YEA] 11/24/2012: Steve from Las Vegas, Nevada replies: "My Wife and I started Incline Bed Therapy a about a week ago and both notice we are sleeping better through the night, less snoring (we both used to wake each other up with loud snoring) less back pain, we waking up feeling more energitic and with a generaly better mood than before. We used 4 inch wooden bed lifters. Steve"
[YEA] 07/22/2012: Mmsg from Somewhere, Europe: "It's been about a year since I have raised my bed headboard about an inch or an inch and a half. I had read about Inclined Bed Therapy here and on Andrew Fletcher's site and figured a small lift won't hurt.
Well, I'm happy to report that even now in the HOT summer days, when my feet tend to swell, they are "drained" to normal by morning. Previously I would put them up by the wall, forming an L while laying on my back. Last night my feet were so swollen, I was sure I would have to do that, but wanted to "test" out the IBT on such swelling, and I am happy to report that this morning the swelling was gone!
So even a small incline does do something good!"Replies
07/23/2012: Gavin from Manganui, Northland, New Zealand replies: "Did you read the post for green tea as an excellent way to keep the swollen ankles at bay?Im sure it was on this site. It took about six cups a day."