Heart Disease

Raising the head of the bed to treat orthostatic hypotension

Orthostatic hypotension is an excessive decrease in blood pressure that occurs when a person stands up. It results in reduced blood flow to the brain and dizziness or fainting.

Researchers in Ireland studied the effects of sleeping on a bed where the head is raised 6 inches.

First, the details.

  • 100 older adults with chronic orthostatic hypotension were randomly assigned to a treatment group for 6 weeks.
    • Sleeping on a bed where the head is raised 6 inches
    • Control group
  • Changes in mean arterial pressure and symptoms were recorded, as well as a battery of other parameters.

And, the results.

  • Symptoms improved to a similar extent in both groups.
  • There were no differences in any of the outcomes measured.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “These findings suggested that sleeping-head-up at 6 inches has no additional effects on symptoms or hemodynamic parameters at 6 weeks than existing non-pharmacological measures in older patients with orthostatic hypotension.

Telling someone to sleep with their head raised 6 inches is misleading. The objective is to have a continuous 6-inch incline from the butt to the head. Simply sleeping with your head at an angle while the rest of the body is horizontal will do nothing except cause a stiff neck.

Caution, placing 6 inches of blocks under the legs at the head of the bed places lots of stress on the frame. I’ve bent a metal frame trying it.

2/20/11 21:07 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.