Recliners are upholstered chairs that allow the backrest to recline at an adjustable angle. While recliners can provide relaxation and lumbar support, improper or prolonged use can negatively affect circulation throughout the body. In particular, sleeping in a recliner for an extended period may compress blood vessels in the legs and feet leading to reduced blood flow. This outline explores how recliners impact circulation, provides tips for safe usage, and discusses warning signs to monitor for potential circulatory problems. Using recliners in moderation with proper posture can help avoid negative effects on blood flow.

How Recliners Can Negatively Affect Circulation

Recliners can negatively impact circulation in the body if used for extended periods of time or with poor posture. The reclined position can put pressure on blood vessels leading to reduced blood flow.

Blood Clots

One of the biggest risks of prolonged use of recliners is developing blood clots in the legs. When sitting in a reclined position with the legs bent for long periods, blood can pool in the legs and cause clotting. This leads to deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which is the formation of clots in the deep veins of the leg. Symptoms of DVT include:

  • Swelling in one leg
  • Pain or tenderness in the leg
  • Warmth and redness in the skin of the leg

DVT is dangerous because it can lead to a pulmonary embolism if a clot breaks off and travels to the lungs. Those at higher risk for DVT include people who are immobile for long periods.

Compressed Blood Vessels

Reclining puts more pressure on blood vessels in the hips and knees which can compress them and restrict blood flow. Gravity makes it more difficult for blood to circulate back from the lower body to the heart when reclining. Poor leg circulation from compressed vessels can lead to:

  • Tingling or numbness in the legs and feet
  • Cramping in the calves and feet
  • Swelling of the lower legs and ankles

Reduced Blood Flow

When the legs are elevated above the heart for extended periods in a recliner, blood flow is reduced to the legs and feet. This can cause varicose veins to form as blood pools in the veins. Reduced circulation can also lead to a bluish tint in the legs and feet as well as skin ulcers.

Lower Body Discomfort

The decreased oxygen from poor circulation can cause general discomfort in the legs and feet such as:

  • Aching calves and feet
  • Leg pain after prolonged sitting
  • Coldness in the lower legs and toes

Using recliners safely requires paying attention to these warning signs and making posture adjustments.

How Recliners Can Negatively Affect Circulation

While recliners can negatively impact circulation if used improperly, they also provide some potential benefits when used in moderation.

Elevating Legs

One advantage of a recliner is the ability to elevate your legs above heart level. This can help improve circulation by allowing gravity to help blood flow return to the heart. It prevents blood from pooling in the lower extremities. Tips for elevating legs in a recliner:

  • Use the footrest to support the legs at least 12 inches above heart level
  • Adjust the backrest to no more than a 45 degree angle
  • Avoid sitting with legs up for more than 30 minutes at a time

Reduced Back Pain

Recliners can help reduce back pain by:

  • Providing lumbar support to align the spine
  • Allowing the back to relax into a reclined position
  • Taking pressure off the lower back
  • Improving posture compared to slouching on a couch

They allow customized positioning to find the most comfortable angle to support the back.

Increased Relaxation

Recliners allow the whole body to relax more fully compared to sitting upright:

  • The reclined position is more comfortable for reading or watching TV
  • It’s easier to nap or sleep in a reclined chair
  • Can provide stress relief after a long day
  • Allows legs to be fully supported
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Adjustable Positions

Recliners allow users to customize the seating position by:

  • Raising the footrest independently of backrest
  • Choosing the degree of recline
  • Adjusting headrest and lumbar positions
  • Swiveling position for getting in and out

This flexibility allows better ergonomics and posture than a fixed chair or couch.

When used properly, recliners can provide benefits for comfort, back pain, and relaxation. The key is moderation.

Benefits of Using a Recliner

To optimize the benefits of a recliner while minimizing circulation risks, follow these tips for safe usage:

Limit Time Reclining

Avoid sitting in a recliner for extended, uninterrupted periods of time:

  • Take breaks every 30-45 minutes to stand and move around
  • Walk for a few minutes to boost circulation
  • Exercise legs frequently by flexing ankles and wiggling toes
  • Set a timer as a reminder to change positions

This prevents blood from pooling in the lower body and staves off stiffness.

Adjust Posture

Use recliner adjustments to improve posture and open up blood flow:

  • Raise footrest only as high as needed for comfort
  • Recline backrest to open up hip angle, but remain upright
  • Maintain lumbar support in lower back
  • Keep knees level or slightly below hips
  • Keep legs uncrossed to improve circulation

Elevate Legs Periodically

Periodically elevate legs above heart level to improve blood flow:

  • Lay legs flat with footrest raised for 5-10 minutes
  • Then lower footrest so feet are flat for 5-10 minutes
  • Repeat this cycle regularly

This movement helps blood circulate out of legs.

Avoid Fluid Retention

Sitting for too long with legs bent can lead to fluid retention:

  • Avoid sitting with knees at sharp angles for long periods
  • Keep legs extended whenever possible
  • Limit sodium intake to minimize fluid retention
  • Avoid elastic socks or clothing that constricts

Increase Physical Activity

Counteract sitting with exercise:

  • Do heel lifts, leg lifts, and foot circles periodically
  • Stretch hips, legs, and calves
  • Take active sitting breaks every 30 minutes

This boosts blood flow and prevents stiffness.

Using recliners safely requires changing positions, adjusting posture, elevating legs, and staying active.

Tips for Using a Recliner Safely

It’s important to monitor for any warning signs that signal circulation issues from improper use of a recliner. Being aware of the following symptoms can help address problems early before they worsen:

Numbness and Tingling

Numbness, tingling or a “pins and needles” sensation in the legs, feet, or hips may indicate:

  • Poor blood flow due to compressed blood vessels
  • Trapped nerves from cross-legged sitting
  • Early signs of deep vein thrombosis

Try elevating legs, adjusting posture, and moving ankles and toes.

Leg Swelling

Swelling or edema in one or both legs may be caused by:

  • Blood pooling in the lower extremities
  • Inflammation of veins from poor circulation
  • Fluid retention from prolonged sitting

Use leg elevation, massage, compression socks, or speak to your doctor.

Leg Cramping

Sudden cramping in the leg muscles stems from:

  • Lack of blood flow leading to oxygen depletion
  • Muscle fatigue from prolonged stillness

Cramping should be alleviated by changing positions, stretching, and massaging muscles.

Varicose Veins

Twisted, enlarged veins visible under the skin occur because:

  • Blood pools in the veins and causes inflammation
  • Faulty valves prevent blood from flowing properly

See a doctor about treating varicose veins before they worsen.

Skin Discoloration

A bluish tint in the legs or feet signals:

  • Oxygen deprivation from poor circulation
  • Blood is not being pumped effectively

This discoloration should be addressed promptly by a medical provider.

Leg Pain

Aching, throbbing, or cramping leg pain may arise from:

  • Prolonged sitting with legs bent or hanging
  • Nerve compression caused by poor posture
  • Inflammation from reduced blood flow

This lasting pain should be evaluated by your doctor.

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Monitoring these warning signs can reveal circulation issues so they can be corrected.

Warning Signs of Circulation Problems

While moderate use of recliners is usually safe, it’s important to know when to seek medical care for potential circulation problems. Contact your doctor promptly if you experience:

Persistent Numbness and Tingling

Tingling or numbness in the lower body that:

  • Lasts more than 15 minutes after changing positions
  • Occurs frequently when using your recliner
  • Is accompanied by leg swelling or discoloration

This nerve compression needs medical evaluation.

Unexplained Leg Swelling

Swelling in one or both legs that:

  • Doesn’t improve with leg elevation and rest
  • Is accompanied by pain, warmth, or redness
  • Shows pitting and fluid retention when pressed

May require drug therapy, compression stockings, or ultrasound to reduce swelling.

Recurring Leg Cramps

Painful cramps that:

  • Persist despite stretching and massage
  • Disrupt sleep
  • Worsen over time

Could indicate an electrolyte imbalance or underlying condition.

Sudden Leg Weakness

Inability to move legs normally may be:

  • A sign of nerve damage from prolonged compression
  • Caused by severely restricted blood flow
  • Related to spinal conditions like stenosis

Needs prompt evaluation to determine severity.

Risk Factors Present

Those with:

  • Blood clot history
  • Heart failure
  • Diabetes resulting in poor circulation
  • Venous insufficiency
  • Obesity

Have higher risk for circulation issues and should seek medical advice.


In conclusion, recliners can provide comfort and relaxation, but it is important to use them in moderation and with proper posture to avoid negative effects on circulation. Prolonged use or sleeping in a recliner can lead to reduced blood flow in the legs and feet, potentially causing circulatory problems. To ensure safe usage, it is recommended to take breaks, maintain good posture, and be mindful of warning signs such as numbness or tingling in the extremities. By being aware of these considerations and practicing responsible usage, individuals can enjoy the benefits of a recliner while protecting their circulation and overall health.


1. Is it bad to sleep in a recliner every night?

Sleeping in a recliner regularly can restrict blood flow to the lower body and lead to circulation issues over time, so it’s best to use a proper bed for sleep routinely.

2. How long can you sit in a recliner at a time?

It’s best to limit sitting in a recliner to 30-45 minutes at a time before taking a break to stand, stretch, and boost circulation.

3. What angle should a recliner be to improve circulation?

Recline the backrest to open up the hip angle to around 135-140 degrees, and raise the footrest just high enough to take pressure off the lower back.

4. Why do my feet swell when I sit in my recliner?

Feet swelling in a recliner can be caused by fluid retention from immobility and lack of muscle contractions to pump blood back to the heart.

5. Is it better for circulation to sleep flat or inclined?

For optimum circulation, it’s best to sleep flat to allow gravity to aid blood flow back to the heart rather than inclined.

6. Can recliners be dangerous for the elderly?

Recliners can increase risk of blood clots and circulation issues in the elderly if used improperly without enough movement.

7. How can I improve my leg circulation?

Tips to improve leg circulation include stretching, massage, elevating legs, exercise, compression socks, staying hydrated, and limiting crossed legs.

8. Why do I get numbness in my leg when sitting in a recliner?

Leg numbness in a recliner can be caused by compressed nerves or reduced blood flow from prolonged immobility.

9. What causes loss of circulation in the legs?

Common causes include inactivity, smoking, diabetes, blood vessel damage, heart disease, injuries, and prolonged sitting with poor posture.

10. Can recliners help edema?

Yes, recliners can help reduce swelling from edema by allowing you to comfortably elevate your legs above heart level.