Inclined bed therapy involves raising a person’s head above their feet when they are lying down. People use inclined bed therapy to ease certain health conditions. A person can use special beds, mattresses, bed risers, or pillows to sleep in an inclined position.

Inclined bed therapy aims to reduce the symptoms of certain conditions, such as acid reflux or sleep apnea. It may also help prevent some conditions, such as ventilator-associated pneumonia.

Keep reading to learn more about inclined beds, their benefits, and the conditions they can help improve.

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An inclined bed is a type of bed that allows a person to sleep at an elevated angle. It raises a person’s head above their feet when they are lying down.

A person can elevate their head while lying down using various techniques, such as:

  • bed risers, which attach to the legs at the top of the bed
  • beds that are higher at the top than the bottom
  • wedge-shaped pillows that lift the head, neck, and shoulders
  • an adjustable bed that a person can set to their preferred angle
  • a wedge that fits under a mattress, which allows the entire body to be at an incline

Learn how to choose an adjustable bed.

Researchers have looked into the effects of inclined sleeping and found that it might benefit people with certain conditions, including sleep apnea and acid reflux.

Research from 2021 looked into the effect that different sleep positions had on lung function and oxygen saturation in people with health issues preventing them from getting out of bed.

The researchers note that the participants who slept at 30⁠–45 degree angles had significantly improved lung function and oxygen saturation compared with those who slept on their side on a flat bed. However, further research is necessary to confirm these effects in people who do not have to remain in bed.

There are a variety of conditions that inclined sleeping may improve. These conditions include:

Sleep apnea and snoring

A 2017 study looked at how head-of-bed elevation (HOBE) could affect people with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is a condition that causes a person to stop breathing during sleep. It can result from blocked or narrowed airways.

The researchers noted that tilting people 7.5 degrees in bed reduced OSA severity by 31.8% on average. This incline level also helped reduce shallow breathing and improve sleep efficiency.

Research from 2020 studied the effect of different bed inclines on people who snored regularly. The researchers tilted people’s upper half to angles of 10 or 20 degrees. They found that snoring stopped in 22% of people at 10 degrees and 67% of people at 20 degrees.

Acid reflux

A study from 2020 found that people who had a HOBE of 20 centimeters had improved acid reflux symptoms compared with people who lay flat.

A 2021 review looked at studies on the effect of HOBE on gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD). These studies indicated that HOBE improved GERD symptoms. However, the authors note that as these studies were of low quality, further study is necessary to confirm these results.

Blood circulation

Research from 2015 studied the effect of trunk posture on a person’s blood flow. The researchers found that tilting a person’s upper trunk resulted in higher stroke volume and lower heart rate than just tilting the whole trunk. Stroke volume is the amount of blood that the heart pumps out with each beat.

The authors conclude that placing a person’s trunk at an angle of 30 degrees with their upper trunk at 60 degrees may help maintain circulatory volume.

However, this study only had male participants and a small sample size. More studies are necessary to confirm these results.

Information from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke notes that tilted sleeping may benefit people who have high blood pressure when lying down.

Learn about how to improve circulation.


In a 2018 study, researchers raised the participants’ heads by 30 degrees using a wedge pillow. They found that people who used the wedge pillow at nighttime experienced reduced pressure inside the eye. A reduction in eye pressure may help reduce the chance of glaucoma progressing. Glaucoma is a condition that affects a person’s optic nerve.

Brain detoxification

Inclined bed therapy may help improve the symptoms of certain health conditions. If a person experiences fewer or milder symptoms, they may have better quality sleep.

During sleep, a person’s glymphatic system removes waste from their central nervous system (CNS). The CNS comprises the brain and the spine.

If uncomfortable symptoms cause a person to wake during the night, this may interrupt the removal of CNS waste. Using inclined bed therapy may improve sleep, which can lead to more efficient waste removal.

Other breathing problems

Inclined bed therapy may be beneficial for people who use mechanical ventilation. Mechanical ventilation is a type of life support system. It takes over the process of breathing for a person who cannot breathe without assistance.

People who use mechanical ventilation may be at risk of developing ventilator-assisted pneumonia (VAP). Research from 2021 found that elevating people on ventilators to 45 degrees helped reduce their chance of VAP.

Inclined bed therapy also helped reduce aspiration in people on ventilators. Aspiration is when a person accidentally inhales a substance, such as food or water, into their lungs.

Although inclined bed therapy may be beneficial for those with certain health conditions, a person should never use it for their infant. Research has shown that inclined sleep products increase the risk of suffocation. If an infant rolls onto their front on an inclined sleeper, they may be unable to roll back over.

Additionally, a person should not place wedge pillows in their infant’s crib. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that an infant’s crib should not contain:

  • loose bedding
  • soft objects
  • toys
  • pillows

Learn more about safe sleep for babies.

Inclined bed therapy involves a person sleeping at an angle to help improve certain medical conditions. A person can change their sleeping angle using a range of devices, including tilted beds or wedge pillows.

Inclined bed therapy can help reduce the symptoms of various conditions, including OSA and GERD.

A person should never use inclined bed therapy for an infant. Inclined sleepers can increase the risk of suffocation.

It is advisable for people with underlying health conditions to speak with a doctor before trying inclined sleep.