Sleeping in a Massage Chair?

November 1, 2012
 By Dr. Alan Weidner
November 1, 2012
 By Dr. Alan Weidner

Sleeping in a Massage Chair?

A question I frequently get from massage chair shoppers is what chair would be best suited for sleeping…that is sleeping IN. Now, I must confess I have fallen asleep in many a massage chair in my day and the word Sogno actually means “dream” (I am referring to the famous Inada Sogno Dreamwave massage chair), but to sleep the night away in a massage chair doesn’t seem all that comfortable to me.

Having said that, there are folks out there, and you may be one of them, who have terrible back or neck pain who can’t lay flat on a conventional bed. Someone may be recovering from surgery and can’t lay flat on their back or on their site. There are also people who snore and have sleep apnea who can only sleep in an inclined position. So, it totally makes sense that somebody might want a massage chair that is comfortable for sleeping.

Here are things to consider when deciding on what type of massage chair would be best suited for sleeping:

1. Calf and foot massage mechanism– this is probably the single, greatest inhibitor of comfort for someone who wants to sleep in a massage chair. You can’t really put your legs anywhere else besides the calf and foot wells. If you move to your side on the chair, your legs will still tend to relocate to the calf wells. If you want to shift your body whilst on your back, your legs won’t really be able to move anywhere because their movement is limited by the width of the calf and foot wells.

An answer to this issue might be a chair that has a rotating ottoman so that the calf and foot wells can be rotated out of the way. An example of this might be the Panasonic MA70, which has a foot and calf ottoman that rotates under and looks like a normal ottoman upon which legs can be moved anywhere. Another option might be the HT-7450 or HT-7120 chairs by Human Touch. They only have calf wells so that the ottoman can be easily rotated upside down, allowing for a flat ottoman surface whereupon the legs can be moved wherever the user wants to put them.

2. Rollers – when the chair is off and at rest, where are the rollers? If they are “parked”, which means that they are retracted so that they don’t stick out, you can sit on the chair and not really feel them at all. If a chair doesn’t “park” the rollers, they may be sticking out at rest and actually stick into your back. Not very comfortable.

Another thing to consider regarding the rollers is the roller track space that is vacated when the rollers themselves are retracted and “parked.” When you sit on a massage chair without the rollers on, your back kind of sinks into the roller space and that is not optimal support for the low back. You may need to put a pillow in the low back/lumbar region to support your low back or else you may wake up in more pain than when you went to sleep.

3. Sleeping on your side – massage chairs are not really built for side sleeping or lying. It will be difficult to find a place to put your legs (unless the chair has a rotating ottoman – see #1 above) and you will not have a lot of room to “curl up,” which is a common position to sleep in when on your side. I think the hardness of the chair may also contribute to spot tenderness on your body when you sleep on your side. Make sure the chair reclines back to at least 170 degrees or more, which is close to horizontal, so that your body is not bent up from sleeping on your side.

Well, that’s about it for sleeping considerations when getting a massage chair. I also might mention that all massage chair companies that I am aware of have time limits for their massage sessions. I think one of the reasons for that is if the user falls asleep. If a deep sleeper sits on the chair and the timer was to never turn off, that poor soul may be so sore in the morning from an all-nighter on a massage chair, that he or she may never sit on it again. Yes, too much of a good thing is not always a good thing.

Dr. Alan Weidner

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