This amazing post was written by Jenn Ryan, a freelance writer, and editor who’s passionate about natural health, fitness, gluten-free, and animals. You can read more of her work at thegreenwritingdesk.com.
Mysterious headaches can be a bummer. When you aren’t sure what’s causing them—or even if you are sure—suffering from headaches and migraines is awful. When you’ve been suffering from headaches and no other remedy has helped, you might want to consider taking some advice from NASA about how to relieve your headaches.
But why? Well, we know that NASA is all about that gravity. Turns out, elevating your head at night could actually decrease your chances of waking up with a headache. NASA scientists have discovered this simple trick with trying to help astronauts avoid migraines and headaches in a simulated environment when in space!
How does sleeping at a certain angle work to relieve headaches? Let’s find out!
What NASA’s Research Tells Us
As a result of the differences in the air in an artificial environment in space, carbon dioxide is higher on the space station than it is on our planet. Experts speculate that this could be what causes the headaches astronauts commonly experience (1).
For anyone who has ever had a bad headache, you know how it can impact your performance, both mentally and physically. You can forget about productivity when you have a bad headache. Finding a remedy for these headaches is especially important for our space-bound friends—and you can benefit from their findings as well!
Why Headaches Can Happen Due to Gravity
Our blood flows throughout our entire body despite gravity. This is pretty amazing, but in order for this to happen, we need to have the right amount of pressure flowing to our brains. When astronauts are weightless, the blood is still pumping with full pressure to the head. This could create more pressure than is needed in the head (also known as intracranial pressure), which may be a contributing factor to headaches.
But how are non-astronauts affected by this?
So, your body is still getting blood to your brain despite gravity. This is pretty awesome. But when you lie down, gravity is no longer an issue, and so blood flow to the brain is increased, as is intracranial pressure. The blood that’s returning from the brain doesn’t have gravity to help it, as it does when you’re upright. When this happens, blood can get stuck in the brain, decreasing blood circulation (which ultimately hinders the brain’s ability to detoxify itself), yet increasing intracranial pressure .
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However, your body is able to decrease the pressure so that your brain is not receiving too much. It does this by lowering blood pressure to decrease intracranial pressure—which explains why our blood pressure decreases when we’re asleep (or otherwise laying down).
So, if our body is able to counteract this, why do headaches happen?
Excess Fluid Means an Increase in Intracranial Pressure
Have you ever had a really long day and your feet feel swollen and tired? It can feel heavenly when you lay down and feel relief from the fluid that’s actually been building up in your lower body all day from being upright. When you lie down to go to sleep, that fluid begins circulating throughout the body, increasing blood pressure and fluid to the head.
This happens throughout the night while you sleep, so even though your body has tried to combat the increased intracranial pressure, you may still wake up with a headache. During the night, your brain wasn’t getting the oxygen and glucose it needs to function correctly, therefore resulting in a headache .
Imagine that your brain is experiencing decreased circulation and increased intracranial pressure from sleeping for hours. Your brain’s ventricles swell from the increased pressure, therefore causing your brain cells to receive extra fluid as well.
This is essentially brain swelling—this is what causes decreased oxygen and glucose levels. The brain isn’t able to properly drain itself of this fluid, and with the decreased circulation yet increased intracranial pressure, blood begins to build up and can even cause sinuses to become pressurized along with the head as a result of the excess fluid.
So what can you do to help your brain not become so pressurized at night?
Sleeping with Your Head at a 30-Degree Angle Helps
Experts at NASA have found that sleeping with your head at a 30-degree angle can help virtually eliminate headaches that are associated with too much pressure in the head with astronauts—other researchers such as Sydney Ross Singer have discovered this too. Could it help you? Try sleeping at a 30-degree angle to find out!
There are several ways you can accomplish this 30-degree incline: you could simply use more pillows, or you could take advantage of an adjustable bed. There are also foam wedges, such as those used for assistance with certain exercises, that you could use.
Pillows will likely be the cheaper option, just make sure you’re comfortable!
How Does It Work?
Basically, by elevating your head, you help your body to better balance the pressure your head is receiving. Since the elevated 30-degree head position mimics an upright position, your body can handle the extra fluid and pressure better by not decreasing blood pressure so much. It’s a simple trick with a complicated explanation, but it works for many people!
Other Benefits of Sleeping at This Angle
Sleeping at a 30-degree angle has more benefits than just preventing migraines and headaches. Did you know that it can even help prevent acid reflux ? It can also help improve snoring ! People who sleep flat on their backs can experience more snoring than sleeping with your head elevated.
Is sleeping with your head elevated worth a try for your headaches? Try getting comfortable one night and finding out—you should notice a difference after just one night of sleeping in the 30-degree position discovered by researchers!
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