Proper blood circulation is vital for your health, but it’s not always easy to get your blood flowing—especially while you sleep at night.
Your lungs, heart, and muscles rely on a steady flow of blood and oxygen to perform their essential roles and remove any waste created by those organs. Immune system cells also require proper circulation to move throughout the body and fight off potential disease and infection. Without proper circulation, your body can’t function at its best.
Keep reading to learn what causes poor circulation and how to address the root causes so you can improve blood circulation both during the day and while you sleep.
The best treatment for poor leg circulation is simply moving your body and literally “getting the blood pumping.”
However, those recovering from illness or surgery or who otherwise have limited mobility may have to find gentler ways to get their blood flowing. The following habits and light exercises can help improve your blood flow during the day or while you sleep.
If you can walk, either with a walker or other means of assistance, even a gentle stroll can effectively increase blood flow to feet, legs, and rest of the body. Walking can also help prevent cardiovascular disease.
This low-impact exercise contracts the veins in your legs, improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure. It makes you feel better, too, especially if you walk outside in the fresh air.
Performing light stretches every day can also do wonders to improve blood circulation. You can even stretch sitting down, getting your blood flowing to carry oxygen and white blood cells all around your body.
Yoga, for example, exercises both the body and mind. Plus, practicing a yoga routine before bed could help you sleep better, according to a 2020 review.
Remaining mindful of your posture when sitting and standing can also improve leg circulation. If you’re in the habit of sitting with one leg over the other, this could be harming the blood circulation in your lower extremities.
Instead, sit with your feet flat on the floor and use a foot rest under your desk or in front of the sofa for added comfort. When in bed, use a foot pillow to prop your feet up while you sleep.
Compression stockings and socks can help keep your blood flowing while you fly or lay down for a prolonged period.
The pressure from the socks pushes blood up to your heart and can prevent your legs from becoming sore and tired. They can also ease the discomfort from swollen ankles and feet and can prevent varicose veins. Keeping blood constantly flowing in your lower legs helps prevent clots from forming.
Similar to compression stockings, compression knee pads can improve circulation in your legs. Knee pads can also offer stability for your knee joints and reduce the risk of injury during activity. You can also buy heated knee pads that provide even great comfort and encourage blood flow.
Among other damaging effects on your health, smoking contributes to poor circulation. Smoking can cause a waxy substance known as plaque to build up in your arteries. When this plaque hardens—a condition called atherosclerosis—it limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood.
While quitting smoking may be easier said than done, this is just one more reason to make today your quit day.
During times of stress, your nervous system releases a flood of hormones that can increase plaque and restrict blood flow. Stress can also cause your blood vessels to constrict in a process called vasoconstriction.
Stressful situations will always pop up in life, but how you manage these moments can make the difference between good and poor blood circulation. For better circulation and a plethora of other health benefits, it's important to find a stress management technique that works for you.
Standing or sitting for prolonged periods can cause swelling in your legs and feet as blood circulation slows. Long-term inactivity can also cause blood clotting in the legs, known as deep vein thrombosis.
When your feet are raised, gravity helps do the work of bringing blood back down into your heart, allowing it to circulate and preventing it from pooling in your legs.
Elevate your legs at least three times per day in 20-minute intervals by putting a pillow or footstool under your feet, keeping your feet raised at least 6 inches above your heart. You can also try laying on your back and resting your legs straight up against the wall.
In addition to regularly elevating your legs throughout the day, you should also consider using a pillow to raise them while you sleep.
When lying down, adding a pillow under your feet (for back sleepers) or between your knees (for side sleepers) can help keep blood flowing.
Meanwhile, using a bed wedge pillow can elevate your head and back. As a bonus, this can also improve snoring and symptoms of sleep apnea by opening the airways.
Drinking water every day helps your body perform at its best, in part because it improves circulation.
In dehydration mode, your blood retains more sodium, making it blood thicker and harder to circulate. Drinking the recommended 8 cups of water a day can help keep your blood flowing regularly.
Getting a massage can be an effective (not to mention relaxing) treatment for poor circulation in the feet and body.
In one study, massages proved effective in relieving muscle pain and increasing blood flow. According to the study, the massages appeared to trigger a vascular response that lasted for days. The circulatory response was not limited to just the area of application.
A recent study shows that drinking green tea can help reduce the likelihood of developing coronary artery disease. Another study found that black tea helped lower bad cholesterol, which accumulates along your artery lining and limits blood flow.Whether you prefer green or black tea, brewing up a cup can help to improve your blood circulation.
The best and cheapest poor blood circulation treatment is exercise—walking, running, strength training, yoga, swimming, or any exercise you enjoy. Moving your body is a simple way to improve blood flow throughout your body.
These resources will show you how to improve blood flow to your legs with some simple exercises.
You don’t need any fancy equipment or an expensive gym membership to improve poor blood circulation. A simple walk in the park, sleeping with your legs elevated, light yoga, and gentle stretching can significantly improve your circulation.
The best way to sleep for circulation while you sleep is to put a pillow under your feet. As a side sleeper, you can put a pillow between your knees for greater comfort too. If you experience sleep apnea or snoring, a wedge pillow behind your head and shoulders props you up to open the airways, allowing better sleep and blood circulation.
As previously discussed, sitting for a prolonged period can have a detrimental effect on blood circulation. Recliners can actually help to improve circulation by raising the legs above the heart while in the reclined position. However, you should avoid sitting for too long in one position by taking frequent breaks to walk around or doing some stretches.