Why it is difficult to sleep while sitting

We all have that one friend who can sleep just about anywhere. In fact, one of our best buddies can even sleep standing up! But, for the most part, human beings find it difficult to sleep unless they are lying down. Even sitting can sometimes present a lot of problems when it comes to trying to catch some shut-eye.
The problem is that sleeping while sitting can sometimes be more difficult than we might have thought. But, as you will no doubt encounter, it is actually a lot more difficult to get a good night’s sleep when you are sat upright. Aside from the obvious lack of comfort and space, did you ever wonder why it is so much more difficult to get good rest while you’re sat down? This is what we’re going to explore in this article.

The brain plays a role

In order to get to the bottom of this, it’s important to first understand the way the human brain works during sleep. While we sleep, our brains cycle through five different phases of sleep; the most well-known of these is the 5th stage, known as rapid eye movement (REM). You enter REM several times during your sleep cycle, and this is the time when you experience most of your dreaming. What also happens here is that the muscles are paralyzed due to the brain sending signals to the body.

Protective instinct

Everything the body does during sleep is done for a reason, and this muscle paralysis is no different. In fact, it is thought that the brain intentionally sends these signals to the spinal cord in order to prevent injury. If our muscles are paralyzed, we can’t act out our dreams and risk injuring ourselves, or interrupting our sleep. This helps us to enjoy a deeper and more restful sleep, and is crucial for ensuring you are well rested.

The trouble with sitting

Because of this muscle paralysis we experience when reaching the deepest sleep cycle, it can be very difficult to sleep sitting. Your body will naturally slump and slide, and keeping your position will prove difficult. So, this is likely to result in you being woken up from your sleep intermittently. It’s hard to sleep comfortably when you’re sat on a plane for this precise reason. It also may not even be possible to get relaxed enough to reach the REM phase in the first place.

Some people can do it

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that Buddhist monks intentionally condition themselves to sleep sitting up straight, for around 5-6 hours per night. They have specially designed chairs that help them to achieve this, and it’s done as a crucial part of their meditation regime. For us mere mortals, just an hour or two would be great! Getting yourself as relaxed and prepared as possible will help you to achieve sleep more easily in a seated position.

While you are sitting, it is not the most comfortable of positions. You generally will find that you are restricted in terms of space and comfort, and this can really play havoc with your attempts at sleeping. For the most part, you are going to need to lie down while you attempt to get a good night’s sleep, and now you know why! But, it might be possible to catch a few Z’s when you’re sat down, provided you’re comfortable enough.