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Why do I fall asleep when I tilt my head back?

by Kathy W.
(Kansas City, Missouri)

Each night I get around 7-9 hours of solid sleep. If I wake up at all it's just once to turn over and I don't snore. During the day I'm always sleepy. I try not to allow myself to take naps during the day because if I do I'll sleep for hours. My big concern though is how I fall asleep. If I tip my head back at any angle I fall asleep. Even if I feel awake if I'm sitting up and tilt my head back on the couch I'm out within secs. When I go to movies I fall asleep instantly because of the angle of the chairs. I've looked at certain types of sleep disorders but I can't find anything that fits my symptoms. My only cue is that my grandfather has sleep apnea...but I don't snore. Do you have any idea whats going on with me?

In case it makes a difference, I'm a 26 year old female and about 20lbs overweight.

Comments for Why do I fall asleep when I tilt my head back?

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May 20, 2011
me too
by: Anonymous

well, I do have the same condition, not just when I tilt my head but if I put anything behind my head, like my hand, I feel a tornado inside and I just fall asleep, it's getting too weird as I sleep almost 12 hours a day!!

Aug 22, 2011
Tilting a head
by: Hawkmoon

It seems to me it's related to blood flow in brain. When you tilt your head, you make certain pressure on your neck arteries and therefore reduce flow of blood in your brain and it just goes into shut down mode. Do you remember it happening when you were young? (or maybe less overweight?) It doesn't have to be medical problem but it might cause some problems in activities that require tilting of head.

Oct 04, 2014
Update???! NEW
by: Ryan

I have the exact same symptoms. 27 m. Have you found any more information about what is happening? Thanks for the update!

Jan 03, 2015
Same but different NEW
by: Ausiblue

I fall asleep and get headache when my head is pushed forward; most of if I am sitting in a recliner that has a head rest behind my head. If I use chair with a lower back it doesn't happen

Apr 02, 2015
Sleep trouble - me too on head reclined NEW
by: Anonymous

A comment to my doctor made just days ago in an email.

"Worth noting, a questionable phenomenon: If I sit in a chair that’s leans back it will put me to sleep. This has gone on for at least 10+ years. I remember telling my parents when we visited a planetarium show at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, MT that I had trouble falling asleep during the show. My parents statement: "Boy you weren’t kidding, you were asleep within minutes" - A deep, snoring sleep, almost coma like sleep. At some point in time I do wake up but really only regain complete consciousness when I force myself into a more upright position."

I believe there is more to this than blood flow. No proof either way. I was thinking inner ear - something related to balance.

Apr 20, 2015
Me too! NEW
by: Chris M.

This happens to me at work. I wear progressive lens glasses and have to tilt my head back when I'm in meetings, looking up at a large screen monitor. I was thinking it was blood-flow related also. Haven't yet talked to my doctor about this.

Oct 09, 2015
Afraid to tilt my head back. NEW
by: Renee

I noticed in one of the comments being overweight was mentioned. I don't remember this happening to me until about 2 years ago and I do have a weight problem. I am so afraid to tilt my head back, because I will go to sleep in a matter of seconds. I never remember to mention this to my doctor during visits, so I will have to do that, but it is a really scary issue for me at work. I don't want to tilt my head back and get caught sleeping.

Apr 28, 2016
Crazy NEW
by: Anonymous

I am a 27 male and I've slept like this ever since I could remember. My parents never thought it was weird or crazy because my grandma (dad's mom) and my dad both do it ever since they could remember too. I was just trying to look further into this phenomenon. I'm totally comfortable with it and so is my dad and grandma. I just wanted to see the cause. Maybe it DOES have something to do with blood flow? Interesting... PS- My grandma, dad or I are not at all over weight.

Aug 16, 2016
Sleeping head back NEW
by: Anonymous

I put my pillow under my back and head is all the way to the back. I get up deasy very deasy for few minutes everything turn around me.

Sep 10, 2016
Head on pillow...Ko in minutes NEW
by: Anonymous

I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one. When I am awake I usually am walking and upright standing. As soon as I rest my head against something, even light pressure, I'm feeling tired. Head on pillow, regardless how awake I am, I'm asleep within a few minutes. The effects have increased with time. Note: Only 25. The sleepiness happens regardless of if I have had caffeine or sugar beforehand. Definitely not a lack of energy thing.

Dec 12, 2016
Falling out NEW
by: Clueless in Georgia

I get severe migraines associated with lack of blood flow to the brain. An currently take meds for that however never though that this tilting of head forward or back could cause sudden lack of blood flow to your brain it kinda makes a bit of sense in reality. I'm going to tell to my neuro doc about this come next appt. Bad thing is I just had a a spell a few min ago an fell right to sleep still rather sleepy an cold to the touch all over.

Jan 03, 2017
Same problem, except tilting forward... NEW
by: Anonymous

I'm glad I'm not the only one to experience this phenomenon. I've had this for about twenty years and never realised why I fall asleep - especially whilst watching the television. I thought at first it was something to do with the mhz of the TV, but I discounted that, after changing TVs. I also realised it happened at cinemas. But recently I've been using a smart phone more and more and if I'm lying on my bed, on my back, I tend to look downwards at my phone, by bending my neck forward. This seems to put some strain on the rear neck muscles, so whether it's cutting off, or slowing the blood supply to the brain, I'm not sure. But within ten minutes I'm nodding off! I can also say, the feeling of going to sleep is sometimes quite frightening and feels like I'm blacking out.
I will bring this up with my neurologist on my next appointment.
Thanks for enlightening me guys.

Jan 07, 2017
Same here too NEW
by: Anonymous

I wear progressive glasses too. When I'm driving or sitting in a meeting, if I tilt my head back I start falling asleep very quickly. I've thought blood flow related too but I don't wake up right away if I stop tilting my head back. Could this be nerve related? This just happened again this morning at home after 8 hrs of sleep last night. I fell asleep for another 3 hrs. I'm about 15 lbs overweight, 53 yrs old. Had sleep paralysis as a young adult but that's not happened for several years. My husband says I snore occasionally but has never mentioned my breathing has stopped.

Jul 01, 2017
same problem... did anyone find a solution NEW
by: manmeet

I have the same problem and was looking for medical reasons for it. But surprisingly no one has mentioned it since 2011 . Surprised:0

Sep 01, 2017
Tilting my head back on an office chair. NEW
by: Anonymous

I got to this page trying to find answers as to why this happened. I sit in a office chair with a high back. I lean all the way back tilt my head back and instantly fall asleep. It's such a good deep sleep, but I wish I knew what causes that. I'm thrilled to know there is other people feeling the same thing.

Mar 19, 2019
possible issue
by: Thomas

Look up Chari Malformation. It has to do with blood flow to your brain from your spinal chord. If the tonsil of your brain stem is too large for the opening in your skull, where it meets the spinal chord, it restricts blood flow from your spinal chord. Maybe you all have some form of it. Maybe border line too large. This can cause all kinds of other problems since it effects your nervous system. I only know about this because my son was diagnosed with it at 2 years old. I am starting to think I may have it too. It is hereditary, so my son could of received it from me.

Apr 26, 2019
I fall asleep as soon as I lay my head back,like looking up at a T.V.,while laying on a pillow or even a chair
by: Anonymous

I know I have some sleep problems at night but I still end up sleeping at least eight to ten hours a night,for some reason I can lean backwards on my pillow to watch T.V.,because the higher than my bed,but I have some health problems also it's called cidp or chronic inflammatory demalynating polyneropathy, it's where my body eats away the mylon sheath that protects my nerves,I'm wondering if it has something to do with that,I believe my next move on the pain I get from my nerves which actually hits me from my neck down to the bottoms of my feet is having my nerves cut,or singged back about three inches,if that will help the sleeping while my neck is tilted backwards, I believe it's a nerve problem causing it,I didn't have any of this until I had a stroke at the age of 29,I am now 54 years old,I've been fighting this nerve disease for about 18 years,it's been doing this every since this started, does anyone have answers out there about the tilted head and falling asleep problem,tell me what you think.

Aug 25, 2019
Let me know NEW
by: Anonymous

Me and my cousins had a big sleepover at around 4:00 I woke up all my cousins seemed to be awake and they told me to go back to sleep,but I couldn't. They told me I tilt my head back in my sleep and I smiled before that. The rest of the night was terrible. If know anyone that knows about witchcraft or Exorsisms please let me know.

Jun 22, 2020
Sudden Sleepiness When Resting On The Back Of My Head
by: Joe

I also quickly fall asleep if I rest on the back of my head. Weather leaning back on the couch or resting the back of my head on a pillow, I will quickly fall asleep. Oddly I have trouble falling asleep normally, so it scares me a bit that something might be wrong with me and I try to avoid resting on the back of my head. I need to remember to ask my doctor about this anomaly as well. I'm not overweight and don't have any known health issues. Please post an answer if you figure this out or have some sort of clue to something.

Sep 03, 2022
Why do I get a headache when I sleep with my head tilted back NEW
by: Anonymous

I wake up in the middle of the night with an extreme headache and realize that I'm sleeping with my head tilted back as far as it can go, that next day I have extreme fatigue, to the point that I can't do anything physical without feeling completely wiped out. What's going on with me? Anybody else?

Nov 03, 2022
Wake up head tilted all the way back NEW
by: Anonymous

Same here. I fall asleep on my side, then wake up in middle of night on my back with my head tilted as far back as it can go. It's like I'm pushing it back. Why would I do that? I think I just started doing this but not sure. Occasionally gives me a headache. Thoughts? Direction on how to look into this further?

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