COVID-19 Survival Tips: What Doctors Should be Telling You

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Sydney Ross Singer

Medical Anthropologist


Director, Institute for the Study of Culturogenic Disease

March 20, 2020

Most of the advice from medicine regarding the COVID-19 pandemic is to avoid contact with others, wash your hands frequently, and cough/sneeze into your arm, not your hands. Good advice, but there is more people should know to help them prevent, or recover, from COVID-19.

One of the big problems with COVID-19 is that it can lead to breathing problems, which can ultimately lead to pneumonia and possibly death. So anything you can do to improve your ability to breathe will be helpful. Keeping yourself well oxygenated is also essential for immune system function to prevent and fight disease.

So a key to keeping healthy, besides avoiding exposure, is to be well ventilated, and stay that way, even if you get sick. 

Many people have poor breathing habits, and being conscious of your posture and how you are breathing can help you take deeper breaths. But in addition to these issues, which are addressed in activities like yoga, there are some cultural things we do that impair breathing without our realizing it, and which can easily be changed.

Here are three things you can do at home to help you breathe easier and help you deal with COVID-19 prevention and recovery.

  1. Sleep with the head of your bed elevated about 20-30 degrees. 

There is a reason why hospital beds are adjustable. It’s not just for watching TV.  Head-of-bed elevation of 30-degrees is optimal for heart, lung, and brain circulation. 

Lying too flat causes high brain and head pressure, which can lead to sleep apnea, migraines, stroke, glaucoma, sinus congestion, a foggy brain, and more. See my article, Rest in Peace: How the Way You Sleep Could Be Killing You

Elevating the bed is also recommended for hiatal hernias and acid reflux. It’s a simple matter of gravity. When you lie down, your stomach is on the same level as your head, allowing stomach contents to spill into the esophagus and give you heartburn. 

This also affects breathing. When you inhale, your diaphragm needs to push into your abdomen. When you are standing, this is no problem, since gravity pulls your stomach, liver and intestines downward, the same direction that the diaphragm needs to expand for inhaling. But when you lie down, the belly flattens out and pushes into the diaphragm, making it harder to inhale. You can feel this effect when you lie flat, especially if you have a large belly. 

If you were on an adjustable bed and raised your head of the bed slowly, you would feel a steady reduction of pressure on your diaphragm, as it becomes easier to breathe. You will also feel less pressure in your head as you elevate your bed. 

How to Raise Your Bed

There are several ways to elevate the head of your bed. The goal is to have your head slightly elevated, as well as your feet, the way you would be in a reclining chair. There is a reason why those chairs are so comfortable and why people fall asleep in them. 

Method 1

Put wooden blocks or books beneath the legs at the head of the bed, essentially creating an incline plane. Raise the head about 12 inches or so.

The problem with this method, however, is that it only elevates around 5 degrees, since anything more than that on an incline plane makes you slide down the bed, and can congest your feet. It is ideal to sleep with your legs elevated slightly, too, helping your legs and feet decongest from the day. So with this method, place some pillows beneath your buttocks and extend with more pillows so your feet are resting on pillows, too. 

Method 2

Use an adjustable bed frame and elevate your head and feet when you sleep.

Method 3

Use a hammock. This elevates both the head and feet.

Method 4

Sleep on your recliner. But be aware that most recliners have poor back support, so you may need an extra pillow.

Caution about Pillows:

Do not merely elevate your head by sleeping with more pillows. This will harm your neck and will reduce brain circulation. 

Tuck your chin to your chest and try to breathe, and you will see that you compress your throat  when you tuck your chin, closing off your throat and making breathing more difficult. You also compress the veins draining the head, increasing brain pressure and reducing brain circulation. 

So you want to elevate the entire top half of your body, not just your head. You can still use a pillow, but preferably a thin one. The elevation should be from the bed angle, not from pillows. 

The next lifestyle advice is for women. 

2. Don’t wear a bra.

Bras are tight and having a tight brand around the chest is medically known to reduce breathing efficiency. When women stop wearing bras, they universally report that they can breathe easier, according to new research from the International Bra-Free Study. This confirms other research that shows wearing tight bras reduces breathing. See the article, Bras Cause More Than Breast Cancer: Preliminary Results of the International Bra-Free Study.

Being at home with family is a great time to relax and wear loose clothing, which is essential for proper circulation. This includes eliminating the tight jeans and underwear, in addition to bras. Nothing should be tight, since this results in compression of delicate lymphatic vessels which are the circulatory pathway of the immune system. When you are sick, you need all the circulation you can get, to allow your immune system to function properly. 

If any clothing leaves marks in your skin, then it is too tight. 


Women who stop wearing bras also report elimination of breast pain and cysts, and improved digestion, as described in the reference above. 

3.  Limit your exposure to news.

Keeping informed does not require constant monitoring of the news. Keeping a positive attitude is healthy for your mind and immune system. Don’t poison your body with the hormones released during stress and panic. Stress kills more than this virus will. And stress hampers your immune system, and makes it more difficult to breathe. So take a break from the news, and only allow yourself short time to review the news. You will breathe easier.

I hope this information helps. If you try the above lifestyle changes, you will see a difference in how you feel right away. This is true even if you think you feel great right now. These lifestyle tips should be part of your normal way of living, and could keep you healthy. 

They will also help your body fight an infection and recover more quickly if you get one. 

So raise your bed and take off your bra!  We may be told right now to isolate, but your body really needs to circulate.





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