Proper Ergonomics for a Laptop in Bed

by Erica Kasper

Laptops are great for people who don’t want to be tied to a desk when using a computer. With a laptop, you can do your computing just about anywhere, from airports and offices to hotels and at home. In your house, a laptop can migrate with you from room to room, and you can even use it in bed. It’s important to remember, however, that when you’re on your laptop from the cozy comfort of your bed, you should be aware of your body’s position and follow proper ergonomics. This will help you avoid pain, numbness, fatigue, tingling nerves, headaches and other unpleasant effects.

Support Your Back

Pillows and a backboard can provide much-needed support for your back.

Proper back support is vital no matter where you’re using your laptop, but in bed, it’s harder to achieve. To support your spine adequately, sit with your back against the wall or headboard of your bed. Place a small pillow or pillows behind your lower back for additional lumbar support, and place another pillow under your knees. You shouldn’t feel any inclination to hunch over, slide downward or turn sideways; keeping the laptop screen directly in front of you is important if you want to avoid cricks in your neck and back.

Mind Your Posture

Sitting up straight can reduce strain on the body.

It’s easy to slouch when sitting in front of a computer, laptop or otherwise. Slouching becomes even more attractive when you're curled up in bed. For the right ergonomics, though, you must be sure to sit up straight and square to the laptop. Your elbows should be bent at no more than 90 degrees, and your wrists should be straight, ideally placed on wrist rests. It can be helpful to place a three-ring binder under the laptop on your lap so that it slopes down toward you and makes it more comfortable to keep your elbows and wrists in the correct position. Keep your head and neck positioned so that your shoulders are back and your ears are directly above your shoulders. Check yourself every few minutes (set a timer if you have to) to be sure you’re sitting up straight.

Use the Correct Lighting

Indirect light can give you enough brightness to see by without causing a glare.

Lighting can make a huge difference in how well your eyes (and posture) handle the stress of the laptop screen. Check that you’re not directly facing a bright window or other strong light, and reduce glare on your screen by ensuring that other lights, big and small, aren’t reflecting on the laptop’s glass. Also check that it’s not too dark in the room; you should have enough light to comfortably see the keyboard and screen without having to lean in, since leaning can ruin your posture.

Use Additional Equipment

An external mouse and laptop stand can help you keep the right posture and balance.

To ensure ideal laptop usage in bed, you may try some of the many tools that are designed to help. An external mouse and keyboard should be your choice instead of a touchpad when possible, in order to help you maintain the correct arm and wrist position. In addition, a portable laptop desk or stand can be a valuable resource for computing when you're away from a standard desk. These devices raise the laptop and place it at an angle, an action that serves two purposes: you can avoid bending your neck to see the screen if it’s raised to eye level, and the angled position helps you to maintain the correct placement of your arms and hands.

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About the Author

Erica Kasper has been a professional writer and editor since 1999. Based in Jacksonville, Fla., she has written and edited educational, marketing and web copy for nonprofit organizations, technology companies and online marketing firms. She has a Bachelor's degree in journalism (honors) and psychology from Washington and Lee University.

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