You spend almost a third of your day sleeping. It is integral to your overall health, especially in terms of the quality of sleep you get. This activity is so common that you barely even give attention to smaller details such as your sleeping position. For example, you need to determine which side is best to sleep on – left or right.
In this article, you will find out why side sleeping is recommended and which side to choose.
Why sleep on your side?
There are a lot of experts that claim sleeping on your back is the ideal position, especially if you want to promote spine health and to avoid waking up with pain. But there is growing research and evidence that point to the fact that sleeping on your side is just as beneficial.
Side sleeping is common among adults and anyone with higher body mass index (BMI). But are the benefits enough to compensate for the possibility of having neck or back pain?
It does not matter if you sleep on the left or right side, sleeping on your side can ease pain on your joints and lower back. It is also recommended to alleviate chronic pain due to conditions such as fibromyalgia.
If you have obstructive sleep apnea, you can greatly benefit from sleeping on the side. It will also reduce common symptoms such as snoring.
Another study points out that sleeping on your side can boost your brain health. This is supported by a 2015 study that shows this particular sleeping position helps to get rid of toxins in the brain. In fact, it can significantly lower the risk for developing neurological diseases. In addition, your gut health will also significantly improve when you sleep on the side.
But it begs the question – which side is best to sleep on: left or right?
Should you sleep on your left or right side?
The benefits of sleeping on your side is already the subject of more research and sleep studies. But how about the side you are sleeping on? Does it have any impact on the benefits that you can get (or are they the same for both sides)?
The general consensus among health experts and sleep doctors is that sleeping on your left side offers the most health benefits. This particular position enables your organs to continue working to eliminate toxins during your sleep.
Another reason why the left side is highly recommended when you sleep on your side is due to the location of your stomach. Since it is on the left side, sleeping on this side will facilitate better digestion. It makes it easier for food waste to travel from your small intestine to the large intestine. For this reason, health experts agree that sleeping on your left side is more beneficial to your gut health. Not only that, this position also promotes the production of pancreatic enzymes to promote healthier digestive processes.
If you are prone to suffering from heartburn, this is also a reason to choose sleeping on your left side. The muscles that connect your stomach and esophagus must be contracted so you have better control of the acid reflux process in the body. When you sleep on your right, these muscles relax, which makes it difficult to control acid reflux. This is supported by the research study that was conducted by a team at the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology.
The benefits of sleeping on your left side can be traced back to the ancient times based on the principles of Ayurvedic medicine. This sleeping position is known to benefit your lymphatic system by allowing better filtration of the lymph fluid and waste (because the left side is the dominant lymphatic side). On the flip side, sleeping on your right can reduce the efficiency of the lymphatic function.
Your heart can also benefit from sleeping on your left side. It’s not a coincidence that doctors recommend pregnant women to sleep on their left as it promotes better circulation to the heart. It’s not just pregnant women that can enjoy these benefits. You need to use gravity to your advantage to ensure healthy flow at the lymphatic drainage.
In terms of back pain relief, this is yet another one in the long list of benefits for sleeping on your left. This position is the next best thing to sleeping on your back in terms of chronic back pain relief. It helps to relieve pressure on the spine. Plus, you also feel more comfortable, which helps to give you a good night’s sleep.
Precautions when sleeping on your side
There are plenty of benefits that you can get when you sleep on your side, especially on the left. However, the discussion does not end on which side is best to sleep on. It is important to note that there are certain health conditions and risks that would prevent you from sleeping on your left side, such as those suffering from sleep apnea, carpal tunnel syndrome, heart disease, and glaucoma. If you have any of these medical conditions, make sure to consult your doctor about your ideal sleeping position.
Another potential risk when you sleep on your side (left or right) is that it can lead to arm numbness and shoulder pain. If you decide to sleep on your side, make sure you have a firm yet responsive pillow to offer good support. Make sure your head and spine are properly aligned, too.
It is also a good practice to place a supportive pillow between your knees when you sleep on your side. This will maintain proper alignment of your hips and prevent lower back pain. Invest in a firm pillow that won’t collapse so you can maintain position of your head, spine, and hips throughout your sleep. Always keep your arms parallel to each other.
There are certain pros and cons for sleeping on your side, or on your back. Find a position you are comfortable with and stick with that. It is also important to listen to your body so you know if you need to make adjustments to your sleeping habits.