How Sleeping On Your Left Side Affects Your Health

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How Sleeping On Your Left Side Affects Your Health
How Sleeping On Your Left Side Affects Your Health
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According to statistics, 40% of people in the USA suffer from insomnia in the course of any year and a further 30% of people experience the sleeping problem at some point in their life. This translates to about 70 million in the USA alone who have sleep disorders.

There are several ways to improve the quality of your sleep. The most obvious ones include exercising daily, sticking to a regular sleep schedule and avoiding caffeine after 6pm. While the time quantity and quality of sleep we get each day matter, the sleeping position is also another factor to consider. Each position has its own pros and cons, but many researchers are finding the highest amount of benefits offered by sleeping on the left side compared to sleeping on the right side, back and belly. Here’s a detailed report!

How Sleeping On Your Left Side Affects Your Health

1. Reduces Occurrence Of Heartburn

Sleeping on the left side seems to help reduce nighttime heartburn symptoms, according to Dr. David A. Johnson of Eastern Virginia School of Medicine. A study published in The Journal of Clinical Enterology supports Johnson’s hypothesis. According to the study, there is a direct correlation between reduced reflux time and sleeping on the left side. [1] The bottom line is lying on the right side seems to aggravate heartburn. Avoiding food consumption directly before sleep may also prove beneficial

2. Improves Digestion

Sleeping on the left side allows easy movement of food waste from the large intestine into the descending colon. Lying in that position allows the stomach and pancreas to hang naturally. [2]

3. Reduces Sleep Apnea

A study published in the German journal Sleep & Breathing confirmed the effect of body position on patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea-hypopnea. However, the study found out that sleeping in the right position was more effective in decreasing the frequency of obstructive respiratory events in patients with the moderate and severe disease. [3]

4. Eases Neck And Back Pain

Resting on either side could also fix neck and back pain since your spine stays aligned. According to Mayo Clinic, sleeping on your side can take the strain off your back. Use of a good neck pillow may be beneficial in order to support the head and deliver a stress-free neck posture.

The website advises a further postural practice: To draw the legs up slightly toward the chest and to insert a pillow between the legs – a known practice for keeping the hips aligned. [4]

5. May Assist In Warding Off Conditions Like Alzheimer’s Or Parkinson’s Disease – via Improved Elimination Of Amyloid β (beta) From The Brain

According to some fascinating research, sleeping on your side could help your brain in clearing waste that can lead to neurological diseases.

A study published in The Journal of Neuroscience reported on the potential benefits of the lateral position to neurological health. [5]

The study explores the impact of different body postures on the brain’s glymphatic system, which is crucial for clearing waste, including amyloid β (Aβ), from the brain.

This system’s efficiency is influenced by the brain’s arousal level, as the interstitial space volume of the brain expands during sleep (or anesthesia), enhancing waste removal.

Key findings of the study include:

1. Efficiency of Glymphatic Transport: The research found that glymphatic transport in the brain was most efficient in the lateral position (side sleeping), compared to the supine (back sleeping) or prone (front sleeping) positions.

2. Methodology: The study utilized dynamic-contrast-enhanced MRI and kinetic modeling to quantify cerebrospinal fluid-interstitial fluid (CSF-ISF) exchange rates in anesthetized rodents. Additional methods included fluorescence microscopy and radioactive tracers to specifically assess the clearance of Aβ.

3. Implications for Body Posture: In the prone position, where the rat’s head was most upright, the study observed slower clearance of tracers and more CSF efflux along larger cervical vessels. This suggests that body posture during sleep can significantly influence the brain’s waste removal efficiency.

4. Potential Human Application: While the study was conducted on rodents, the findings raise the possibility that the lateral sleeping position might be optimal for waste removal in humans as well. This has implications for understanding and potentially influencing sleep behaviors to optimize brain health.

5. Broader Impact on Health: The study’s insights into how body posture affects glymphatic transport could inform future diagnostic imaging procedures and strategies for enhancing brain health, particularly in relation to conditions like Alzheimer’s disease where Aβ clearance is a concern.

In summary, this study provides significant evidence that body posture during sleep affects the efficiency of the glymphatic system in waste removal from the brain, highlighting the potential importance of sleep posture for overall brain health.

What is Amyloid β (beta):

Amyloid β (beta) is a protein fragment that has garnered significant attention in the field of neuroscience; particularly in the context of Alzheimer’s disease! Here are some key points about amyloid β:

1. Origin: Amyloid β is derived from the larger amyloid precursor protein (APP), which is normally found in the fatty membrane surrounding nerve cells (neurons). APP is involved in neuronal growth, survival, and repair in the brain.

2. Formation: Amyloid β is formed when APP is cut (cleaved) by specific enzymes, beta-secretase and gamma-secretase. This process results in the production of amyloid β peptides of varying lengths.

3. Role in Alzheimer’s Disease: The most common form of amyloid β in Alzheimer’s disease is a 42-amino acid peptide known as Aβ42. This form is particularly prone to clumping together (aggregation) to form oligomers and fibrils, which can eventually lead to the formation of amyloid plaques—a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. These plaques accumulate between neurons and disrupt cell function.

4. Toxicity: Research suggests that soluble oligomeric forms of amyloid β are toxic to neurons. They are believed to interfere with synaptic function, contribute to neuroinflammation, and induce oxidative stress, all of which are detrimental to brain health.

5. Diagnostic Marker: The presence and levels of amyloid β in the brain and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) are used as biomarkers in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. PET scans and lumbar punctures are common methods used to detect amyloid β levels.

6. Therapeutic Target: Many therapeutic strategies for Alzheimer’s disease aim to reduce the production or accumulation of amyloid β in the brain. These include drugs that inhibit the enzymes responsible for its production or antibodies that help clear amyloid β from the brain.

7. Controversy and Research: The exact role of amyloid β in Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis is a topic of ongoing research and debate. While it is a key feature of the disease, it is still unclear whether amyloid β plaques are a cause or a consequence of Alzheimer’s disease.

6. Beneficial For Pregnant Women

For the last trimester of pregnancy, women are advised to sleep on the right or left side. The lateral position could help them boost blood circulation to their growing baby and prevents the uterus from pressing against their liver. A study first reported in the medical journal Anaesthesia posited the role of sleeping in the left position in reducing the likelihood of supine hypotensive syndrome which causes nausea, hypotension, and dizziness in pregnant women. [6]

Sleep Hacks: A List Of Natural Remedies And Lifestyle Changes to Benefit Insomnia

Insomnia, a common sleep disorder, can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life. Various natural remedies and lifestyle adjustments can be effective in managing this condition.

5 Popular Natural Remedies for Insomnia

1. Lavender Oil: Widely recognized for its mood-enhancing and pain-reducing properties, lavender oil is also effective in promoting sleep. Oral intake of lavender is considered more beneficial.

2. Tart Cherry Juice: Rich in melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep, tart cherry juice can aid in achieving restful sleep.

3. Chamomile Tea: A traditional remedy, chamomile tea is known for its calming effect and is a popular natural treatment for insomnia.

4. Warm Milk: A classic remedy, warm milk before bedtime is believed to induce sleep due to its psychological soothing effect.

5. Herbal Remedies: Various herbs, including valerian root and passionflower, have been used for their sedative properties to treat insomnia.

Lifestyle Changes for Better Sleep

1. Regulated Light Exposure: Managing light exposure helps regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Avoiding bright screens before bedtime and getting sunlight exposure during the day can be beneficial.

2. Dietary Adjustments: Avoiding caffeine and nicotine, known to cause restlessness and insomnia, is crucial. Including foods rich in tryptophan and magnesium, which may promote sleep, is recommended.

3. Mindfulness and Meditation: Practices like meditation and mindfulness can reduce stress and improve sleep quality.

4. Regular Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity, especially aerobic exercises, can improve the quality and duration of sleep.

5. Sleep Hygiene: Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, creating a comfortable sleep environment, and establishing a relaxing bedtime routine are essential for good sleep hygiene. Next we will look at sleep hygiene in greater depth:

Sleep Hygiene: Best Practices

Sleep hygiene encompasses a set of practices and habits that are essential for attaining high-quality nighttime sleep and full daytime alertness. This report compiles the best practices for sleep hygiene, drawing from various authoritative sources.

1. Consistent Sleep Schedule: Maintaining a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, including weekends, is crucial for regulating the body’s internal clock.

2. Bedtime Routine: Establishing a relaxing bedtime routine, such as reading or taking a warm bath, can signal the body that it’s time to wind down.

3. Optimizing the Sleep Environment: The bedroom should be quiet, dark, and at a comfortable temperature. Investing in a comfortable mattress and pillows can also improve sleep quality.

4. Limiting Exposure to Electronics: Removing electronic devices from the bedroom and avoiding their use before bedtime can help prevent sleep disturbances. Using orange filters or adjusting color balance away from the blue spectrum is also considered valuable.

5. Mindful Eating and Drinking: Avoiding large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime is recommended as these can disrupt sleep.

6. Physical Activity: Regular physical activity can promote better sleep, but it’s best to avoid vigorous exercises close to bedtime.

7. Managing Stress: Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, and mindfulness can help manage stress and improve sleep.

8. Limiting Naps: While short naps can be beneficial, long or irregular napping during the day can negatively affect nighttime sleep.

9. Exposure to Natural Light: Getting exposure to natural light during the day, especially in the morning, can help maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Paying attention to the light spectrum throughout the day may be very valuable; for example getting “cool” (more blue-spectrum) light during the daylight hours and utilizing warm bulbs / blue light filters to reduce exposure to shorter wavelength blue light in the evening.

10. Avoiding Sleep Inertia: Understanding and managing sleep inertia, especially for shift workers, is important for maintaining a healthy sleep pattern. Strategies to manage sleep inertia include ensuring adequate sleep, using gradual alarm sounds for waking, and allowing time for the body and mind to fully awaken before engaging in demanding tasks.

Understanding Circadian Rhythms

Another key aspect of healthy, restful sleep is understanding and adhering as best as possible to the natural circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are fundamental physiological processes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, influencing various physical, mental, and behavioral changes in living organisms. These rhythms are intrinsic to the biology of most species on Earth, including humans, and play a crucial role in regulating numerous aspects of health and behavior.

Key Aspects of Circadian Rhythms:

1. Biological Basis: Circadian rhythms are driven by internal biological clocks, with the primary clock located in the brain’s suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). These internal clocks are influenced by external cues, notably light.

2. Regulation of Physiological Processes: They regulate a wide array of physiological processes, including sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, body temperature, and eating habits.

3. Influence on Health: Disruption of circadian rhythms can lead to various health issues, including sleep disorders, metabolic problems, and mood disturbances. They are also implicated in the pathophysiology of certain neurological and psychiatric disorders.

4. Aging and Circadian Rhythms: The functionality and regularity of circadian rhythms can change with age, affecting sleep patterns and overall health in later life.

5. Genetic Factors: Circadian rhythms are controlled by multiple genes, and genetic mutations can affect these rhythms, influencing sleep patterns and susceptibility to certain health conditions.

6. Chronotherapy: Understanding circadian rhythms has led to the development of chronotherapy, which involves timing medical treatments to coincide with the body’s natural rhythms for enhanced effectiveness.



[1] Kats LC et al. 1994. Body position affects recumbent postprandial reflux.

[2] Melinda Ratini. February 7, 2017. WebMD Medical Reference. What’s the Best Position to Sleep in?

[3] Ozeke O et al. September 2012. Influence of the right- versus left-sided sleeping position on the apnea-hypopnea index in patients with sleep apnea.

[4] May 21, 2014. Slide show: Sleeping positions that reduce back pain.

[5] Lee H et al. August 5, 2015. The Effect of Body Posture on Brain Glymphatic Transport.

[6] Mills GH and Chaffe AG. March 1994. Sleeping positions adopted by pregnant women of more than 30 weeks gestation.

[7] “8 Insomnia Home Remedies: Exercises, Oils, and More” – [Healthline]

[8] “Do These 10 Natural Insomnia Aids Really Help You Get Better Sleep?” – [Everyday Health]

[9] “Natural Sleep Remedies | Natural Ways To Help Sleep” – [Holland & Barrett]

[10] “Home remedies for insomnia: 9 options” – [Medical News Today]

[11] “Natural Sleep Aids: Home Remedies to Help You Sleep” – [Johns Hopkins Medicine]

[12] “Mastering Sleep Hygiene: Your Path to Quality Sleep” – [Sleep Foundation]

[13] “Tips for Better Sleep” – [CDC]

[14] “Sleep Hygiene – Centre for Clinical Interventions” – [CCI]—Information-Sheets/Sleep-Information-Sheet—04—Sleep-Hygiene.pdf

[15] “Sleep Hygiene Explained and 10 Tips for Better Sleep” – [Healthline]

[16] “Sleep Hygiene Tips” – [Headspace]

[17] “The aging clock: circadian rhythms and later life” – [Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2017]

[18] “The genetics of circadian rhythms, sleep and health” – [Human Molecular Genetics]

[19] “Rhythms of life: circadian disruption and brain disorders across the lifespan” – [Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2017]

[20] “Circadian rhythms: a regulator of gastrointestinal health and dysfunction” – [Expert Review of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 2018]

[21] “Circadian Rhythms” – [National Institute of General Medical Sciences]

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