Let’s face it. Sleep is a big part of our lives. We all know how important sleep is and we all know the amount of sleep we get each day matters, but there’s more to it than you might think.
Unfortunately, the majority of people are unaware of the fact that the position of sleeping plays an important role in overall health.
Your sleep position plays a big role in your sleep quality, which means it might be time for you to switch it up. And, while it might not be something you can do in one night, it can be worth trying out.
Our sleep position matters to our health and it affects everything from the brain to the gut.
Whether you like sleeping on the right side or the left side of your tummy, each position has pros and cons that you can expect the next day. Some health experts recommend that you should sleep on your left side as it is the healthiest for your body.
The Pros and Cons of Sleeping on Your Left Side
Pros: This is a great position for those who experience both back pain and snoring. Keeping your body straight keeps your spine in a neutral position, which can relieve back and neck pain while remaining on your side reduces snoring. Sleeping this way is particularly good for pregnant women, who should sleep on their left side.
Cons: You may be able to switch to the opposite side, but if shoulder pain persists, find a new sleeping position. And also, if you have a tight jaw, putting pressure on it while you sleep on your side can leave it sore in the morning.
The left side is emphasized to be beneficial for sleep and rest. Left-side sleeping has the most expert- and science-backed health benefits. Ancient tales claim sleeping on your side will even cause you to live a longer, fuller life!
Despite the benefits of side sleeping, you can only gain these if you get into the correct position. Otherwise, the pain in your spine, neck, and joints will outweigh the benefits of sleeping on your side.
Ayurvedic medicine, which is the oldest Oriental medicine, confirms this as well, and it recommends sleeping on the left side of the body. It suggests that there are numerous reasons why you should practice sleeping on the left side, since it:
- Aids digestion
Since our stomach and pancreas are located on the left side, sleeping on the same side enables them to hang naturally and function better.
Our small intestine transfers waste to our large intestine through the ileocecal valve, and finally into the colon from where it is excreted in the morning. Therefore, it helps to sleep on the left side overnight.
Ayurveda experts suggest that you take a quick 10-minute power nap after your meals and sleep on the left side for better digestion and boost your energy. This also helps in treating heartburn or indigestion which you may experience after a heavy meal.
Sleeping on the left side is especially great for the heart. A 2010 study of 10 participants found a relationship between laying on the right side and increased cases of heartburn (also known as GERD) than when laying on the left side.
The left body side is the lymphatic side, meaning that this sleeping position will support the healthy function of the lymphatic system and the elimination of toxins, waste, and lymph fluids from the body.
If you sleep on the left side, you will improve your heart health. To understand easily, your heart is on the left side, and therefore, it makes sense to sleep on your left side as gravity will help the drainage of the lymph nodes towards the heart and ease its work. This will take some load off your heart and give rest to your body.
- Good for pregnant women
Sleeping on your left side is often referred to as the “ideal” scenario during pregnancy. Experts advise that pregnant women should spend as much time possible sleeping on the left side as it improves blood circulation during pregnancy, relieves the pressure on the back, boosts blood flow to the uterus, fetus, and kidneys, and keeps the uterus from squeezing the liver.
It also relieves the pressure on the spine and chances are you’ll feel more comfortable and sleep better.
- Reduces snoring or sleep apnea
Believe it or not, there’s no harm in trying it out. Left-side sleepers are less prone to snoring. The reason is that it keeps your tongue from falling into your throat and thus keeps your airways clear for you to be able to breathe properly.
These are other benefits of sleeping on your left side:
• Support healthy spleen function
• Contributing to a freer bile flow
• Improved elimination of dangerous substances
• Aids the heart to send blood down
Whether you’re a veteran side sleeper or are new to this position, it’s important to know the best practices so you can get the most out of it.
- Lie down on a medium-firm mattress, using one firm pillow underneath your head.
- Shift over to your left side first. Your ears should be in line with your shoulders, while your chin is neutral. Avoid tucking your chin into your chest or keeping your head down.
- Keep your arms and hands below your face and neck, preferably parallel to the sides.
- Put a firm pillow between your knees (especially if you have low back pain). This helps prevent the collapse of hip and knee joints, thereby creating better alignment in your spine.
- Slightly lift your knees toward your chest to reduce pressure on your back.
While the above reasons justify why you should sleep on the left side, it can be hard to adjust to a new sleeping position, as most of us have been sleeping the same way, night after night, for many years.
But take your time because getting good sleep (whichever way it may be) is critical for your health. Sleeping on the left side is especially great and can offer benefits for both body and mind.
Here’s a sleeping tip for you,
If you prefer sleeping on your left side, make sure to choose a good pillow to avoid neck and back pain. And sleep on whichever side feels most comfortable, but don’t be afraid to switch to a different position if it is not working for you.
“Measure the length between your neck and the end of your shoulder,” Bill Fish says. “Find a pillow that supports this height so that your head and neck can stay aligned with your spine”, he also added.