Sleep is a critical component of our health and well-being. Both too little and too much sleep can have detrimental effects on our health, with links to a range of issues from obesity and heart disease to dementia and diabetes. We are all looking for ways to sleep better and one interesting factor could affect our sleep more than we know – our sleep position.
Left Side Sleeping
Want to relieve the pressures of heartburn and indigestion, try sleeping on your left side. With the symptoms of heartburn often more severe at night it is thought that left side sleeping aligns the internal organs which might help reduce the amount of acid leaking out of the stomach. If you’re pregnant doctors typically encourage sleeping on your left side to improve the circulation to the heart.
Sleeping on the left side can apply pressure to the stomach and lungs and lead to organ strain. As with sleeping on both your left and right sides, this position can result in arm-numbness as a result of squashing it under your body’s weight all night. In a study carried out by scientists at the Yuzuncu Yil University in Turkey, published in the international Journal of Sleep and Hypnosis, 40.9 per cent of people who chose to sleep on their left sides reported regular nightmares, compared to just 14.6 per cent of those who preferred to sleep on their right sides.
The best position for those experiencing back pain, it helps to keep your spine aligned which can help alleviate pressure and built-up pain and give you a comfortable night’s sleep. Back sleeping is great for spine and neck health, the back is straight and not forced into any contortions, leaving the neck in a more neutral position. The back is also a great position to get your beauty sleep; with your face free from any pressure you’re less likely to get wrinkles and spots. When your head is face down in a pillow all night it can get sweaty, which blocks pores.
Back sleeping is closely linked to Sleep Apnoea and snoring, with instances of Sleep Apnoea more frequent with back sleeping. Back sleeping can in some cases double the incidence of snoring and Sleep Apnoea. Lying on your back can make Sleep Apnoea worse because gravity makes the tongue fall to the back of the throat narrowing the airways. Sleeping on your back can also increase teeth grinding.
Right Side Sleeping
The right side is ideal for those people experiencing high blood pressure. It gives the heart extra room in the chest which can help lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate. Researchers from Stony Brook University in the United States believe sleeping on either side can improve waste clearance in the brain, spinal cord and nervous system, which could help prevent Alzheimer’s and other Neuro-Degenerative diseases.
Right side sleeping is a big no-no for pregnant women. Experts say sleeping on your right side in late pregnancy carries a higher risk of stillbirth due to a restricted blood flow to the baby.
Front Side Sleeping
Front side sleeping, or stomach sleeping, can help ease snoring and some cases of dreaded Sleep Apnoea. Some sleep experts suggest sleeping on your front is great for digestion after a heavy meal as it puts internal organs in a more ideal position.
Stomach sleeping may be the worst position for a bad back, it may make lower back pain worse as it can accentuate the curve in the small of the back and flatten the natural curve of the spine. Sleeping on your front can be extremely unhealthy, lying with your head and neck rotated to one side for many hours can tighten neck muscles, leading to headaches, a stiff neck and tight shoulders.
With these various sleeping positions all playing a different role in how we sleep, it is important to experiment and find a position that works for you. At the end of the day, or night, it is probably best to find a position that feels the most comfortable for you.
(Photo courtesy of www.beautyconnexion.com)