Your sleeping position is especially important to consider for your mental and physical well-being. This is because there's more to the quality of sleep you're getting than its duration. In fact, a small body of research suggests that people who sleep on their left side are not only likely to sleep better, but are believed to be healthier than those who sleep on their right side. This idea stems from an ancient holistic approach to health and medicine developed in India, known as Ayurveda (meaning "the science of life"). But why sleep on your left side? It turns out that doing so enhances your digestion, alleviates back pain and also reduces heartburn.
Let's take a closer look at the health benefits of sleeping on your left side:
1. It supports the body in getting rid of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials
According to Ayurvedic tradition, sleeping on your left side bolsters the lymphatic system, allowing your body to better filter lymph fluid and waste via the lymph nodes. In this respect, your sleeping position makes a difference, because the left side of the body is the dominant lymphatic side. Furthermore, new research has found that sleeping on the left side can allow the body to clear waste chemicals from the brain more efficiently. In contrast, sleeping on your right side decreases the lymphatic system's efficiency.
2. It is good for the heart
Sleeping on your left side improves circulation to the heart. This theory is based on the idea of how gravity can facilitate both lymph drainage toward the heart, as well as circulation away from the heart.
3. It may reduce heartburn
According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, lying on the left side can help reduce acid reflux symptoms. On the contrary, lying on the right side may aggravate the symptoms. So, if you're struggling with heart burn, lie down on your left side for 10 minutes to alleviate the symptoms.
4. It may improve digestion
The idea that sleeping on your left side may improve digestion simply stems from a matter of gravity. The theory is that lying on the left side allows food waste to move easily from the large intestine into the colon. Therefore, this means that you are more likely to have a bowel movement upon waking. This sleeping position also allows the stomach and pancreas to hang naturally, as both organs are predominantly located on the left side. It may also better channel the gastric juices and easily promote the secretion of pancreatic enzymes. It therefore enables digestion to work little by little instead of all at once, which is what tends to happen when we sleep on the right side (see image above).
5. It may alleviate back pain
Sleeping on the left side can relieve pressure on the spine, and is therefore ideal for people who suffer from chronic back pain, allowing them to feel more comfortable and get a good night's sleep.
6. It is beneficial for pregnant women
Besides boosting blood circulation, sleeping on the left side can also help relieve pressure on the back, keeping the uterus from squeezing the liver. This sleeping position also increases blood flow to the uterus, kidneys and fetus.
Who does not benefit from this sleeping position?
For the most part, there are a number of beneficial reasons for sleeping on your left side. However some, particularly those with heart disease, sleep apnea, glaucoma and carpal tunnel syndrome, may not benefit from sleeping on one side.
If you're unsure which sleeping position is best for you, consult with a medical professional.
Making the switch
If this is a sleeping position you are not used to, it might take some time to get into the new habit of sleeping on your left side. Here are a couple of tips to make the transition a little smoother:
Without a doubt, the combination of a comfy bed and a health-promoting sleeping position will increase your chances of sleeping well.