We have often heard that getting a good night’s sleep is important for our health. But we’ve never thought that they way we were sleeping might be having a significant effect on our health, too! Amazingly, just as there are sleep positions that can be causing us pain, there is also one sleep position that experts say has a great many health benefits. According to health expert Dr. John Douillard, “Emphasizing the left side for rest and sleep offers some time-tested wisdom for very real health and longevity benefits.”
I really had no idea that sleeping on my left side could have quite so many positive effects. And while I certainly may whirl during the night, I will be trying to fall asleep on my left starting tonight! Here are the amazing benefits on sleeping on your left side, backed by science! We’ve never thought that they way we were sleeping might be having a significant effect on our health, too!
1. IT BOLSTERS THE LYMPHATIC SYSTEM.
According to Ayurvedic medicine, sleeping on your left side allows your body to better filter lymph fluid and waste via the lymph nodes as the left side of our body is the dominant lymphatic side. Western research has also found that sleeping on the left side can help the body process waste materials from the brain. In contrast, sleeping on your right side can decrease the lymphatic system’s efficiency.
2. IT MAY IMPROVE DIGESTION.
When it comes to digestion, sleeping on the left side may be preferable to the right due to the simple matter of gravity. Specifically, lying on the left side allows food waste to easily move from the large intestine into the descending colon (meaning you’re more likely to have a bowel movement upon waking). Sleeping on the left side also allows the stomach and pancreas to hang naturally (our stomach lies on the left side of the body), which can keep the development of pancreatic enzymes and other digestive processes humming. (Need help visualizing this process? Consult the image above).
3. IT’S GOOD FOR YOUR HEART.
Doctors have long recommended that pregnant women sleep on their left side in order to improve circulation to the heart. Even if you’re not pregnant (or a woman), sleeping on the left side may help to take some pressure off the heart, as gravity can facilitate both lymph drainage toward and aortic circulation away from the heart. That said, it should be noted that there’s some debate over whether sleeping on the left or right side is best for heart health.
4. IT’S IDEAL FOR PREGNANT WOMEN.
Sleeping on the left side doesn’t only improve pregnant women’s circulation. It can also help to relieve pressure on the back, keep the uterus from squeezing the liver, and increase blood flow to the uterus, kidneys, and fetus. For this reason, doctors tend to recommend that pregnant women spend as much of their sleep time as possible on their left sides.
5. IT MAY REDUCE HEARTBURN.
A study published in The Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology found that lying on the left side can help reduce acid reflux symptoms. Again this is because our stomach lies on the left side. Conversely, lying on the right side may aggravate these symptoms. The effects are fairly immediate; if you’re struggling with heartburn after a meal, try taking a 10-minute lie-down on your left side.
6. IT MAY RELIEVE BACK PAIN.
People who suffer from chronic back pain may benefit from switching to left-side sleeping. That’s because sleeping on your side can relieve pressure on the spine. Feeling more comfortable, in turn, will improve your chances of getting a good night’s sleep.
While all of these factors point to compelling reasons to start sleeping on your left side, it’s important to note that some people—including those with heart disease, sleep apnea, glaucoma, and carpal tunnel syndrome—may not benefit from side sleeping. If you’re unsure about what sleep positions may be best for you, it’s always a good idea to consult a medical professional.