Many individuals naturally favor side sleeping as their preferred position, yet they may not fully grasp the potential health advantages it offers. In reality, various sleeping postures can yield distinct effects on one's well-being, both positive and negative. As a rule of thumb, individuals should sleep in a manner that provides them with the utmost comfort. Nevertheless, should they encounter discomforts such as back pain, jaw discomfort, digestive issues, and the like, they might want to contemplate altering their sleeping position. To be more precise, they might consider adopting the habit of sleeping on their left side.
The Benefits of Sleeping on You Left Side
Alleviate back pain – Sleeping on your stomach can exert pressure on the spine and lead to discomfort. Conversely, side sleeping maintains the spine in a naturally straight alignment, alleviating pressure on the lower back.
Minimize snoring – Sleeping on your back can result in the tongue and soft palate shifting backward, partially obstructing the airway and leading to heightened snoring. This phenomenon is also prevalent among individuals with sleep apnea. However, side sleeping positions the tongue forward and maintains a clear airway.
Enhance digestion – Specifically, adopting a left-sided sleeping position may alleviate certain gastrointestinal discomforts such as bloating, constipation, and heartburn. Since the stomach is situated on the left side of the body, lying in this orientation enables gravity to assist in the digestive process.
Potential for brain health benefits – A lesser-known fact is that the brain actively rids itself of waste during sleep. Research suggests that adopting a side sleeping position can enhance the brain's ability to efficiently clear metabolic waste by bolstering the glymphatic system, which operates akin to our lymphatic system but within our central nervous system. Animal studies have indicated that this might potentially lower the risk of conditions such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and other neurological diseases. However, further research involving human subjects is required to delve deeper into these concepts.
Enhances blood circulation – Adequate circulation is vital during pregnancy to ensure a healthy flow of blood to the placenta. That's why it is advisable for expectant women to sleep in this position.
How to Train Yourself to Sleep on Your Side
Select the right pillow and mattress:
- Opt for a suitable pillow that complements your collarbone structure.
- Ensure the pillow offers sufficient firmness to support your neck.
- Consider mattresses that are typically softer to alleviate pressure on your shoulders and hips.
Utilize pillows for separation and assistance:
- Place a pillow between your knees to provide support to your hips and lower back.
- Embrace a pillow to find a comfortable resting position for your upper arm.
- Consider acquiring body pillows to help maintain your desired posture.
- Attach a tennis ball to the back of your shirt through sewing to deter yourself from unintentionally rolling over.
Begin by sleeping on the sofa initially.
- Sofas tend to be narrow, offering limited space suitable mainly for side sleeping.
Disadvantages of Sleeping on Your Side
While this position can offer numerous advantages, it may not suit everyone, especially those who have mattresses and pillows that render side sleeping uncomfortable. These drawbacks encompass:
- Discomfort in the shoulder and hip areas.
Sleeping on the side on excessively firm mattresses might elevate pressure on the shoulders, hips, and knees. Conversely, overly soft mattresses can lead to misalignment of the spine and resultant discomfort.
- Facial pressure.
Individuals dealing with sinus congestion and glaucoma might encounter painful or uncomfortable facial pressure when they assume a side-lying position. Moreover, it could exacerbate a tense or rigid jaw.
The Benefits And Disadvantages Of Other Sleeping Positions
Ultimately, individuals should sleep in the manner that provides them with the greatest comfort. However, it's essential to weigh how your sleep position can impact your body, either positively or negatively. You may also start your nights on your left side and allow your body to naturally settle into its preferred position. Additionally, it's worth noting that sleeping on the right side offers its own set of advantages, so there's no need to be overly concerned about retraining yourself if it doesn't come naturally. Similarly, there are both advantages and disadvantages associated with sleeping on the back and stomach.
Sleeping On Your Back
Advantages – It has the potential to alleviate:
- Position a pillow beneath your knees to provide support for your spine and lower back.
- Extend your legs and arms outward to alleviate joint pressure.
- Select a pillow that provides adequate neck support, avoiding those that tilt your chin towards your chest.
- Elevate your head using extra pillows or a wedge pillow to alleviate heartburn, headaches, and sinus congestion.
Sleeping On Your Stomach
Regrettably, experts advise against adopting this stance for those who find it enjoyable. "If you are sleeping on your stomach and notice you are suffering back pain, there probably is a reason," says Bill Fish, a certified sleep science coach. "Since the majority of the weight of the human body is around your center, that core pushes into the sleep surface further and basically puts strain on your spine in the wrong direction, causing back and neck pain."
Nonetheless, for individuals who cannot transition to side sleeping, the following suggestions may be helpful:
- Utilize a flat pillow or refrain from using one entirely.
- Avoid tucking your arms beneath your pillow or head, as this may lead to arm numbness or shoulder discomfort.
- Rotate the sides of your head to prevent neck strain.
- Refrain from lifting one leg to the side with a bent knee, as it could exacerbate back problems.