Sleeping On Left Side Vs Right Side
written by sleep expert Lauren Hall
Sleeping On Left Side Vs. Right Side: Which Is Best?
There are so many benefits of getting a good night’s sleep, including thought regeneration, muscle, and joint healing, and just the whole way your body works is affected by how you sleep. But sleeping in the wrong position may cause you not to get all the health benefits that sleep offers.
But which is best? Sleeping on your left side or right side?
While each side offers a good level of benefits, sleeping on your left side actually has more benefits. In this guide, I will cover why your sleeping position matters when it comes to your health and especially your heart and digestion health.
Does it really matter what side you sleep on? Many people would argue not so much, but your sleep position, whether it is left or right, can actually change your quality of sleep, especially if you suffer from conditions like sleep apnea and acid reflux.
So stay tuned; I’m going to go through the full rundown of which is the best side to sleep on and why.
Benefits Of Sleeping On Your Side:
The side sleep position is one of the most popular sleeping positions, especially amongst pregnant women, as it can offer relief on their stomachs and promote blood flow. There are also benefits in pain relief and reducing symptoms of sleep apnea, acid reflux, and even improving digestion.
Let’s talk about these in more detail.
Offers Back Pain Relief:
If you position your legs and arms, so your spine remains in a neutral position when side sleeping, then it can help relieve chronic pain, especially lower back pain. Whereas when stomach sleeping, your back twists and turns into strange positions, which can increase pressure on your spine and cause aches.
This is because when you sleep on your stomach, your sleep posture is poor as your spine is twisted, causing back pain, whereas side sleepers can actually relieve back pain relief when using the right mattress for side sleepers and sleeping in the correct position.
Most people who sleep on their side with the right mattress and right support around them even found that their neck pain and shoulder pain had been relieved. Some people found that it got worse, but this might be because of a poor sleep posture and the wrong mattress. With the proper pillow position, you can really reap the benefits.
Reduces Risk Of Snoring & Sleep Apnea
People snore up to 50% more often when sleeping on their back instead of their side. When sleeping on your back, your tongue tends to fall back into your throat, which causes an obstruction that results in snoring. This can damage sleep quality for both you and if you sleep with a partner.
Side sleepers can help keep their airways open in these sleeping positions, making it easier to breathe and make it easier to fall asleep. This is also why it is recommended for those with sleep apnea or sleep-related breathing disorders, as it can help relieve symptoms and promote healthy sleep.
Also, those suffering from Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) or acid reflux also benefit from the side sleep position as GERD episodes become far more frequent when sleeping on your back as the airways tend to be blocked. Sleeping on the left side is also recommended over the right as acid won’t accidentally leak into the esophagus.
Improves Gut Health:
Those who sleep on their side can help improve digestion as it makes your digestive system work better than sleeping on your back. This is because gas doesn’t clear your system as quickly as lying on your back.
So many people who sleep on their stomach or back experience heartburn, constipation, bloating, and other gastrointestinal issues, which can be relieved by side sleeping. This can improve comfort when sleeping, especially if you have eaten dinner slightly later than usual.
Improves Brain Health:
When you are asleep, your brain is most active; it makes cognitive connections and helps you make decisions by connecting the broken connections. This is where the saying “sleep on it” came from, as when you wake up the next day, your decision will be much clearer.
This is also because your brain gets rid of waste throughout the day and night but does the majority of this while you sleep. Your sleep position actually affects how effectively your brain can get rid of this waste, and the side sleeping position allows for faster waste removal than stomach or back sleep positions.
Benefits On Pregnancy:
Pregnant women are highly advised to sleep on their side and especially sleeping on the left side because it helps improve blood flow throughout the body without putting pressure on the liver. It also prevents the baby from putting too much pressure on the vein that carries blood from the mother’s leg to the heart.
Side sleeping is highly recommended as it is far safer during pregnancy, while back sleeping can actually increase the risk of late stillbirth in some studies. So training yourself to sleep on your side with a pregnancy pillow is highly recommended.
Benefits Sleeping Of On Your Left Side:
If you are a side sleeper, then it is best to sleep on your left side over your right, as sleeping on your left side has far more benefits than sleeping on your right. Sleeping on the left side has science-backed health benefits as while we may seem symmetrical, our organs are not, so sleeping on the left is best.
So Why Is Sleeping On Your Left Side So Beneficial?
For starters, it benefits those with gastroesophageal reflux disease and acid reflux as it prevents acid from leaking into your esophagus. This also helps reduce symptoms of sleep apnea as it helps the airways stay clear and prevents sleep apnea-related episodes throughout the night.
Sleeping on your left side also has benefits for pregnancy because it takes the pressure off the liver when sleeping. Sleeping on any side will help blood flow from the heart to the fetus to all around the body but sleeping on your left side is slightly more comfortable.
However, doctors do recommend that you can sleep on your right side for a brief time to relieve pressure on your left hip and shoulder than sleeping on your back. But for a comfortable and good night’s sleep, while you’re pregnant, it is recommended that you sleep on your left side.
Sleeping on your left side also stimulates the drainage of toxins from your lymph nodes. It also allows your brain to get rid of waste much more efficiently when sleeping on any side than sleeping on your back, so your mind feels clearer when you wake up in the morning, and you feel more refreshed.
The theory that left-side sleeping also aids digestion and waste elimination is supported by a study where 10 participants found that their heartburn (GERD) worsened when sleeping on their right side than sleeping on their left side. This is because gastric juices remain lower when laying on the left side.
So the best sleep position has to be left-side sleeping.
Benefits Of Sleeping On Your Right Side:
While sleeping on your left side is the best sleeping position for health benefits, sleeping on your right might be slightly more comfortable for those who suffer from heart failure. This is because it puts less pressure on your heart by sleeping on your right side.
Echocardiograms of people with heart failure found that sleeping on their left side impacted the way that their heart functions and potentially caused discomfort. So the right sleeping position is highly recommended to help ease this discomfort.
Those with heart failure should avoid sleeping on their back as it puts pressure on the lungs, which can contribute to sleep apnea symptoms. Many people who suffer from heart failure also suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, so sleeping on the right is best.
Which Side Is Better To Sleep On?
Right, now we’ve broken down all the benefits of sleeping on the right side vs. the left side; let’s talk about this in more detail and which side is better for what and how to get a healthy sleep with the right body posture.
Which Side Is Better To Sleep On For Your Heart?
Sleeping on your left side specifically helps the flow of blood to your heart and around your body. When your heart pumps blood out of your body, it gets circulated and then flows back to your heart on the right side. So if you sleep on your right side, it causes pressure on the blood vessels when returning to your heart.
Sleeping on your left side helps your most vital organ pump efficiently throughout the night, which is crucial for your health. That being said, those with heart failure are sometimes recommended to sleep on their right side, but why?
If it puts pressure on the blood flow to your heart to sleep on the right side, why would you do it? Well, those who suffer from heart failure actually find that sleeping on their right side helps ease discomfort. So it is recommended by doctors if they absolutely cannot sleep on their left side.
Which Side Is Better To Sleep On When Pregnant?
This is when we get onto pregnant women; sleeping on your left side while pregnant is also recommended as the baby is pushing the organs upwards, and there’s only so much space! During pregnancy, the heart is working overtime to support the baby, so we need the best flow of blood.
Sleeping on your right side, combined with the extra pressure of the baby on the organs, can hinder the flow of blood to the mom’s heart and throughout the body, so it is always best to sleep on the left. Sleeping on the left can also help with pregnancy-related heartburn too.
Since while pregnant, the stomach moves up slightly, which causes acid to leak into the esophagus when sleeping on the right side, so when sleeping on the left side, it can massively reduce this. You’re sleep position matters while you’re pregnant.
That being said, if the mother experiences discomfort in her hips and shoulders, then it is best to either support the belly using a pregnancy pillow or full-body pillow; this should help with the discomfort. Alternatively, sleeping on the right side for short periods is advised with this discomfort than laying on your back.
Which Side Is Better To Sleep On For Digestion?
Again sleeping on the left can help aid digestion than sleeping on your right or back. This is because the stomach has a natural position on the left side which can digest food more efficiently. Sleeping on your back can slow down digestion and cause bloating and discomfort throughout the night.
Academic research institutions have completed studies that sleeping on your left can help ease digestion as it can lower the esophageal sphincter. When sleeping on the right side, acid can leak into the esophagus, which can cause heartburn, whereas, on the left side, this doesn’t happen.
Which Side Is Better To Sleep On For Acid Reflux?
As I just said, sleeping on the left side can help with acid reflux as it prevents stomach acid from leaking into the esophagus. You should also sleep with your head elevated to keep the acid within your stomach.
Sleeping on your left side can seriously reduce reflux episodes and the exposure of the esophagus to stomach acid. You should also avoid eating a big meal before going to sleep, instead eat little and often with small portions, but frequently this should help reduce acid reflux episodes in the night.
Is The Fetal Position Recommended?
What is the fetal position, and is it recommended? Well, when sleeping in the fetal position, you’re sleeping on your side with your knees bent. This can help reduce pressure on your heart during pregnancy, so sleeping in the fetal position on your left side does seem to have some benefits.
It can also help relieve lower back pain during pregnancy as it takes the strain off your back. It can also help reduce snoring as it helps keep your airways open throughout the night, which can offer relief for snorers and for those with sleep apnea or GERD.
So there you have it sleeping on the left side certainly has more benefits than sleeping on the right; who knew what side you sleep on would make such a difference? No more spontaneous sleep positions for you, especially if you’re pregnant.
Back sleeping does have benefits similar to side sleeping, but it is not recommended for those with acid reflux, heartburn, GERD, or if you’re pregnant. But if you’re looking for which is the best sleeping position, then I spoke about stomach sleepers, back sleepers, and side sleepers in more detail in a full guide.
Knowing how to sleep on your side is also key if you’re trying to train yourself if you’re pregnant or interested in the benefits of sleeping on your side. With the right support and mattress, I would say that sleeping on your side can be the most comfortable position.
It’s time to start sleeping on our left side, my friends!
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