There are many articles that discuss the benefits and hindrances of different sleep positions. Sleep.com talks about sleeping on your back as the best position for the most restful sleep, while your stomach is the worst. Sleeping on your side is considered the second best sleep position, and only 15% of adults sleep that way. However, that number does not include those that choose to sleep in a fetal position – which is the most popular sleep position choice (by a landslide) at 41%. These facts are interesting, but could the health benefits be even more specific?
One Side or the Other
A recent article references the Ayurveda school of medicine, and the benefits of sleeping on the left side as being particularly advantageous. While the Sleep.com article recommends a loose fetal position on the left side for pregnant women, Ayurveda suggests that these benefits have a deeper meaning for more individuals than just pregnant women. This all stems from the idea that our left and right sides act differently – almost independently of one another. When considering our body composition from outward appearances, it may seem ludicrous. Outwardly, we appear fairly symmetrical. However, when one considers the internal composition of a human body, it can make more sense.
For instance, one proposed benefit of sleeping on the left side is that it improves digestion. “Since our stomach and pancreas are located on the left side, sleeping on the same side enables them to hang naturally and function better.” This position also allows the food to continue on its entire path undisturbed, from the stomach to the colon. It is suggested that this can also reduce heartburn and indigestion. Similarly, sleeping on the left side can be good for heart health, for the same reasons as stated above. Since the heart is on the left side of the body, sleeping on the same side suggests that it may give the heart a break during sleep.
As the Sleep.com article also suggests, sleeping on the left side in the fetal position is especially beneficial for pregnant women. It “improves circulation in your body and in the fetus, and it prevents your uterus from pressing against your liver…” Another recommendation is to keep a pillow between the legs, to reduce strain on the hips.
Perhaps the most important benefit of sleeping on the left side is that it can help to prevent snoring. “It keeps your tongue and throat in a neutral position and thus keeps your airways clear for you to be able to breathe properly.” While this is a compelling reason to try sleep on one side or the other, there is not much evidence as to how the left side would be better than the right to assist with snoring.
Ayurvedic medicine is defined by WebMD as “one of the world’s oldest holistic (“whole-body”) healing systems. It was developed more than 3,000 years ago in India. It’s based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body and spirit. Its main goal is to promote good health, not fight disease. But treatments may be geared toward specific health problems.”