What Sleeping On Your Left Side Can Do For Your Health

It's no secret how important a good night's sleep is for your health. Sleep can improve your mood, mental health, cognitive function, and physical health, according to a 2021 article in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. To ensure you get a good night's sleep, perhaps you've adopted a good wind-down routine, such as taking a bath, meditating, or turning off any blue screens. You also know to avoid caffeine, sugar, and alcohol before bed.

Once you turn down the sheets and prepare for your 7 to 8 hours of sleep, what's your body position? If you sleep on your stomach, this might give you back problems because your belly presses into your mattress and strains your lower back (via Healthline). Sleeping on your back might reduce stress on your shoulders and back, but you're also more likely to snore or have sleep apnea because your tongue can fall back into your throat (via Sleep Foundation). Sleeping on your side can help with back pain or snoring. If you sleep on your left side, it might also help with gastrointestinal problems.

How sleeping on your side reduces gastrointestinal issues

More than 13% of people worldwide experience gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) at least once a week, according to SleepScore Labs. You're more likely to experience GERD at night because the acid in your stomach moves up toward your esophagus when you're lying down. If you sleep on your left side, you're using gravity to keep the acid in your stomach. After all, your stomach, which is on the left side of your body, will be lower than your esophagus. It's also best to have your body on a slight incline while you're sleeping.

This might sound strange, but some research supports it. A 2015 study in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology tracked the number of acid reflux episodes in 20 healthy people in various sleeping positions. People sleeping with their left side down had significantly less acid reflux than those sleeping on the right side. Sleeping on the left side also reduced the acid in the esophagus more than sleeping on the right side, with a wedge, or flat.

Other benefits of side sleeping

Sleeping on the left side can help with gastrointestinal issues, but side sleeping (right or left) can have other health benefits. A 2015 study in the Journal of Neuroscience found that sleeping on your side might help clear out your brain. The study was conducted on rats; the researchers used MRI scans to measure the glymphatic system (a waste clearance pathway in the nervous system) while they slept in different positions. Rats that slept on their sides had a faster clearance of waste than rats that slept on their backs or stomachs.

Sleeping on your side might also be helpful if you're pregnant, according to Medline Plus. As the baby grows, sleeping on your left side might improve blood flow to your fetus without putting pressure on your liver. You'll need a lot of pillows, though. Adding a pillow under your belly and between your legs can help make this sleeping position more comfortable.