- According to a number of health professionals, lying on your side is healthier than on your back.
- Sleeping on your side can allegedly help with digestion, heart health, and respiratory problems.
- A study from the British Medical Journal suggests that lying on your left side could prevent stillbirth.
There’s nothing more frustrating than going to bed for a good night’s sleep only to wake the next morning feeling even more tired than you did before you turned in. Whether it’s snoring, an over-active mind or digestive issues, there can be many causes behind a restless night – but they could all be cured by changing just one thing, according to sleep experts: laying on your side.
Changing your sleeping position to be on your side can have multiple benefits for many different reasons.
Those with snoring or lung issues can benefit from lying on their side
Many who suffer from sleep apnoea — dangerous breathing interruptions during sleep — or simply snore very loudly, tend to find it’s not only they who suffer but that their partner is left tossing and turning too. Lying on one’s back is definitely a factor that can aggravate this problem.
“Almost all people who snore, start in a back-lying position,” explained Maurer.
Alexander Blau, sleep specialist and pulmonologist at the Sleep Academy in Berlin, also recommends that those suffering from respiratory diseases position themselves better at night by lying on their sides.
“The lungs simply work better standing up,” says Blau.
To avoid turning back over onto your back at night, Maurer recommends sewing tennis balls into a sleeping cap or wearing a backpack at night .
Lying on one’s side is also better for those with heart or stomach problems
According to Joachim Maurer of the German Society of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, choosing the right sleeping position plays a part not only in how comfortable you are during sleep but also in the health of your heart, brain, stomach and respiratory system.
Dietrich Andresen, cardiologist and emergency physician at the Hubertus Protestant Hospital in Berlin, explained that people who are struggling with “left heart failure” should lie on their right side in order to relieve the heart — which is, after all, a muscle.
And even those who suffer with heartburn or reflux can find relief in lying sideways. Because the stomach is situated slightly to the left side of the body, the transition of food from the oesophagus to the right side of the stomach becomes smoother.
Even the brain works better during sleep if you lie on your side
Even if you don’t struggle with any of the aforementioned ailments, it’s still beneficial to the body to lie on your side. Hans Förstl, who runs a clinic for psychiatry and psychotherapyin Munich, explained that the brain is flushed out during sleep.
“In good sleep, a kind of ‘washing’ in the brain seems to take place at night.”
Harmful substances are thought to be flushed out the brain and removed through the body’s immune system during the night, but previous laboratory tests with mice and rats show that this system only works reliably when the animals choose a position in which they’re lying on their sides.
Pregnant women are less likely to suffer stillbirth by sleeping on one side
In certain cases, one’s position while lying down could even determine life or death — a study published in the British Medical Journal found that women who slept on their left side were much less likely to experience stillbirth compared with women who slept on their back or on their right side, and that the risk was reduced by as much as 50% .
While further studies have yet to be carried out in this area, it’s been suggested that women who sleep on their backs could be allowing the weight of their abdomen to press on blood vessels important for oxygen supply, thereby restricting the oxygen their unborn child can obtain.
Changing position mid-sleep isn’t just harmless but totally normal
Despite these recommendations, you shouldn’t be worried about lying on your side; rather, you should focus on finding a position to sleep in that feels comfortable. Andresen also says that most people with heart problems automatically assume the correct lying position in any case.
Maurer recommends you don’t go out of your way to alter your sleeping habits, as long as you wake up in the morning and do so without pain. In the end there’s little use in forcing yourself to fall asleep on your side if you’re not comfortable, as you change position approximately 10 times per night, according to Maurer.