Some people think that the best sleeping position is the position they are most comfortable with. However, certain sleeping positions can be dangerous, such as sleeping on the back.
According to Mayo Clinic specialist Dr. Lois Krahn, sleeping on the back can crowd the airway when the jaw and tongue fall down. It may be comfortable because it doesn’t put weight on the joints but it can also be unsafe.
Others like sleeping on their stomach and even though it does not crowd the airway, it can put a strain on the neck and spine.
“There’s a host of evidence overall suggesting that probably sleeping on the side is better,” said cardiologist Dr. Virend Somers. He is also the director of the sleep facility at Mayo Clinic’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science.
Dr. Krahn agreed, saying sleeping on the side is a good way to sleep, with the head slightly elevated. Sleeping on the side is the best according to her as it keeps pressure off internal organs, thus promoting healthy blood flow.
It is not only comfortable but it also has many health benefits. Here are some of them:
(1) Advantageous for Pregnant Women
Pregnant women may find it difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position, especially when their stomach is big enough. Doctors often recommend sleeping on the left side as back sleeping can compress the inferior vena cava vein which causes high blood pressure.
On the other hand, sleeping on the side is associated with lower heart rate and higher heart rate variability – the amount of time between heartbeats.
(2) Promotes Normal Heart Function
As mentioned above, sleeping on the left side is better for heart health. This is because lying on the left helps blood flow back into the heart. However, people with heart failure may find it uncomfortable and would rather sleep on the right side.
(3) Helps Improve Digestion
Though more research has to be done, it seems the left side is the best sleeping position for digestion. When on the left, gravity can move food easily from the small intestine to the large intestine. It is also best for stomach pain as it avoids putting pressure on the painful stomach area.
(4) Prevents Heartburn for People with GERD and Acid Reflux
When stomach acid washes up into the esophagus, it can lead to acid reflux and when it happens frequently, it may turn into gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Because of symptoms such as heartburn, discomfort, and stomach pain, it is difficult to sleep comfortably in any position.
However, sleeping on the left side reduces such symptoms. When lying on the left, the stomach is lower than the esophagus, which makes it hard for stomach acid to reach it.
(5) Reduces Neck and Back Pain
Sleep Foundation also considers sleeping on the side best for people with neck and back pain, especially if there’s a pillow between the knees. “If you don’t have a pillow between your knees, that stress of sleeping on the side pulls on your hip and can cause some issues,” Dr. Somers said.
(6) Improves Function of the Spleen
The spleen is a part of the lymphatic system and is on the left side of the body. Sleeping on this side improves the functions of the spleen. It also boosts the flow of blood to the spleen through gravity, allowing it to filter impurities.
(7) Prevents Liver Congestion
Because the liver is on the right side of the body, sleeping on this side for a long time can cause liver congestion. On the other hand, sleeping on the right side prevents the liver from being congested.
It helps neutralize the substances and toxins before it is moved out of the body or collected in the liver.
(8) Helps with Sleep Apnea
People with sleep apnea are more likely to have episodes when they sleep on the back. When lying on the back, there is a higher chance of the tongue falling back and obstructing breathing. Doctors recommend sleeping on the side to avoid this problem and reduce sleep apnea episodes.
Watch this video and see why sleeping on the side is the best sleeping position: