Today I’d like to discuss and (hopefully) answer a question I see time-and-time again – What is the best way to sleep?
I’m sure for anyone who regularly suffers from sleepless nights, or even insomnia, you’d do literally anything in your power to get a decent night’s rest.
Something that had never really occurred to me before was that position in which we lay down in bed can have a major impact on the night ahead.
Now, when it comes to sleep, I will say that perhaps there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.
I mean, as individuals, we tend to be very different from each other, and I guess that includes the way we sleep as well.
I can guarantee that many of you lead completely different lifestyles to each other. We will typically be at various stages in our lives in terms of relationships, work life, mental and physical health, diet and nutrition goals, etc.
And all of these factors can affect the way you sleep.
However, even with all the contrasting and diverse lives we lead, science tells us that apparently there is one sleeping position that trumps all the others.
I give you left-side sleeping.
Actually, that isn’t strictly true, as there is also science-backed evidence which points to another sleeping position as well, but for today I want to discuss the benefits of sleeping on your left-side.
It Boosts The Lymphatic System
I would hazard a guess that you haven’t spent much of your life evaluating and thinking about your lymph nodes and the effects they have on the body.
Not to worry, me neither.
But, seemingly they are fairly important when it comes to resting well at night.
The lymph nodes, which are mainly located in the neck and armpit area, appear to be more dominant on the left side of the body.
So, by lying on your left side it is actually easier to filter lymph fluid, toxins and waste from the body.
By sleeping on the opposite side, this entire filtration process will have to fight against gravity (you will soon discover that gravity plays a major role in sleeping on your left side).
Lymph drainage that travels in the direction of your heart will actually help to ease much of the workload on your heart, as long as you’re sleeping on your left.
Talking About Gravity
As I’ve mentioned, gravity appears to have a huge impact on how well we sleep, and this includes:
- You are able to aid digestion because the stomach naturally lies to the left.
- Food waste is able to travel more easily from the small intestine to the large intestine (it does appear that there’s a lot of waste extraction going on while we sleep. That’s news to me).
- Drainage back to your spleen is aided by left-side sleeping.
- Are you somebody who suffers with heartburn or acid reflux? Well, this is likely to be exasperated if you lie on your right-side (although some experts disagree with this), as once again your internal organs are trying to fight against gravity.
- Not only does lymph drainage take pressure off your heart when you lie on your left, this position can actually do wonders for the overall health of your heart.
- Doctors always recommend that pregnant women should sleep on their left side. As it turns out this has nothing to do with the bump (well not literally anyway). Lying in this position helps to improve blood circulation to the heart, which of course is fantastic for both mother and baby.
Push That Snorer On The Left
If you are, or live with, a snorer then I presume at one time or another you’ve been pushed (or have pushed someone else) onto your side in an effort to stop the sound of snoring.
For some reason, most snorers tend to sleep on their back and this tends to aggravate the condition.
I will admit that there are actually many different forms of snoring, but the majority are caused by a narrowing, or the blocking, of the airways at the back of the throat.
A number of examples include, the tongue falling into the throat while you sleep, or tension in the jaw which narrows the air passages, or the soft palate being either too big or too weak.
Whatever the reason, sleeping on your back in these instances will simply make snoring worse.
The solution – sleep on your side.
Firstly, this enables the tongue and the throat to rest in a neutral position, which in turn makes it easier for you to breath, as the airways are now clear.
However, when we look at the list of benefits mentioned above to sleeping on your left side (remember gravity?) it may be best to get your partner to push you onto your left side where possible (and vice versa obviously).
Sleeping On Your Left Side Isn’t Recommended For Everyone
Sleeping on your left side (or your right side for that matter) may have a negative impact for a number of people.
This is especially true for people who suffer from certain medical conditions including, heart disease, glaucoma, carpal tunnel syndrome, and sleep apnea.
For those of you who suffer from heart disease, sleeping on your left side can cause chest pains and difficulty in breathing.
Glaucoma is a condition where pressure builds up in the eyeball and in a worst case scenario this can lead to blindness.
By sleeping on your side, pressure tends to build up on the eye that is closest to the pillow. Therefore, if you wish to sleep on your side, please be careful, and choose either the left or right side accordingly.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can best be described as a nerve condition which typically affects the wrists. It is known to cause severe pain and numbness.
There are a wide variety of reasons why this condition may occur, but by sleeping on your side you may literally “crush” the arm and wrist.
And I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that this can lead to further nerve damage.
Sleep apnea is a condition where the muscles and tissues of the throat and mouth literally “collapse” while you sleep.
One of the symptoms is very loud snoring, but sleep apnea is actually far more deadly than simply snoring.
People who suffer from sleep apnea will generally stop breathing numerous times during the night, as their airways become blocked. This is most obvious from the choking or gasping for air noises they make throughout the night.
Whereas, with sleep apnea you are quite clearly struggling for breath, and the sounds you make can be quite scary to you or anyone sharing a bed to you, it is unlikely that you’ll die from this condition alone.
However, by starving yourself of oxygen numerous times throughout the night this can lead to some very serious medical conditions, which if not treated immediately can have devasting repercussions.
So How Exactly Do You Start Sleeping On Your Left Side?
The theory is actually easier than the practical side (no pun intended), believe it or not.
What I mean is, it’s all well-and-good starting out the night sleeping on your left side, but I know only too well from personal experience that I tend to toss and turn during the night.
Who knows what position I’ll wake up to in the morning.
There are methods I have either read or heard about to enforce the sleeping on your left side method. Some appear feasible, whereas others leave me shaking my head in disbelief.
In fact, one of the most common known methods to ensure you sleep on your side is what I like to refer to as the “tennis ball trick”.
Are you familiar with this?
If not, allow me to explain.
Apparently, some people advocate sewing a tennis ball into the back of their pyjama top, or even into the pocket of a t-shirt and wearing it back-to-front when you sleep.
The theory is that if you ever roll onto your back, the tennis ball will dig into your back, thus forcing you to return to side sleeping.
Sounds great in principle, but for me, I’m pretty sure that something digging into my back will simply wake me up time-and-time again throughout the night.
Not exactly advisable if you’re looking for a decent night’s sleep.
A far better solution appears to be placing a pillow behind your back.
Let’s face the facts, it’s a lot softer than a tennis ball, and you’re much less likely to wake up.
I have also heard that many people have tried sleeping on the opposite side of the bed than they usually do.
This may take some getting used to at first, but it actually sounds practical to me.
Finally, you may also wish to look at the type of mattress you have.
Having a soft mattress is extremely important if you’re going to be sleeping on your side.
Side sleeping can put undue pressure on the hips and shoulder, so it’s important that your mattress of choice is as comfortable as possible. Plus, a new and softer mattress should allow your spine to rest in its natural alignment. Win-win.
So, it appears that in the search for the best way to sleep that left side sleeping offers a whole host of benefits.
We are now aware that (due to gravity) it helps the function of various vital organs throughout the night,
I’m sure I don’t need to mention again how side sleeping can aid snoring.
However, please also be aware of the various reasons (as mentioned above) that left side sleeping may not be advisable for you if you suffer from certain medical conditions.
But, all-in-all, if you are having issues with getting a decent night’s rest, then turning to the left may be a suitable solution for you.