Which is the Best Side to Sleep On?
The Science of Sleeping on Your Side
Have you ever wondered if it’s better to sleep on your left side or your right side? While going over the different sleeping positions, some of the most common benefits of sleeping on the left side is that it can help ease the discomfort felt during heartburn and acid reflux. In addition, sleeping on the left side is also often recommended for pregnant women as it promotes better blood circulation.
Well, it turns out that there are much more health benefits that can be gained when sleeping on your left side. We’ve continued to do extensive research on the topic and have spoken to some of our friends who are side sleepers and we’ve come up with a pretty good list of benefits you can attain by sleeping on your left. Based on his knowledge in Ayurveda, John Douillard argues that there are a total of 7 benefits of sleeping on your left hand side. To better understand these these benefits, it is imperative to have a basic understanding of where the different organs are located in our body. We’ve attached a figure for your reference.
Now that you have that as a reference, let’s go over the key points that make sleeping on the left side more beneficial as reported by many people.
Better Blood Circulation
As can be seen in the diagram, the human heart is on the left side of the body. The aorta which is the main artery leaves the top of the heart and arches to the left side of the body before it heads down into the abdomen. As such, sleeping on the left side will help reduce the pumping workload of your heart, simply because blood is flowing with the help of gravity. On the other hand, sleeping on the right side requires blood to be pumped against gravity and therefore require more work done by your heart. In other words, this translates into less amount of energy your heart needs to consume to circulate blood.
More Effective Elimination
The small intestine excretes waste through the ileocecal valve on the right side of the body into the beginning of the large intestine. The large intestine then transports waste across your body to the left side where it eliminates waste into the colon. Using the same logic as better blood circulation, it is argued that sleeping on the left side helps facilitate the movement of body waste from the small intestine to the large intestine and finally into the colon by making use of gravity.
Efficient Lymph Drainage
Most of the body’s lymphatic system is located on the left side of the body. One important component of the lymphatic system is the thoracic duct (the largest lymphatic vessel), located on the left side of the body, which collects the body’s lymphatic fluid. Before the lymphatic fluid is drained into the thoracic duct, body wastes are purified by lymph nodes. From the thoracic duct, it the drains into the systemic circulation at the left subclavian vein. The Ayurveda branch of medicine believes that lymphatic system congestion on the left side results in left side ailments. Similarly imbalances in the liver, which is on the right side of the body results in ailments on the right side of the body. The general idea here is that since sleeping on the left side facilitates the drainage of lymphatic fluid, it avoids congestions and therefore eliminates the frequency of illnesses.
The last major benefit that can be gained by sleeping on the left side of your body is that it helps promote digestion. The way our stomach is shaped, which is like a pocket which hangs down on the left side allows digestion to take place more efficiently. On the other hand, sleeping on the right side will make the stomach be placed somewhat unnaturally which can cause indigestion. For organs such as the gall bladder and the liver which are located on the right side of the body, sleeping on the left side allows them to hang freely which allows them to carry out their respective functions in the digestive system efficiently.
Take Away Message
While some of these benefits have not been scientifically proven, they seem logical based on the teachings of Ayurveda. Note that there are doctors who have recommended sleeping on the left just to promote better blood circulation for pregnant women and to reduce the discomfort caused by heartburn and acid reflux. I personally know of a few people including my father who often experience acid reflux and have told me that sleeping on their left side helps tremendously.
More importantly, these experiences show that there are definitely things that individuals are not aware of in terms of getting the most out of their sleep. Understanding the anatomy of the human body and how it plays a role in sleeping “healthily” is only one part of the story. The other part involves selecting the best mattress for individuals who sleep on their sides, picking out suitable pillows as well as taking steps to prepare your body for sleep.
So what do you think? Do you agree with any of the scientific claims on the health benefits of sleeping on the left side?
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