Your Sleep Position Could be Affecting Your Health
A good night's sleep is one of nature's best medicines and crucial to our wellbeing. But did you know your sleep position can impact not only how well you sleep, but your overall health?
According to the ancient teachings of Ayurveda, sleeping on your left side, in a fetal position not only benefits your sleep but your digestion and overall health. Left side sleeping leads to enhanced blood flow which is why it’s a recommendation for pregnant women. Other benefits of left side sleeping include better lymphatic drainage, reduced heartburn, enhanced digestion, and better elimination of waste products.
Lymphatic drainage: Your lymphatic system carries fluid called lymph throughout the body. Lymph fluid carries infection-combating white blood cells and rids your body of toxins and other harmful substances. The body’s lymphatic system is dominantly located on the left side of the body. Hence, sleeping on the left side better filters lymph fluid, and waste via the lymph nodes.
Enhanced digestion: When you think of sleep and digestion, think of gravity. While you sleep or rest on your left side, you allow gravity to do most of the work. Food waste can move from the large intestine to the descending colon more smoothly. Your stomach and pancreas can hang naturally, and allow the digestive and pancreatic enzymes to work their magic, boosting digestion.
Reduced heartburn: In a study in The Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, scientists recruited a group of healthy subjects and fed them high-fat meals on different days to induce heartburn. Immediately after the meals, the subjects spent four hours lying on one side or the other as devices measured their esophageal acidity. Ultimately, the researchers found that “the total amount of reflux time was significantly greater” when the subjects lay on their right side. Lying on your left side can reduce acid reflux symptoms more effectively and quickly.
I Heart Naps: Ayurveda recommends taking a short nap on your left side (less than 10 min) or leaning on your left side after consuming a heavy meal. This will help your organs relax, process and digest your meal better.
Better elimination of waste products: When you sleep on your left side, gravitational forces make it easy for food to move from the small intestine to the large intestine. The waste from the large intestine dumps into the colon gradually and slowly. By morning, the descending colon is full of waste and ready to eliminate.
TIP: Drink 8 fl/oz of water stored in a copper vessel upon rising (on an empty stomach) in the morning. This will stimulate the gastrointestinal tract and peristalsis - wave like movements pushing food through the digestive system, leading to better elimination of waste products.
There are so many other benefits of sleeping on the left side, such as back pain relief, reduction of snoring, improvement of spleen health and relief of varicose veins. But as always, if you’re unsure about what sleep positions may be best for you, please consult a medical professional.