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It's Worse to Sleep on This Side of Your Body, Says Science

It's good sleep hygiene to sleep on your side. It's better sleep hygiene to sleep on the correct side.
FACT CHECKED BY Alex Daniel

If you obsess about sleep, you already know that there are good and bad positions you should use in bed. The worst sleep position of all? It's sleeping on your stomach (without a pillow underneath your midsection for support). "This position puts the most pressure on your spine's muscles and joints because it flattens the natural curve of your spine," observes Raymond J. Hah, MD, a spine surgeon at USC. "Sleeping on your stomach also forces you to turn your neck, which can cause neck and upper back pain."

As for the good positions for sleep, many leading health experts will rightly tell you that you could do far worse than to sleep on your side. (More on this later.) But if you're a dedicated side sleeper—and good for you, if you are—science has shown that you'd be wise to avoid sleeping on one side of your body, and for several health reasons. Curious to know more? Read on to learn everything you need to know, and for some great ways to sleep better starting now, see here for The One Secret Sleep Trick That Can Change Your Life.

1

Why It's Good to Sleep on Your Side

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While many experts will tell you that sleeping on your back is the best way to go, there are benefits to sleeping on your side, as well. For starters, side-sleeping will reduce your snoring, which is—obviously—a major part of sleep apnea. According to the Sleep Foundation, sleep apnea is known to put you at risk of weight gain and obesity, as well as hormone disorders. According to a study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, having sleep apnea is associated with anxiety, cognitive impairment, and even depression.

Side-sleeping is also great for back, neck, and hip pain. As we at ETNT Mind+Body recently reported, you simply need to ensure that you have a pillow between your legs while you sleep. "Side sleepers often hitch their upper leg forward, which causes their hips and back to twist during the night," observes Greatist. "Adding a pillow between your legs prevents your upper leg from moving forward and reduces stress on your hips, back, and legs."

The pillow will ensure that your hips, pelvis, and spine all stay aligned all through the night, and will help assuage back and hip pain, neck pain, sciatica, a herniated disc, and pregnancy-related pains.

What's more, according to W. Christopher Winter, MD, a sleep expert and medical director of the Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center in Virginia, side-sleeping may in fact be good for your brain. He notes that scientific evidence suggests that side-sleeping is associated with a healthier glymphatic system, which helps protect your brain from Alzheimer's.

That being said, you should put some thought into which side you want to sleep on…

2

Sleeping on Your Right Side Is Worse

Blond Woman can't sleep at night.
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Fact: On the inside, your body isn't perfectly symmetrical. As Winter describes to CNN, your blood flows throughout your body and ultimately returns to your heart on the right side. However, while you sleep on your right side, "the pressure of your body smashes up against the blood vessels that return to your ticker," he says. As for left-side sleeping: "sleeping on your left side with your right side not squished is supposed to potentially increase blood flow back to your heart," he said. And for more ways to sleep better, consider trying This Easy Trick for "Falling Asleep in 5 Minutes" That's Going Viral.

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That's Not All…

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If you suffer from heartburn or acid reflux, you'd be wise to avoid sleeping on your right side. As one study published in The Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology found, people who have heartburn found that sleeping on their right side aggravated their symptoms. And for more sleep news, see here for the One Secret Side Effect of Having Weird Dreams, Says Study.

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Why You Should Sleep in Your Left Side

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It's simply a fact that several studies have found that sleeping on your left side reduces the pains of living with heartburn and acid reflux. But there are further benefits, as well. As Healthline reports, sleeping on your left side is also better for your bowel movements, as "gravity can help take waste on a trip through the ascending colon." So not only will sleeping on your left side help your brain, your heart, your body pains, and your heartburn, but it will also aid in digestion. Just don't forget to put a pillow between your knees! And for more sleep news, don't miss The Secret Side Effect of Changing Your Bedtime, Says New Study.

William Mayle
William Mayle is a UK-based writer who specializes in science, health, fitness, and other lifestyle topics. Read more