While technological advances have made our lives easier, it’s increasingly obvious that these conveniences are also making us increasingly unhealthy. Not surprisingly, the rise of processed foods, brainless entertainment and lack of physical activity has caused our sleep quality to drastically decline.
Currently, 20-40% of American adults suffer from insomnia in the course of any year while 1 out of 3 people experiences the condition at some point in their life. In total, 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders (1).
These statistics alone are evidence that more Americans are struggling with their sleep patterns than ever before. Still, the importance of sleep seems to go undervalued, leading to a host of physical problems.
The Importance of Sleep
Sleep is an essential time during which your body recovers and heals itself. Think of it as your body’s time to take out the trash and repair any damage before you wake up. Without the appropriate amount of rest, your body begins to have difficulty conducting its everyday tasks.
In fact, poor sleep leads to impaired attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem-solving skills as well as a diminished sex drive. It can also contribute towards depression, premature aging of the skin and weight gain (2).
Other serious conditions linked to poor sleep include:
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Irregular heartbeat
- High blood pressure
How to Improve The Quality of Your Sleep
One of the easiest ways to get more out of your sleep is by simply adjusting the position you sleep in.
There are 4 main sleeping positions, including lying on your right side, left side, back, or belly (3). While every position has its own pros and cons, researchers are finding that sleeping on the left side holds the highest amounts of benefits with the least drawbacks (4).
1. Prevents Heartburn
Sleeping on your left side can help alleviate acid reflux or heartburn, particularly after a spicy or acidic meal.
This is because gravity forces your stomach acid into the pit of your stomach instead of sending it back up your esophagus, which occurs when you sleep on your right side (5,6).
2. Prevents Snoring
You can also try sleeping on your left side to relieve sleep apnea and snoring. This position opens airways by keeping your tongue and throat muscles in a neutral position.
In contrast, sleeping on your back pushes these muscles towards the back of your throat and causes distinct snoring noises and you struggle to breathe (7).
3. Boosts Digestion
Lying on your left side improves digestion by putting less strain on your liver. This, in turn, stimulates bile flow and increases nutrients absorption (8).
4. Clears Lymph
John Douillard, an experienced and respected Ayurvedic Practitioner explains that “The left side of the body is the dominant lymphatic side. The majority of the body’s lymph fluid drains into the thoracic duct, located on the left side.”
He suggests that sleeping on your left side stimulates the drainage of toxins from the lymph nodes (9).
5. Improves Brain Health
Researchers have also discovered that sleeping on your left side helps your brain helps your brain filter out waste and can even help prevent certain health conditions, like Alzheimer’s.
6. Improves Circulation
This position improves blood circulation throughout the night. In fact, sleeping on your side takes pressure off your vena cava (largest vein in the body), which is located on the right side of your body and supplies blood to the right side of your heart (10).
Pregnant women are often advised to sleep on their left side as it significantly improves blood flow to the heart, fetus, uterus, and kidneys.
How to Sleep on Your Left Side
With all of the obvious benefits with a simple change in position, it may be time to change your sleeping habits.
If you’re having a hard time switching sides, simply place a body pillow on your right side to keep you from rolling over or keep a nightlight on the right side of your bed to naturally draw you towards the left.
You can also try keeping a pillow on your left side and placing it in between your knees and shoulders as if you were giving it a hug.