7. For Heartburn
If you have GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), indigestion, or heartburn, sleeping on your left side may help.
This is the best sleeping position to take pressure off the stomach and esophagus (12).
8. For Poor Digestion
If you have digestive issues, placing a pillow between your legs while sleeping on your left side will take a further strain off your digestive system to allow things to flow freely while you sleep.
It’s also important to wait a few hours after your last meal before hitting the hay to make sure you don’t get indigestion.
9. For Neck Pain
Supporting the neck is key, whatever position you sleep in. On your back or side are easiest on your neck. (11) If you sleep on your back, roll up a small towel (or neck roll) and stick it inside your pillowcase with your pillow, adjusting the towel so it’s just under the curve of your neck. Your head should rest comfortably on your pillow. There are also special funny-looking pillows designed specifically for neck support.
Harvard Medical School has the following additional suggestions for getting rid of that pain in the neck (12):
- Try using a feather pillow, which easily conforms to the shape of the neck. Feather pillows will collapse over time, however, and should be replaced every year or so.
- Another option is a traditionally shaped pillow with “memory foam” that conforms to the contour of your head and neck. Some cervical pillows are also made with memory foam. Manufacturers of memory-foam pillows claim they help foster proper spinal alignment.
- Avoid using too high or stiff a pillow, which keeps the neck flexed overnight and can result in morning pain and stiffness.
- If you sleep on your side, keep your spine straight by using a pillow that is higher under your neck than your head.
- When you are riding on a plane, train, or car, or even just reclining to watch TV, a horseshoe-shaped pillow can support your neck and prevent your head from dropping to one side if you doze. If the pillow is too large behind the neck, however, it will force your head forward.
- For Your Brain
While we sleep, our brains are as active as when we’re awake—and it’s not just conjuring dreams, it’s cleaning house. Brain waste is processed and eliminated during sleep.
Most animals (humans included) sleep on their sides. A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience looked into why this might be. Researchers observed activities in the brain for prone (stomach), supine (back), and lateral (side) sleep positions. They found that cerebrospinal fluid that gets flushed around the brain to clear toxins is more efficient when in a lateral sleeping position. (13) The brain is, therefore, better able to eliminate waste and prevent the plaque build-up that can lead to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
The best advice is to sleep however is most comfortable for you. Regular adequate sleep is crucial for all the body’s functions. Dreams are a bonus.