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Sleeping on Which Side is Better?

April 20, 2022

Sleeping on Which Side is Better?

As we all know, getting a good night’s sleep can make the difference between a good day where you feel full of energy and well-rested, and a bad one where you feel drowsy and sluggish. Getting restful sleep depends on a variety of factors, including whether or not you have any sleep disorders like sleep apnea or insomnia, your sleep habits, your lifestyle, and other factors. But did you know that your sleep position might also be affecting your sleep quality?

Your sleep position is the way you sleep on your mattress. Sleep positions include sleeping on your back, side sleeping (right and left), stomach sleeping, and many variations of each of these types. Many people develop a preference for how they like to fall asleep, and how they feel most comfortable on their bed. For example, you may sleep on your side or back, and prefer sleeping on one side over another.

Although you may not have given it much thought before, there are benefits and drawbacks to different sleep postures. In this article, we will discuss which side is the best sleeping position, the benefits and drawbacks of each side, and the types of side positions.

Sleeping on Your Side

Side sleeping is also known as the lateral sleeping position, and it is the most common type of sleep position, making up for more than half the population at 74% of people. Sleeping on your stomach and sleeping on your back are less common. There’s a good reason so many people choose side sleeping: not only is it more comfortable for many people, but it has other benefits as well.

Side sleeping may prevent you from snoring unless you have arthritis, in which case it may make you snore. In addition, if you side sleep and like to curl up, it restricts the diaphragm, preventing you from breathing deeply. There are many other benefits to side sleeping that stomach sleepers and back sleepers may not receive, they include the following:

Benefits of Side Sleeping

  • Supports good brain health: Sleeping on your side may be good for your brain. Our brains clear out waste more quickly while we sleep compared to when we are awake. The process of clearing brain waste is known as brain glymphatic transport. Although it is unclear whether sleeping position affects the brain's ability to clear waste, one study performed on rats found that sleeping on your side may improve the brain’s ability to clear waste.
  • Pregnancy: sleeping on your side while you are pregnant in the third trimester may be safer for the fetus than sleeping on your back. Although the risk of stillbirth is low (1 in 200), sleeping on your back may increase the chances of a stillbirth. However, some experts argue that sleeping position does not increase the chances of stillbirth, and the odds still remain very low. Also, sleeping on your back during the third trimester may put extra pressure on blood vessels oxygen to the uterus and the fetus.
  • Choking: Stomach sleepers and side sleepers reduce their risk of choking on vomit by sleeping on their stomach. If someone has a stomach virus or has consumed too much alcohol or other drugs, they may be at risk of vomiting during the night. Side sleeping will help prevent them from choking on their vomit while sleeping.
  • Snoring and sleep apnea: If you sleep on your back and snore, sleeping on your side may help fix this problem and reduce snoring. Also, sleeping on your side is beneficial to those with sleep apnea, which causes frequent pauses in breathing during sleep. Sleep apnea may prevent people from getting restful sleep, so in this case, people who sleep on their sides may see many of the benefits that result from getting good sleep quality.

Drawbacks of Side Sleeping

Although there are many advantages to sleeping on your side, there are a few potential drawbacks as well. These drawbacks have not been scientifically proven, but they may have some truth behind them.

  • Wrinkles: There are many benefits to side sleeping, but one disadvantage may be wrinkles. Sleeping on your side presses your face down, which may cause the skin on your face to expand over time, and increase facial wrinkles.
  • Sagging breasts: Although this isn’t proven scientifically, it remains a concern for many women. Side sleeping may cause the breast ligament to stretch over time, causing sagging.
  • Pregnancy: While side sleeping may or may not be beneficial to the fetus during the third trimester, these findings are still unclear. In addition, side sleeping may make shoulder, neck, and back pain worse.

Benefits of Sleeping on Your Right Side

Benefits to the Sympathetic Nervous System

The sympathetic nervous system controls our flight or fight response, which in turn affects our blood pressure and heart rate. Right-side sleeping may benefit the sympathetic nervous system, resulting in a stable heart rate, and better blood pressure, both of which may help you sleep better, and stay healthy overall.

Sleep Apnea

Right side sleeping, and side sleeping in general, prevents the problems of Sleep Apnea, that the supine position, or sleeping on your back, may contribute to.

Eases Pain on Your Left Side

Sleeping on your right side may relieve pain on your left side. For example, if you’re experiencing shoulder pain, back pain, hip pain, or neck pain on your left side, sleeping on your right side may take the pressure off the left side, and allow it to recover.

Drawbacks of Sleeping on Your Right Side

Worsens Heartburn and Acid Reflux

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a more serious version of acid reflux, both of which can contribute to heartburn. Not only do heartburn and acid reflux cause discomfort, but they can also negatively impact your sleep. Sleeping on your right side may worsen the effects of GERD, and therefore acid reflux and heartburn.

Bad for the Heart

According to W. Christopher Winter, MD, medical director of the Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, sleeping on the right side may interfere with the blood flow to your heart. In an interview with CNN, she explained that blood flows throughout your body, and returns to the heart on the right side. If you sleep on your right side, you place additional pressure on the blood vessels that transport blood to your heart. However, more medically reviewed research is required in order to conclude whether people who sleep on their right side are at a higher risk for cardiovascular complications.

Pressure on the Nerves

Sleeping on your right side can increase pressure on the nerves along your right arm and leg. Consistently sleeping on your right side may contribute to hip, neck, back, arm, and leg pain.

Benefits of Sleeping on Your Left Side

Encourages Regular Bowel Movements

The ileocecal valve, which is found in the right abdomen, allows the movement of waste from your small intestine to your large intestine. Sleeping on your left side may allow gravity to promote the process of moving waste through the ileocecal valve, making for more regular bowel movements.

Good for Pregnant Women

Sleeping on your left side can increase blood flow to the fetus, and decrease pressure on the liver. For women who develop pregnancy-induced liver disease, cholestasis, sleeping on the left side is especially beneficial. One study also found that sleeping on your left side the night before birth may decrease your risk of stillbirth. Although this study was published in a highly-respected journal, the results have not been replicated in other studies.

Reduces Heartburn

A medically reviewed study from The Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology found that sleeping on your left side may reduce heartburn.

Supine Sleep

As with right-side sleepers, left-side sleepers may have reduced symptoms from obstructive sleep apnea and snoring, allowing them to enjoy deeper, undisturbed sleep.

Drawbacks of Sleeping on Your Left Side

Increased Nerve Pressure

As with right-side sleeping, consistent left-side sleepers can experience increased pressure on the nerves along the left side of their body. So regularly sleeping in this position may contribute to neck, back, hip, and leg pain.

Types of Side Sleeping Positions

As we’ve discussed, there are two main types of side sleeping positions: left and right. However, there are variations of both of these sleeping positions. Each one is a little bit different, and comes with its own added advantages and disadvantages.

The Fetal Position

The fetal position is named after the position the fetus takes up in the womb. As far as sleeping positions go, the fetal position is a type of side sleep where the legs are tucked upwards towards the torso. If you “curl up” when you sleep, you sleep in the fetal position. The fetal position is good for lower back pain, spine support, sleep apnea, snoring, and pregnancy.

The Log Position

If you sleep on your side with both arms straight down, you are a log sleeper. Log sleepers may experience reduced neck and back pain, because this sleep position keeps your spine aligned and straight. It may also help you if you experience sleep apnea.

The Spooner Position

The spooner position is what it sounds like, it is a sleeping position where you sleep on your side with the front of your body close to your partner. This sleeping position has its drawbacks. For example, your partner may wake you up while you sleep when they move, and the heat from their body may also make you feel hot during the night. However, spooning and cuddling may also be good for your health. When you cuddle, your body releases oxytocin, which can reduce stress, and make you fall asleep faster.

The Yearner Position

If you sleep on your side with your arms out in front of you, you are a yearner. This position doesn’t have any significant advantages or drawbacks; it matters more which side you are “yearning” for.

Tips for Sleeping Better on Your Side

Here are some tips for sleeping better on your side, and sleeping better in general:

  • Alternate sides. Sleeping on the same side every night can put pressure on the same points night after night, potentially worsening aches and pains in the body. Alternating sides throughout the night, or on different nights, will help relieve some of that pain, so that pressure isn’t always directed on the same spots.
  • Practice healthy sleep habits. Try waking up and going to bed around the same time every night. This will help to better establish your circadian rhythm, so you start to get sleepy around your bedtime, and naturally wake up when it’s time.
  • Limit caffeine consumption. Caffeine limits your ability to fall asleep at night. If you don’t want to give up caffeine, simply try drinking it earlier in the day, or reducing the amount of caffeine you have throughout the day and at night.
  • Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated will help you sleep better, and keep you healthy. You should be drinking water at night, so you do not wake up dehydrated. Just don’t overdo it, or you may need to wake up at night to use the bathroom.
  • Exercise. Exercising during the day is good for your health, and will make it easier to fall asleep faster.
  • Practice relaxing bedtime routines. Practicing relaxing bedtime routines like meditation, taking warm baths, drinking herbal tea, or reading a book may help you relax before bed, and fall asleep faster.
  • Support your spine. In order to prevent back pain, make sure your spine is properly supported. Poor sleep posture can result in non-specific spinal symptoms, often causing back pain. You can use a pillow to elevate your head, or place one between your legs to align your spine, and prevent any spinal issues.
  • Improve your sleep environment. Disturbances can negatively impact every type of sleeper. Whether you’re a side sleeper or not you should make sure that your sleep environment is as comfortable as possible. This means low to no light, comfortable temperature, low to little noise, and comfortable blankets, pillows, and mattresses. If light from passing cars is waking you up in the night, try investing in better curtains or drapes. If noise from your partner, your family/roommates, or outside is waking you up, try listening to ambient music, or white noise at night to drown out the sound.
  • Get the right mattress and pillow. Getting the right mattress and pillow for your particular sleeping position is crucial. If you’re a side sleeper, and have a firm mattress, you could experience pain in your shoulder and sides. The right mattress and pillow, on the other hand, will better distribute your weight, and reduce neck pain, back pain, and aches in general.

Getting the Right Mattress

As mentioned above, getting the right mattress for you is a necessary part of sleeping deeply, falling asleep quickly, staying asleep, and supporting your sleeping position. If your mattress is too soft or too firm, it can make neck and back pain problems worse. The perfect mattress for you should alleviate these problems, help support your spine, and make you feel comfortable.

If you’re looking for a comfortable mattress that will support a happy and healthy body, while also supporting a healthy planet, look no further than Eco Terra Beds.

What are Eco Terra Beds?

Eco Terra Beds is a mattress company devoted to supporting good sleep, and a healthy environment. We recognize that many synthetic mattresses offer little support and comfort, and may even be damaging your health by using synthetic and toxic ingredients.

Eco Terra on the other hand uses natural materials to craft our 100% cotton and wool hybrid latex mattresses. Eco Terra mattresses all pass the process of the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), meeting the industry's highest environmental criteria. Plus, non-toxic and chemical-free, Eco Terra is both eco-friendly, and sleep-friendly.

With Eco Terra Beds, you can select a mattress in any size from Twin to CAL King. Furthermore, you can choose the type of firmness that is right for you: medium or medium-firm. We offer a handcrafted latex mattress made with pure, 100% latex. It comes with a supportive fabric-encased coil core, and a soft, breathable organic cotton cover with organic wool. All of our mattresses are guaranteed to be made without polyurethane and toxins, so you can sleep easy on your healthy mattress.

Takeaway

Getting a good night’s sleep is important for everyone. Whether you have a busy day ahead of you, or are just relaxing on the weekend, getting good sleep will make you feel better, and support a healthy lifestyle. Practicing healthy sleep habits, like going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, may help you sleep better. In addition, an important part of being comfortable with your favorite sleeping position, and getting restful sleep, is choosing a supportive mattress.

Although there are more advantages and fewer drawbacks to sleeping on your left side, ultimately the best sleeping position is different for everyone. If you are a stomach sleeper or back sleeper, then side sleeping may not be the best sleeping position for you. You should experiment yourself to see if you get better sleep on one side over the other, and on which side you are more comfortable sleeping. Also, take note of the benefits and drawbacks to both sleeping positions and variations to side sleeping to figure out what would benefit you the most.

Furthermore, you can always try spontaneous sleep positions and new sleep positions. Changing sides when you wake up at night, or switching positions nightly, may help. And if you are a back or stomach sleeper, you should try side sleeping. Lastly, if you’re still unsure or concerned about other health complications related to your sleeping positions, talk to your doctor to see if you would benefit from sleeping on either side.

Patrick Gunther

Patrick is an accomplished writer. He has been in the retail mattress space for the past 11 years, and more specifically in the natural mattress niche. He blogs on the subjects of natural mattresses, sleep, health, fitness, and green living.



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