Usually, when we talk about the sleeping position and whether it can affect health, we talk about what’s happening to our back and neck. These are very popular body parts that are affected by the type of mattress we use or something more specific, like what position your feet are in while you’re sleeping. But today, we want to look at another interesting body organ that can be affected by your sleeping position: your heart.
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How does sleeping on the left side benefit your heart?
If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, sleeping on your left side may protect against heart disease by keeping blood flowing away from the heart while you slumber. The reason? A normal heartbeat pushes blood through the heart muscle, helping it recover from beating all day long; when you lie on one side while sleeping, gravity helps push blood through veins back to the heart muscle, so it doesn’t stop pumping entirely during sleep. This reduces strain on your cardiovascular system and helps keep your ticker healthy.
Reasons to Sleep on Your Left Side
Sleeping on your left side can be beneficial for several reasons. Here are just some of the benefits:
1. Better Elimination
In many cases, sleeping on your left side helps to improve your bowel movements by encouraging the movement of waste through your colon. This is because the colon is located on the right side of the body, so sleeping on your left side allows it to work more efficiently.
2. Better Heart Function
You’re less likely to have heartburn or acid reflux if you sleep on your left side because gravity prevents stomach acid from rising into your esophagus and mouth. This also helps prevent snoring because when you’re lying on your back, air can get caught in your throat, which makes it difficult to breathe and causes snoring noises.
The heart is also located on the right side of the body, so sleeping on your left will allow it to function more efficiently. This leads to better blood circulation and can even help prevent heart attacks.
3. Back Pain Relief
Sleeping in this position will also help you to relieve back pain. This is because sleeping on your left side reduces pressure on the spine and helps it stay in its natural alignment. This will also reduce back pain caused by sleeping in a neutral position.
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4. Reduced Risk of Snoring and Sleep Apnea
The risk of snoring is reduced when you sleep on your left side because the tongue is pushed forward, opening the airway, so breathing is easier. In addition, this position also elevates your chin, which creates more space for air to get into your lungs, so there are fewer pauses in your breathing pattern while you sleep.
5. It’s ideal for pregnant women
During pregnancy, it’s essential to sleep in positions that support your growing belly. Sleeping on your left side is one of the best positions to help prevent back pain, heartburn, and constipation during pregnancy.
6. It could help with acid reflux
Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus due to a weak lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES is responsible for keeping stomach contents down in your stomach where they belong. When this valve does not work properly, acid can leak into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation known as heartburn or acid reflux. A study found that sleeping on one’s left side can help reduce symptoms of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) by improving LES function, thus reducing the risk of developing complications associated with GERD, such as Barrett’s Esophagus and cancer.
3 Tips for Side Sleeping
Sleeping on your side is good for the spine, but if done improperly, it can lead to neck and upper back pain.
Here are some tips for side sleepers:
1. Pick a Mattress That Supports Side Sleeping
Sleeping on your side is different from lying down sideways in bed. The mattress must accommodate your body’s position by providing adequate support for your upper body and head. A mattress that’s too soft or firm can cause discomfort and pain when you sleep on your side.
2. Get a Pillow Designed for Side Sleepers
Side sleeping requires additional support because you’re resting part of your body weight on one side at a time. Many pillows have a center channel that provides support when you sleep on one side only or has a contour shape that supports both sides of your head and neck simultaneously. Pillows with supportive fillings like memory foam and down are also good choices for people who sleep on their sides because they conform to the shape of your head without flattening out over time, as traditional foam pillows do.
3. Get Into a Symmetrical Side Sleeping Position
If you’re a side sleeper, try resting on your left or right side in a symmetrical position with both arms tucked under your pillow. This will allow blood flow to circulate evenly through both sides of your body, reducing swelling and pain.
When sleeping on your side, make sure to keep your hips and shoulders aligned with each other. This will prevent you from rolling into an awkward position that could lead to back pain in the morning.
What are the health conditions linked to a lack of sleep?
The following are some of the most common health conditions linked to a lack of sleep:
- Heart disease: People who don’t get enough sleep have higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which increase their risk for heart disease.
- Type 2 diabetes: Studies suggest that not getting enough sleep increases insulin resistance and glucose intolerance in healthy people and those with type 2 diabetes. This makes it harder for blood sugar to enter cells, which raises blood glucose levels and increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Interestingly enough, sleeping on your left side can benefit the heart. However, sleeping on one’s side generally puts one at risk for a sudden rise in blood pressure and possibly an increase in heart rate, which may prove harmful. While there have been no studies done directly on the topic of sleeping on one’s left side and its potential adverse effects, it is recommended that one should balance sleeping on the left side and right side. Although, if your doctor has given you the green light to sleep however you like, you should rest easy knowing that doing so may be suitable for your health!
Start sleeping on your left side: Sleep better!