Note: Though healthy in general, left-side sleeping may not be suitable in some cases, like for those who have had heart troubles in the past.
People the world over love sleep dearly. There is no denying that it is one of life’s sweetest pleasures.
It’s also well known that sleep is important for one’s overall health and well-being. You cannot expect to function normally and perform to the best of your potential without a good night’s sleep.
Yes, you may be able to get by for a while, but you will likely be mentally disoriented and low on energy, until you are able to take it no more.
Lack of sleep also causes a horde of diseases and possibly fatal conditions. It is one of the biggest factors associated with heart disease.
Along with maintaining a proper sleep pattern, you can give your health a boost by sleeping in a certain position.
Research has shown that sleeping on the left side, as your grandmother may have often told you, is not merely an old wives’ tale but has actual health benefits.
Here are some reasons why you should sleep on your left side.
1. Better Sleep During Pregnancy
In pregnant women, a left-sided sleeping position can prevent the liver from applying pressure on the uterus and promote blood circulation to it, along with improved blood flow to the fetus.
It may also help relieve back pain. Therefore, a left-sided sleeping position may help a pregnant woman sleep well, which is undeniably a major challenge in pregnancy.
2. Better Lymphatic Drainage
The lymphatic system is a web of tissues and organs that carry fluid called lymph throughout the body. Lymph fluid performs the crucial tasks of carrying infection-combating white blood cells through your system and ridding your body of toxins and other harmful substances.
The body’s lymphatic system is dominantly located on the left, and the left side is where the body transports and drains the larger portion of the lymph fluid.
The travelling lymph fluid, carrying with it proteins, metabolites and toxins, is purified by lymph nodes along the way, and finally goes into the heart.
While scientific evidence is yet to be gained in this respect, alternative medicine systems like Ayurveda believe that illnesses that occur on the left side of the body are due to congestion of the lymphatic system.
The spleen is also located on the left side of your body. It is one of the major organs within your lymphatic system. However, it not only purifies the lymph fluid but also your blood.
When you sleep on your left side, gravity allows the drainage of blood and fluid through the spleen to be gradual and relaxed.
It is important to remember that the lymphatic system does not work in conjunction with the heart. It drains the body with the help of muscle contractions, and the pumping action of the heart has nothing to do with it.
Therefore, sleeping on the left allows you to aid the proper drainage and functioning of the lymphatic system inadvertently with the help of gravity.
3. Better Elimination of Waste Products
The body eliminates waste products through the intestines. The small intestine transports waste products through the ileocecal valve (ICV) to the large intestine on the right side.
The large intestine then transports this waste material through the stomach on the right, ultimately dumping it into the descending colon located on the left side of your body.
When you sleep on your left side, the gravitational forces make it easy for the food to move from the small intestine to the large intestine.
Furthermore, as the night progresses and you sleep on your left side, the waste from the large intestine dumps into the colon gradually and slowly.
This allows the colon to be full and ready to eliminate waste in the form of stools properly and easily the next morning.
4. Better Digestion
The stomach and the pancreas make the digestive enzymes in your body. When you assume the left-side sleeping position, the stomach and pancreas hang comfortably and have adequate space to carry out digestion.
In this case also, gravity allows the food to move through the stomach in a gradual manner and the pancreatic enzymes to release gradually, as needed.
However, when you sleep on the right side, these organs hang in a slightly awkward and uncomfortable position that often makes the food and enzymes empty into the stomach all at once, causing discomfort and disrupted digestion.
5. Heartburn Reduction
Sleeping on the left side may also help reduce acid reflux in your body and may help clear out the existing acid more quickly than if you lie on your right side.
Sleeping in the wrong position can cause the stomach acid to enter the esophagus, thus causing heartburn and other discomfort. This, of course, happens because your stomach is situated on the left side of your body.
In fact, a 2000 study published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology found that the right-side sleeping position causes higher acid levels and an increased incidence of acid reflux as compared to sleeping on the left side.
In most cases, you may notice the beneficial effects of the left-side sleeping position when you suffer frequent heartburn and acid reflux. If you experience heartburn after eating, you can even try lying down on your left side for a good 10 minutes for relief.
6. Back Pain Relief
This is just one of the benefits of sleeping on your side, whether right or left, but with all the benefits of sleeping on the left, you might as well assume a left position for your back pain, too.
People with chronic back pain must not, and probably cannot comfortably, sleep on their backs. Sleeping on your side releases pressure on the spine and reduces back pain.
7. Relieves Varicose Veins
Sleeping on your left side is also beneficial for those suffering from varicose veins, especially in the lower limbs.
It helps take pressure off a large vein called the inferior vena cava which is located on the right side of the body. This vein carries blood from the lower half of the body to the heart.