The side you sleep on makes a difference to your health – so which is best?

The average person spends around 26 years of their life sleeping – that’s over a third of our lives.

How we sleep matters, yet it’s often something we don’t give enough thought. We’re never really taught how to sleep properly – it’s just something that happens.

Most of us are probably guilty of settling down in bed at night in whatever position feels comfiest – but this often isn’t for the best.

And several studies show that the quality of our sleep impacts our health hugely.

A report from the Mental Health Foundation found that almost half of UK adults aged 18 and above (48%) say that poor sleep has negatively affected their mental health – making us more anxious, stressed, overwhelmed and irritable.

And it affects our physical health too, of course – in quite a major way.

A lack of sleep has been linked to conditions like dementia, and can shorten our overall life expectancy and reduce our day-to-day well-being. Studies suggest that sleeping five or less hours per night may increase mortality risk by as much as 15 percent.

Poor sleeping posture is also linked to chronic back and neck pain – while sleeping in a proper position can help improve these conditions.

So, to sum up, it’s important.

As we’ve spoken about before, side sleeping in the ‘dreamer’ position is optimal for posture and pain. However, studies have also suggested that which side you choose to sleep on also makes a difference to your health and how you feel when you wake up in the morning.

Left or right side?

There are theories as to which side is better to sleep on, with some evidence suggesting that sleeping on the left side can have health benefits for certain people. Some benefits cited are improved blood flow and less pressure on internal organs – both of which sound decidedly positive.

Left side sleeping has also been linked to improving acid reflux and digestion, For example, one study looked at a group of people over the course of a two day experiment.

Over the course of the 48 hours, participants were monitored resting on their right side after eating a high-fat meal. The same was then done but for the left side.

Researchers found that the right side was associated with increased heartburn and acid reflux, and concluded that sleeping on your left might be more beneficial in that sense.

Sleeping on your left side also has the potential to encourage regular bowel movements. According to Healthline, your small intestine moves waste to your large intestine through something called the ileocecal valve, found in the lower right abdomen.

Sleeping on your left side could potentially allow gravity to help with the process of moving waste through this valve.

If you’re pregnant, sleeping on your left side is also encouraged as it improves blood flow for the mother but also to the the foetus in the womb.

So in short, left slide sleeping stacks up better than right side sleeping.

However, if you’re naturally a back sleeper who finds it impossible to sleep on your side, the best way to make sure that your body is aligned is to use a thin pillow, so that your head isn’t propped up and putting pressure on your neck.

And, one of the main pieces of advice from the research out there is that front sleeping is the absolute worst for your posture and overall health – if you sleep this way, you should really try to stop.

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