Which Side To Sleep On: Left vs. Right for Digestion and More
Sleeping on your right side is great for heart health while left side sleeping is better for sleep apnea and digestion. Read on to learn more about the overall benefits of sleeping on your side.
Side sleeping is best for people who are pregnant, have digestive issues, or high blood pressure.
To reduce the risk of acid reflux or sleep apnea, consider sleeping on your left side.
Sleeping on your right side is generally better for heart health.
Did you know?
Side sleeping is the most common sleep position, with approximately 41% of adults favoring this position.
Although many people agree that side sleeping is the best sleeping position, there is less clarity on exactly which side to sleep on. With conditions like snoring, sleep apnea, and gut issues, the left side is usually recommended. For issues around cardiovascular health, the right is usually considered a better option.
In this post, we zoom in on the benefits of side sleeping and also cover specific questions like “Is sleeping on your side bad for your back?” or “Where is the best place to put pillows when sleeping on your side?”
Which Side Is Better To Sleep On?
The choice of whether to sleep on your right or left side depends on comfort and specific health concerns. Because sleeping on either side have its advantages and potential drawbacks, here are a few things to consider when choosing which is the “better” side to sleep on:
Sleeping on Your Left Side:
1. Digestive Benefits: Sleeping on your left side can be beneficial for digestion as it helps to reduce the risk of heartburn or acid reflux. It allows the stomach to rightfully be positioned lower than the esophagus, which helps prevent stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus.
2. Reduced Pressure on Organs: This position can relieve pressure on internal organs and promote better blood circulation, particularly when it comes to the heart and the vena cava, a major vein carrying blood to the heart.
3. Lymphatic Drainage: The left side of the body contains the lymphatic system, and sleeping on the left side may assist in lymphatic drainage and help the body remove waste products more effectively.
Sleeping on Your Right Side:
Reduced Pressure on the Liver: Sleeping on your right side can reduce pressure on the liver, which may be beneficial if you have liver conditions or discomfort in that area.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): In some cases, people with GERD or acid reflux find sleeping on their right side more comfortable as it may prevent stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus.
Ultimately, the best side to sleep on is the one that provides you with the most restful and comfortable sleep while minimizing any potential discomfort or health concerns. Many people switch between sides during the night or find a diagonal position most comfortable.
Irrespective of which side you prefer, consider sleeping on your side to get your best rest. Below we’ve set out some of the advantages of side sleeping.
Benefits of Side Sleeping:
A side sleeping position is very common and whether you want to sleep on the right side or left side, here are some ways this can be beneficial.
1. Reduced Risk of Snoring: Sleeping on your side can help reduce or for some people even eliminate snoring. It opens up the airway and allows for easier breathing, reducing the vibration of soft tissues in the throat that leads to snoring.
2. Improved Breathing for Sleep Apnea: Side sleeping is considered the best sleeping position for sleep apnea as it helps keep the airway more open, reducing the frequency and severity of apnea events.
3. Less Acid Reflux and Heartburn: Sleeping on your left side, in particular, can help prevent stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus, reducing the risk of acid reflux and heartburn.
5. Reduced Pressure Points: Side sleeping can help distribute your body weight more evenly, reducing pressure on specific areas of the body, such as the lower back, hips, and shoulders
6. Improved Lymphatic Drainage: The lymphatic system, which helps remove waste products from the body, can function more efficiently when you’re sleeping on your side. This can aid in the body’s natural detoxification process.
7. Comfort During Pregnancy: Many pregnant women find side sleeping, particularly the left side, to be the most comfortable position. It can help improve blood flow to the fetus and reduce pressure on the pregnant person’s internal organs. Side sleeping is especially beneficial when supplemented with an ergonomic body pillow.
8. Less Wrinkling: Sleeping on your side with the right pillowcase can reduce facial contact with the pillow, potentially leading to fewer wrinkles and skin creases
9. Prevention of Neck Pain: Proper pillow selection is essential, but side sleeping can help maintain a natural neck position, reducing the risk of waking up with a stiff neck
10. Reduced Back Pain: For people with lower back pain, side sleeping with a pillow between the knees can help relieve discomfort and align the spine more comfortably. So if you’re looking for how to heal lower back pain fast, then side sleeping is a great place to start.
To maximize all these advantages, consider experimenting with different mattress firmness levels and pillow types. Body pillows are excellent for side sleepers because they can help you keep your spine aligned as you sleep.
If you’re looking for a sustainable option, our Cuddler – an ergonomic body pillow – is made from a natural tree sap foamy filling and comes with a variety of eco-friendly fabric cover choices. The Cuddler is a good choice for your sleep health and the health of our planet.
In the next section we outline why side sleeping is usually considered the healthiest option.
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What is the Healthiest Sleeping Side?
The healthiest sleeping side may vary from person to person, and it can depend on various factors, including your comfort, health, and personal preferences. Let’s take a closer look at the potential health impacts of sleeping on different sides:
1. Back Sleeping: Sleeping on your back is often recommended as it can help maintain good spinal alignment. It's considered one of the best positions for reducing the risk of pressure sores, as there is minimal contact with your pillow and mattress. However, it may not be the best choice for people with sleep apnea, as it can sometimes exacerbate the condition.
2. Side Sleeping: Many people find side sleeping, usually on the left side, to be comfortable. This position can help reduce snoring and alleviate symptoms of acid reflux since it allows the upper airway to remain more open and prevents stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus.
3. Stomach Sleeping: Sleeping on your stomach can sometimes help alleviate snoring, but it’s generally not recommended due to the strain it can place on the neck and spine.
4. Fetal Position: Curling up in the fetal position, which is a variation of side sleeping, can be comfortable for many people. However, it’s important to ensure your body is not too tightly bent, as it can restrict breathing and may lead to discomfort or stiffness.
Ultimately, the best side to sleep on is the one that provides you with the most restful and comfortable sleep. Here are some things you can do to help you determine which side to sleep on:
- Pay attention to your body: Experiment with different sleeping positions to find the one that feels the most comfortable and natural for you.
- Your specific health needs: If you have certain health conditions, such as sleep apnea or acid reflux, consult with a healthcare professional for medical advice on the best sleeping position.
- Usea supportive pillow: Regardless of your preferred sleeping position, having a comfortable and supportive pillow is crucial for a good night’s sleep.
- Stay flexible: It's a good idea to vary your sleeping position occasionally to prevent developing muscle imbalances or pressure points.
Now that we’ve covered the benefits of side sleeping, keep in mind the potential disadvantages too.
Is It Bad To Sleep On Your Side?
Sleeping on your side is not inherently bad; in fact, it’s one of the most common sleep positions. However, like any sleep position, there are potential drawbacks and considerations to keep in mind:
1. Wrinkles: Compared to back sleeping, sleeping on your side can lead to the formation of wrinkles over time, especially if your face is pressed into the pillow. Using soft pillow covers can be helpful.
2. Pressure Points: If you do not have adequate support for your head and neck, side sleeping can create misalignment, leading to neck and shoulder pain.
3. Uneven Weight Distribution: Without the right mattress and pillow, side sleeping can cause uneven weight distribution, leading to discomfort in the hips and lower back. Placing a bolster pillow in between your legs may help.
4. Arm and Hand Numbness: Some people can experience pain and numbness in arms and hands while sleeping, especially if they put pressure on these areas.
5. Breast Support: For women with large breasts, side sleeping may require additional support to avoid strain and discomfort
6. Circulation in Lower Body: Sleeping in the fetal position or with your knees bent too much can restrict circulation in the legs and feet.
7. Increased Risk of Facial Acne: If you have a predisposition to acne, sleeping on your side can lead to increased contact between your face and the pillow, potentially exacerbating acne.
Now, what if you ate close to bedtime and wanted to aid your digestion? What side should you sleep on then? Let’s discuss this in the next section.
Which Side To Sleep On For Digestion:
Does food digest while you’re sleeping? The short answer is, yes and sleeping on your left side is often recommended for better digestion. Here’s why:
1. Reduced Acid Reflux: When you sleep on your left side, your stomach is positioned lower than your esophagus. This positioning can help prevent stomach acid from flowing back into your esophagus, reducing the likelihood of acid reflux or heartburn during the night.
2. Enhanced Gastric Emptying: Sleeping on the left side can facilitate the natural movement of food from the stomach into the small intestine. This can potentially lead to more efficient digestion and less discomfort after eating a meal close to bedtime.
3. Promotion of Bowel Movements: For some people, sleeping on the left side can aid in promoting regular bowel movements, which is essential for proper digestion. It may help with conditions like constipation.
While sleeping on your left side is often recommended for digestion, individual factors and comfort play a significant role in choosing a sleep position. If you find this position uncomfortable or have specific medical conditions that affect your sleep, it’s essential to prioritize your overall comfort and well-being.
Similarly, let’s see if there is a better side to sleep on for promoting heart health
Which Side Is Better To Sleep On For Your Heart?
When choosing which side to sleep on, also consider cardiovascular health. There are contradicting viewpoints about which side to sleep on to support the heart so keep in mind to find what works best for you.
Sleeping on your left side is often considered better for heart health because of:
1. Better Blood Flow: When you sleep on your left side, it can help facilitate the circulation of blood and lymph throughout your body. The vena cava, a large vein that carries deoxygenated blood from your lower body back to your heart, is on the right side of your body. Sleeping on your left side can reduce the pressure on the vena cava, allowing for more efficient blood flow and less strain on the heart.
2. Improved Heart Function: Some sources suggest that sleeping on the left side may help improve heart function. This position can potentially enhance the body's ability to remove waste products from the heart and may reduce the workload of the heart.
On the other hand, some studies have shown that sleeping on the right side may be good for your heart because:
1. Change in Cardiac Activity: One report from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) details how echocardiograms of individuals with heart failure revealed that sleeping on the left side comes with notable changes in cardiac activity.
2. Less Discomfort: Another report from the NIH also showed that patients with heart failure felt more discomfort when sleeping on their left side compared to their right side.
What Is The Side Sleeper Trick?
Is there a proper way to sleep on your side? Yes! The “side sleeper trick” typically refers to strategies or techniques that side sleepers can use to enhance sleep quality and ensure healthy body alignment. Here are some tips and tricks for side sleepers:
1. Contoured Pillow: A proper pillow can make a significant difference for side sleepers. You may want to look for a pillow that is firm enough to support your head and neck, keeping your spine in a neutral position. Many side sleepers find that a contoured pillow works well to fill the gap between their neck and the mattress.
2. Body Pillow: Using a body pillow or a large pillow to hug can help support your upper arm and shoulder, preventing it from collapsing inward and creating strain. This can also help keep your spine aligned.
3. Bolster Pillow: Placing a small bolster pillow or cushion between your knees can help align your hips and reduce pressure on your lower back and spine. It can also help alleviate discomfort caused by uneven pressure on the hips.
4. Mattress Choice: Consider choosing a mattress that is appropriate for side sleeping. Medium to medium-firm mattresses often work well for side sleepers, as they provide a good balance of support and cushioning.
5. Stretch and Warm-Up: Sometimes, side sleepers experience stiffness or discomfort in the shoulders or hips. Gentle stretching exercises before bedtime or as part of your morning routine can help.
6. Change Sides: If you’re a dedicated side sleeper, you might want to alternate sides during the night. Also take a look at different pillow positions for side sleepers.
7. Sleep Hygiene: Good sleep hygiene practices, such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, can help improve the quality of your sleep regardless of your preferred sleep position.
If you’re experiencing persistent discomfort or pain, consider speaking with a healthcare professional or a sleep specialist. This is especially helpful if you frequently experience numbness while sleeping on the side. A medical professional will be able to provide personalized advice and recommendations based on your specific needs.
Whether you’re looking for tips on how to sleep on your left side or right side, it helps to know where to put your arms while side sleeping.
Where To Put Arms When Sleeping On Side
Finding the right placement for your arms when sleeping on your side is important for maintaining comfort and reducing the risk of discomfort or numbness. Here are a few suggestions for arm placement when sleeping on your side:
1. Under the Pillow: One common and comfortable position is to place the arm that’s underneath your body under the pillow. This helps support your head and neck while keeping your upper body and spine aligned. Make sure to use a supportive pillow that keeps your head and neck in a neutral position.
2. Between the Legs: Place the bottom arm between your legs. This can help maintain spinal alignment and reduce pressure on your lower back and hips. Some people find it helpful to use a bolster pillow or cushion to support the arm in this position.
3. Extended Forward: Extend your bottom arm forward and rest your hand on the mattress. This can help with balance and alignment, preventing your upper body from collapsing forward. You can also slightly bend the elbow to reduce pressure on your shoulder.
4. Hug a Pillow: Hugging a soft pillow or a body pillow can provide support to your top arm and prevent it from pressing against your chest or causing discomfort
5. Adjust as Needed: Consider experimenting with different arm positions to find what feels most comfortable for you. What works best may vary depending on your individual comfort preferences, body shape, and any specific physical conditions.
It’s essential to ensure that your arm placement does not lead to numbness or discomfort due to restricted circulation. If you find that a position is causing discomfort, don’t hesitate to shift your arms to a more comfortable and natural position.
Side sleeping comes with many advantages ranging from aiding digestion to promoting lymphatic drainage. Simultaneously, side sleeping should be practiced with care as it may lead to numbness in the arms, depending on how you sleep.
To reduce the risks of side sleeping while maximizing the benefits, you supplement your side sleeping with a good mattress,medium-firm pillows and ideally also a body pillow.