The benefits of being a side sleeper have been revealed. It’s a healthier position to be in for our brains, and it reduces the chances of developing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, research shows.
Using an MRI, researchers at Stony Brook University monitored the brain’s glymphatic pathway, the system that removes wastes from our brains. This brain waste includes the proteins that form into plaque that is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
The cleansing process of the brain removes waste when cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) filters through the brain and exchanges with intestinal fluid (ISF). Much like the way the body’s lymphatic system removes waste from our organs, it’s most effective while we are sleeping, and this system works best when you are sleeping on your side, the study found.
The neurological study conducted by Stony Brook was an animal study, but human trials will be next.
Data shows that most people sleep on their sides, and it has been suggested that side sleeping was adapted to clear out brain waste products that build and grow while we are awake. Researchers believe that sleep naturally serves as a biological function of “cleaning up the mess” that our brains develop during waking hours.
Four Sleep Positions Ranked From Best To Worst
Even though the study found that side sleeping is a great way to offset the progression of Alzheimer’s, researchers say it’s not the best overall sleeping position for your health. Here’s their take on four common sleeping positions:
1) Best — Sleeping on Your Back
One of the main reasons back sleepers are getting the best rest is that it allows your back, neck and spine to remain in a neutral position. This is great for your body’s alignment and helps you avoid back pain and stiffness. Good circulation to the brain and prevention of acid reflux are two additional benefits of being a back sleeper.
2) Sleeping on Your Side
In addition to helping protect your brain from Alzheimer’s disease, sleeping on your side reduces snoring, and it’s recommended for pregnant women because it boosts circulation to the heart and baby. Lying on your left side also eases heartburn and acid-reflux.
3) Fetal Position
The fetal sleep position — knees pulled up high and your chin tucked to your chest — is bad for your health. It restricts deep breathing, puts pressure on your organs and spine, and, if you have arthritis, your back and joints will become more irritated. Snoring could improve in this position, but you might develop wrinkles.
4) Worst — Sleeping on Your Stomach
Sleeping on your stomach is the worst sleep position because it’s bad for your spine, and twisting your neck and face on the pillow can cause aches and pains. Numbness and tingling could also occur from irritated nerves due to the pressure put on muscles and joints.
Ronke Idowu Reeves is a writer and journalist who hails from Brooklyn, NY. Her news and entertainment stories have appeared on WABC-TV-New York, Fox News Channel, VH1, BET.com plus in Sundance Film Festival’s Sundance Daily Insider and People Magazine.