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Sleep is quite possibly the most important thing we do for ourselves all day. This “me” time is essential because this is when the body heals and recovers itself from the day’s stress. Think of it as a time-out session that recharges you for the next day’s onslaught. Without appropriate rest, we won’t be able to function properly.
Poor sleep can cause depression, contribute to premature aging, and even diminish sex drive. Further short-term disadvantages of ignoring your Zs include impaired attention as well as weakened reasoning and problem-solving skills.
Now that we’ve established the importance of sleep, we will take a look at why it’s also important to sleep the right way. The side we sleep on can also play a vital role in keeping us healthy and well-rested. Scientists have discovered that sleeping on the right side can worsen heartburn and left-side abdominal pain.
Sleeping on the left side may put a strain on internal organs, but it also helps reduce acid reflux. Pregnant women are often told to sleep on their left to ensure optimal flow of blood to the baby.
Doctors also often recommend sleeping on an incline so gravity can do its magic, keeping the stomach’s contents in the stomach, where they belong. Sleeping on a flat surface can also aggravate chronic heartburn.
Restful sleep—now available to your left!
While the reasons are still quite unclear, researchers are now of the opinion that sleeping on the left side is just plain better for you and your body. A study that was published in The Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology ended up with this very conclusion. During the clinical study, a group of young, healthy subjects was fed high-fat meals to induce heartburn. Immediately after the feast, they were asked to spend up to 4 hours lying on one side. Later, their esophageal acidity was measured to see the effects. The researchers concluded that “the total amount of reflux time was much greater” when the subjects lay on their right.
When you sleep on your right, it’s easier for stomach acid to slip into the esophagus, and the resulting heartburn alone is enough to cause insomnia.
The research mentioned earlier also found that “average overall acid clearance was significantly prolonged with right side down.” So, in effect, sleeping on the right side can relax the esophageal sphincter to the point that it gets easier for stomach juices to escape. This leads to severe discomfort and pain in the abdominal area as well as heartburn.
Another study published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology measured the acid reflux of chronic heartburn patients as they slept. It was noticed that the subjects who slept on their right had higher acid levels and took longer for “esophageal acid clearance.”
The bottom line is quite evident here: sleeping on your right side is bad for the stomach.
A Quick Guide to Improving the Quality of Your Sleep
The four primary sleeping positions are your back, your tummy, left side, or right side. While all these positions have their pros and cons, sleeping on the left offers the most benefits and the fewest disadvantages.
Here are a few other reasons why sleeping on your left is a great way to get a good night’s sleep every night:
It prevents heartburn.
We’ve already established that sleeping on your left will significantly reduce and even eliminate acid reflux from your life. Even after a particularly spicy, heartburn-inducing meal, you‘ll be able to sleep comfortably.
It improves digestion.
When you rest, try to lie on your left side because it takes the strain off your liver. This makes it easier for the liver to produce bile and absorb nutrients more efficiently.
It enhances circulation.
You can improve your blood circulation while you sleep comfortably through the night simply by lying on your left-hand side. It reduces the strain on the vena cava, which is the largest vein in the human body and is located on the right. So your body is able to recover appropriately as the blood supply to your heart continues unstressed.
The last word: sleep on your left—do it right!
Everyone knows that sleep is important, but very few among us actually make the eight-hour rest a priority in our lives.
Sleep affects health, body, mind, and of course mood as well. We essentially sleep away one-third of our lives, so it should be of good quality. The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to eight hours of sleep for adults.
Keeping to your left side while sleeping is also beneficial for people suffering from sleep apnea. It helps those with back and neck pain and people who are generally prone to snoring. Sleeping on the left side opens up the oropharynx and elongates the spine, alleviating the back pain and reducing the propensity to snore.
Pregnant women are also told to sleep on the left side. It keeps blood circulating to the heart, uterus, fetus, and kidneys, ensuring the health of both mom and baby.
Now, are you convinced that it’s time to change your sleeping position?
It can be difficult to break a lifelong habit, but if your health and vitality depend on it, then it’s worth a try. If you have trouble switching sides, place a body pillow behind you on the right side. This will keep you from rolling back over to the right side as you sleep.
It might also be a good idea to keep the night-light to the right, so you naturally draw to the left. Also try having a pillow on the left, between your knees and shoulders, as if you are hugging it as you sleep. This will enhance the comfort of sleeping on your side.
Sleeping on the left side is a great way to optimize your sleep hours, avoid abdomen pain, and stay healthy and refreshed day after day.
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