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Sleep on Your Left Side? --7 Ways
It Affects Your Health
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January 26, 2017

By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist



You probably know that the amount of sleep you get affects
your health. But did you know that the
way you sleep could
have a big effect, too? Your sleep posture – and in
particular, sleeping on your left side – has a dramatic impact
on your health.

Sleeping on your left side is linked to digestive improvement,
for example, but also to respiratory and circulatory
complaints. Are you a left side sleeper? Find out what this
means for your wellbeing.

Discover the Best Sleep Position

Is the left side best? And can you switch to the left side if
you are naturally a back sleeper, or a front sleeper? You are
naturally going to favor a sleeping position in which you feel
most comfortable.

Your natural sleep position is also likely to be one in which
you are best able to breathe.

If you have a small airway in your throat at night, you are
more likely to sleep on your stomach. But is this the best for
your overall health?  

How Do People Sleep?

There are three main ways to sleep – on your side, on your
back, and on your front, with the two variables for the left
and the right side.

According to The Better Sleep Council in the US, 41 percent
of people in the US sleep on their sides in a curled-up, fetal
position with their legs drawn up to their stomachs. Women
are twice as likely to sleep like this.

Around 8 percent of people sleep on their backs with their
arms close to their body, and 7 percent sleep on their
bellies.  But there is no data on whether people favor the left
or the right side for curling up.

Sleep experts recommend sleeping on the side for more
comfortable rest, lower risk of insomnia, and lower likelihood
of sleep deprivation. And the left side has advantages for
your health, too. We looked at recent research to see what
happens when you sleep on your left side.






































1.
Sleeping on the Left Side Affects Health for Baby and
Mother

If you are pregnant and you do not sleep on your left side
during the night before your baby’s birth you have twice the
risk of a late stillbirth, compared to sleeping on your left
side, according to a 2011 study from the University of
Auckland. However, although the risk is double, it is still a
small risk – around 3.93 per 1,000, compared with 1.96 per
1,000. The risk of stillbirth was also higher when women
didn’t get up during the night to go to the toilet. The study
looked at 155 women who had experienced a stillbirth
between July 2006 and June 2009.

But for babies, sleeping on the side (left or right) or stomach
is not advised. The American Academy of Pediatrics, Task
Force on Infant Sleep Position and Sudden Infant Death
Syndrome (2000) says that the “single most effective action
that parents and caregivers can take to lower a baby's risk
of SIDS is to place the baby to sleep on his or her back for
naps and at night.”

2.
When You Sleep on Your Left Side You Reduce Heartburn

Sleeping on the left side can help reduce acid reflux and
improve digestion, according to experts.

The key to preventing acid leaking from the stomach into the
esophagus is to sleep on your left. A 1999 study from the
Graduate Hospital, Philadelphia showed that when sleeping
on the right side it took longer for stomach acid drain to
drain from the esophagus. Those that slept on their right
side experienced more discomfort.

3.
Sleep on Your Left or Right to Prevent Snoring

Sleeping on your back is well known to aggravate snoring.
When you sleep on your back the muscles in your jaw and
your tongue are more relaxed, and this results in the throat
becoming narrower, producing greater vibration and
therefore more snoring.

Sleeping on your side, particularly when you are overweight,
helps reduce snoring – this applies to both the left and the
right side.

4.
Reduce Sleep Apnea by Sleeping on Your Left Side

One of the ways you can prevent the commonly
misdiagnosed condition of sleep apnea is to sleep on your
left or your right side.

Sleep apnea is associated with sleeping on your back. It is a
serious condition where your throat closes completely at
times during the night, leading to pauses in breath. Sleeping
on your back makes the condition worse due to gravity
acting on the throat.

You can sleep on your left side to help reduce the incidence
of sleep apnea. It is also advisable to undergo continuous
positive airway pressure (CPAP) to relieve the condition.
This treatment can help delay cognitive decline in patients
with sleep apnea, according to a 2015 study from the NYU
Langone Medical Center in New York, NY. The researchers
looked at 2,470 people and their sleep breathing problems,
their level of cognitive decline, and whether they were
having continuous positive airway pressure treatment.

They found that people with sleep apnea were likely to be
diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 83, while those
without sleep breathing problems were diagnosed at an
average age of 88 years. They found that treatment with
CPAP reversed this association with sleep apnea and
cognitive decline.

5.
Can Sleeping on Your Left Side Cause Speech Problems?

It’s only one case, but a 2011 study by the Heinrich-Heine-
University Dusseldorf, Germany documented that a man
suffered speech arrest following a stroke after he was lying
on his left side. In this case it was the intracranial
compression of the left side of the head while lying on it that
caused the speech defects.

6.
You Feel Your Heart Racing More When You Sleep on Your
Left Side

If you notice a racing heart or heart palpitations at night it
could be because you are sleeping on your left side, or your
back.

This sleeping position may put increased pressure on your
vagus nerve, and this pressure causes a greater awareness
of your heartbeat and the movement of blood around the
body.

However, pregnant women are advised to sleep on their left
side rather than the back, as the uterus in the second and
third trimester puts greater pressure on the inferior vein
cava, the vein that goes from the lower body up to the heart.
Sleeping on the back puts even more pressure on the vein,
which results in reduction of blood flow.

7.
Sleeping on the Left Side May Reduce the Risk of
Respiratory and Circulatory Problems

Dr David Eccleston, a doctor from Birmingham in the UK says
“Research has shown that those who sleep on their backs
are more likely to have decreased oxygen levels in their
bloodstream, which is a particular concern in patients with
heart and lung problems.”

When you sleep on your back you breathe faster than when
you sleep on your side, and this can cause the tissues in the
body to become deoxygenated. This can lead to problematic
respiratory and circulatory problems like asthma and heart
disease.







































































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