Many people don’t get enough sleep. For some people, it’s because of their busy daily schedules. For others, a medical condition or medication can interfere with getting enough rest. Anxiety, stress, and depression also play roles. An uncomfortable bed, unusual sleep position, or poor sleep hygiene also affect the quantity and quality of your sleep. Here’s what you need to know about how your sleep position affects your sleep and how you can get a better night’s rest every night.
Why People Need Sleep
Sleep is critical for rest and restoration of the body. A person can die of sleep deprivation in less time than it would take to die of starvation. Starvation takes about two weeks, but death from sleep deprivation can occur in just 10 days. Insufficient sleep is described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be a leading public health issue. People who don’t get enough shuteye have an increased risk of serious chronic diseases, including obesity, cancer, depression, diabetes, and hypertension. Studies have found that driving while tired is as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. Not getting enough sleep is dangerous to your health and to everyone who is near you.
How to Sleep on Your Side
The side sleep position is the most popular sleep position for people. Most animals, including wild animals, also sleep on their sides. This may be a natural adaptation to help the brain get rid of its waste products. It may also reduce the risk of exposing fragile body parts, such as the belly. For the best results, lay on your side. Bend your knees a little if you prefer. Use an ergonomic pillow that’s thick enough to support your neck. Put a small pillow between your knees. This helps keep your spine straight and reduces pressure on your knee cartilage. You may also want to consider a mattress made for side sleepers that help support this body position. Look for a medium-firm mattress that’s designed for side-sleepers.
What Sleep Does for Your Body
While you sleep, your brain and body are still doing a lot of things. Sleep regulates your appetite, mood and libido. It also delivers energy to your cells, helps you form memories, aids the learning process and cleans waste products out of your brain. Getting rid of waste materials from the metabolic processes that take place in the brain help you think more clearly while you’re awake.
How Your Sleep Position Affects the Restorative Qualities of Your Sleep
A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience suggests that one sleep position may be better than others when it comes to getting rid of waste products in the brain. Sleeping on your side has been shown to facilitate the filtering of fluid in the brain and spinal cord. Sleeping on your side allows the fluid from your brain to be exchanged at a faster rate with clean, fresh fluid. This was discovered when neuroscientists used a dynamic contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging study to look at the lymphatic pathway from the brain.
Why the Fluid Exchange from the Brain Is Important
Exchanging interstitial and waste fluid from the brain allows the brain’s accumulated waste products from metabolism to be removed. Those waste products include amyloid beta and tour proteins. Those proteins are associated with the development of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Other Benefits of Sleeping on Your Side
Sleeping on your side is also good for people with back and neck pain. It elongates the spine, which lessens the pressure on the soft tissues and spinal cord. Side sleeping positions are also good for pregnant women. The weight of the growing uterus can be supported by the mattress, and less swelling and fluid accumulation occurs when pregnant women sleep on their sides. People who have obstructive sleep apnea should also sleep on their sides. Doing so mechanically opens the pharynx and allows more air to get through. Side sleep positions also reduce snoring.