We already know that sleeping on your side is, broadly speaking, very good for you. It clears the airwaves and helps you breathe, allowing for a potentially better night’s sleep. It can help with back and posture problems. It offers safety against sleep apnea.
But now there’s a far more vital reason to consider rolling over: sleeping on your side could benefit your brain health.
A new study by Stony Brook University reveals that this side position, a.k.a. “lateral position”, is the most effective in removing the brain’s waste products, which we naturally build up over the course of the day. It is believed that sleep is our body’s way of getting rid of this waste.
According to Science Alert, when the waste is allowed to continue building up (through either lack of sleep or less optimal sleep) it can lead to neurological illnesses such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
This will come as good news for many – lateral position is the most commonly used among people in general – and a welcome reminder to the minority of us who sleep on our stomach or back. (One great way to encourage this habit over the next couple of months: hug a pillow.)
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Even other animals seem to naturally prefer this position – including rodents used in the study.
“It is interesting that the lateral sleep position is already the most popular in human and most animals – even in the wild,” said research co-author Maiken Nedergaard, “and it appears that we have adapted the lateral sleep position to most efficiently clear our brain of the metabolic waste products that built up while we are awake”.
“The study therefore adds further support to the concept that sleep subserves a distinct biological function of sleep and that is to ‘clean up’ the mess that accumulates while we are awake”.
“Many types of dementia are linked to sleep disturbances, including difficulties in falling asleep… It is increasingly acknowledged that these sleep disturbances may accelerate memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease”.
Do you sleep on your side? If not: would you alter it in light of this news?