The way you position yourself when you sleep greatly affects your digestive system.
Isn’t it when you feel some digestion problems, you fold yourself and try every sleep position possible to reduce the stomach pain?
Although sleep and digestion are two different things, they affect the brain-gut connection.
In this article, you will understand why your gut wants you to sleep more on your left rather than on your right side!
How to Know the Best Sleeping Position for Your Digestion
Are You A Side Sleeper?
Side sleepers love to get a good night’s sleep and find a comfortable position in sleeping on either their left or right side of the body.
Based on a peer-reviewed journal published in the journal of Nature of Science and Sleep, sleeping sideways is more common in adults. This means that this preference increases with age.
Additionally, those with a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) are prone to be side sleepers than stomach sleepers.
So, which one are you?
Side Sleeping Benefits
When you sleep on either your left or right body comes with lots of health benefits. However, these benefits can only be acquired when the position is done correctly.
Take a look at some of the potential benefits of sideways sleeping positions:
Reduces joint and low back pain
Prevents fibromyalgia or chronic pain
Prevents obstructive sleep apnea
Prevents heart attack and diabetes
One of the best health benefits you can get when you sleep sideways is better gut health and gut support.
But, which side would give this benefit? Would it be the right body or the left side? You will find out in the next sections.
Sleep Position: Left-Side Sleeping
Probably by now, you already know the answer. Yes, if you want to experience optimal digestive health, the left-side sleeping position is the solution.
Medical doctors from Philadelphia confirm that the stomach is located in the upper left side of the body.
This means that when you sleep on your left side, you allow gravity to move the waste through your descending colon more efficiently.
But, how does it prevent the movement from going in the wrong direction?
When you sleep on the left side, you give more space to your ileocecal valve, the valve that separates the small intestine and large intestine.
Thus, when this valve has more space, the waste regularly moves from your small to large intestine.
Sleeping on your left side allows you to have a regular bowel movement because even while you are asleep, the food you just snacked on still moves normally.
So, the most benefit you can get when you wake up is that you do not get the feeling of being bloated because as said, the food and the waste continually move through your system.
Other benefits of choosing to sleep on the left side include the prevention of the following GI symptoms:
Keep in mind that sleeping on the left also has some cons such as a strained neck, shoulder pain, and jaw discomfort.
Thus, you must weigh the benefits and disadvantages of sleeping on this side.
1) Sleeping on the Left vs Right Side Sleeping
There are times when you will feel a little pain or tingling sensation if you stay on your left side for a long time.
When these discomforts occur, the tendency is that you will switch sleep positions – you might sleep on your right body or you might do stomach sleeping (sleeping on your stomach).
Don’t worry! That is normal! You don’t have to stick to one position the entire night.
So, what is the difference between sleeping on the left side vs the other positions?
Take note that knowing the best sleeping position depends on the symptoms of the patients. To know more about these, take a look at the information below:
a) Left-Side Sleeping Prevents Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
When you sleep on the left, the muscles between the esophagus and stomach contract while the right-side sleep position relaxes them.
When these muscles are contracted, the acid reflux process will be controlled, reduced, and prevented.
Research suggests that when you sleep on the left side, you keep your stomach acid lower because when you sleep in this position, your stomach is below the esophagus.
Eventually, it will be difficult for the gastric acid to rise into the digestive tract.
Consistent with a sleep study in Pennsylvania, out of 45 participants, 64% who chose to sleep on the right reported more acid reflux symptoms.
Since this position can prevent heartburn, it is safe to say that sleeping on the left side is more beneficial for patients with gastroesophageal problems.
b) Left-Side Sleeping Prevents Heart Disease
According to a study in Canada, it is more comfortable for patients with congestive heart failure (CHF) to sleep on their right body.
This might be because their CHF is associated with cardiomegaly.
However, if you have heart problems like congestive heart failure, as much as possible, try to sleep on the left side because sleeping on the right side of the body could increase your risk of developing heart problems.
Aside from this, according to an evidence-based approach in China, when you sleep on the left side, you can improve the blood flow to your heart. It allows the heart to pump blood more efficiently.
2) Sleeping on the Left vs Supine Recumbent Position
If you do not want to experience neck pain and joint discomfort, sleeping on your back, a neutral position or lying position is the most suitable for you.
However, this best sleeping position offers fewer benefits with regards to digestive health compared to sideways sleeping positions, specifically, when you sleep on the left.
a) Left Side is Better for the Sleeping Brain
In one study from New York, it was reported that the side sleeping position is more helpful for the brain compared to the lying position.
Take note that when you sleep, your brain still works.
This is a biological process and when you are asleep, what your brain does is get rid of toxic waste that prevents you from functioning normally.
Side sleepers can help their brain remove more toxins while asleep and it helps prevent the occurrence of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease.
This means that when you wake up after sleeping on your left side, your cognition, including your brain-gut connection will improve.
If you want to avoid physical pain, you can consider the lying position. Nonetheless, if you want to protect your brain health, always choose to sleep on the left.
Left-Side Sleep Position Tips to Prevent Sleep Apnea
If sleeping on the left side is the best sleep position, what are some techniques to easily fall asleep and stick to this sleeping style?
Take a look at some additional lifestyle measures (effective ones) below:
1) Firm pillow in the head
One thing to be noted while sleeping on the left is that the head tends to move a little forward.
Eventually, this causes back pain because there is a misaligned spine.
To avoid this back pain and keep your spine aligned or stay on a natural curve, place a firm or flat pillow. Some people call these memory pillows or responsive pillows.
In case you wake up with this undesirable pain, you can try doing some lower back stretches before you start your day!
Furthermore, for pain that does not go away, you can try some inversion tables for additional spine support.
These tables would also help you get proper digestion while you are in a sitting position.
2) Pillow between legs
Placing a body pillow between your legs while you sleep on your left side can prevent knee pain, hip pain, and relieve pressure on your back.
According to a study in Australia, doing this technique improves your posture, keeps spinal alignment, and maintains the natural alignment of your hip and pelvis.
For the size, choose the regular one.
3) Choose a firm mattress
A too soft and cushiony mattress may make you feel comfy at night.
However, you might experience back pain when you wake up because your joints may collapse and sink into the mattress.
Thus, it is advised to choose a firm mattress when you are sleeping on your left side.
For you to find the best mattress for your condition, you can try one in a traditional store or go for those with trial mattresses online.
How to Improve Digestion Before Sleeping
If you already know the best sleeping position for you, it is also necessary to add some additional support.
To prevent discomfort and digestion problems while asleep, you can do the following techniques:
1) No big meals before bedtime
Remember that your digestive system also needs some “me-time” to repair and rest. Eating large meals is associated with causing heartburn.
Thus, do not plan on taking a large amount of food before bedtime. Instead, you can consider light snacks such as protein bars.
2) Remember the 3-hour rule
Stay away from snacking your favorite meal 3 hours before you nap.
This period will give your digestive system sufficient time to digest food properly.
When you sleep soon after you eat, the tendency is that you will experience heartburn and other chest discomforts.
3) Consider prebiotics and probiotics
If you want to improve your digestion while using the side sleep position, prebiotics and probiotics would work better for you.
These live bacteria will help your digestive system process the food you consumed before you sleep.
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