During our waking hours, we’re told to consider our posture. Our form when we’re exercising. How we lounge when we’re watching TV.
We’re told that it’s vital to concern ourselves with our spinal alignment, that we can seriously injure ourselves if we’re not careful, and that anything from the functioning of our organs to the number of migraines we get can be affected by something as simple as positioning.
It turns out that the same is true for our sleeping hours!
The way that we sleep at night specifically affects your digestion, in fact. The trouble is, most of us are pretty dedicated to one sleep position or another, and it’s not exactly a conscious decision. Whether you’re a star fisher, tummy sleeper, or a spooner, the function of your insides (from your brain to your gut) is impacted — not to mention the quality of sleep you’re getting!
One popular theory in particular is Ayurvedic in nature (meaning it comes from the holistic Hindu medicinal practice called Ayurveda). According to Ayurveda, the best way to sleep in order to aid digestion…
Is on your left side.
Now, some people benefit less than others from side sleeping. For example, if you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, heart disease, sleep apnea, or glaucoma, side sleeping may not be the best position for you.
But if you think you can safely sleep on your left side, there are myriad surprising benefits!
Here’s why: the small intestine pushes waste toward your right side (where the large intestine is) and back to the lower colon on the left side. Sleeping on your left side makes the chances of having a bowel movement in the morning much more likely. Let’s unveil a few more of the benefits of this sleeping position.
Lymphatic System Support
The lymphatic system affects the operation of both the circulatory and the immune system. The lymphatic vessels that make up the system carry lymph fluid to the heart.
When you sleep on your left side, your lymphatic system has an easier time filtering lymph fluid and waste from the brain and body, since the lymphatic system primarily operates from the left side of the body. (By the transitive property, it would stand to reason that sleeping on the right side impedes the lymphatic system.)
Clearing waste from the brain can help prevent neurodegenerative disorders as well!
Acid Reflux Relief
Acid reflux is actually a digestive issue. It happens when the valve at the end of your esophagus opens at the wrong time and allows stomach acid to travel upwards, causing heartburn.
Now, there are studies that suggest sleeping on your right side can irritate or worsen acid reflux, and that sleeping on the left side eases it. Sleeping on the right side also led to higher acid levels in general and longer esophageal flexibility.
This is because sleeping on the left side keeps gastric juices lower, and thus further away from the esophageal opening.
Gravity Does the Work
Because the stomach and pancreas are located on the left side of your body, sleeping on the left side allows them to function more naturally than if you slept on your right side.
That means that the food you’re digesting moves through your intestinal tract with the help of gravity, and the pancreatic enzymes aiding in that digestion get released exactly when they should.
And although there are many additional benefits to sleeping on the left side, like easing snoring and bolstering heart health, (and of course, some for sleeping on your right side), the truly significant benefits are your digestion.
Sleeping on your left side lets the stomach and pancreas utilize gravity to improve the speed of digestion, keeps the esophageal opening higher than the gastric juices that cause heartburn, and allow the lymphatic system to easily eliminate digestive waste as well as brain toxin waste.