Some people prefer to sleep on their right side. Some people prefer to sleep on their left side. But which side is better to sleep on? This is a common question, yet it’s a little more complicated than you might think.

A survey done by Hospital Corporation of America found that only 28% of women and 37% of men sleep on their right sides, but is this actually good for one’s health?

Because there are so many factors that go into this decision, combining this with the fact that we are all biologically different, and some of us have certain medical conditions we should be aware of, I’m going to break down why it’s sometimes better – or sometimes worse – for you to sleep on your right or left side.

Should You Sleep On Your Left Side?

Serene beautiful woman sleeping with hand under cheek on soft pillow

Negative effects

Even though most people think that the more we sleep on our left, the less chance we have to get acid reflux disease — caused by stomach contents rising up into our throats — the opposite is actually true. Sometimes it’s not acid but gas, which causes trouble for those who sleep on their left sides.

According to statistics, of the 75% of people who do sleep on their left, 20%-25% have problems such as heartburn, gastritis and stomach pain.

Also, a person’s internal organs may not be aligned well if sleeping on the left. For example, when a person sleeps on the left side and lies flat on the bed, it puts pressure on the liver, resulting in less blood circulation and more tension in the body. This can increase the chances of having cardiovascular diseases or a stroke.

A healthy heart is vital to life, so this is actually a good thing if you’re healthy, but beware if you have high cholesterol or other issues that may affect your heart’s health. If sleeping on your left puts too much pressure on your already-weakened heart, then this could be detrimental to your health.

Positive effects

One good point about sleeping on the left is that it helps reduce inflammation and stiffness in the body, particularly for those with joint problems such as arthritis.

Additionally, some doctors may recommend the left side to their patients if they suffer from a number of chronic conditions such as asthma, sinusitis and immune disorders. In most cases, getting to sleep on the left is easy, especially after a long day at work. Also, sleeping on the left might be a good idea for those with obstructive sleep apnea symptoms as it allows for better oxygenation of the lungs.

Should You Sleep On Your Right Side?

Above view upset worried lonely woman lying in bed alone suffers from insomnia

Negative effects

Intermittent Claudication (painful cramping in the lower limbs during rest) is more likely when someone sleeps on their right side. This is caused by a reduced circulation of blood due to a lack of movement while sleeping. The symptoms are usually felt in the calf muscles and can be alleviated by standing up and walking around for about three minutes to encourage better blood flow through the body.

Sleeping on the right side can also put pressure on your stomach and your intestines, causing bloating and gas problems. Again, this is especially true for those who already have digestive issues or are overweight.

On average, people take longer to fall asleep when they sleep on their right side as compared to their left side.

Positive effects

Sleeping on your right side is good for many reasons. For example, you are more likely to fall asleep quickly because the heart and lungs are more aligned; thus, blood circulation is more efficient. Therefore, more sleep means you get a better night’s rest.

You’ll have more energy in the morning because there’s less heart work for pumping blood to the organs, which means it’s also great for people who have a history of heart disease.

Sleeping on your right will also aid in better digestion because the spleen and stomach are more aligned, which means blood circulation is more efficient for the body.

Furthermore, the liver works better when you’re on your right side because the organ is now facing up to the left, which increases its ability to break down toxins. 

The body’s lymphatic system also cleanses better when on your right side.

Lastly, sleeping on your right side boosts brain health because it increases the blood flow to your brain, which helps you think clearly and be more alert.

Factors That May Determine Which Side To Sleep On

Overhead view of senior couple sleeping on bed

Below are some common health issues people face that would normally determine which side they should sleep on.

Which side to sleep on if experiencing back pain?

Over time, your physical position during sleep can change, improving or worsening your spine’s natural curve, health, and well-being, especially from years of purely adopting a side sleeping position. If possible, try sleeping on your back from time to time to keep your spine aligned in a neutral position.

However, if you’re solely a side sleeper, sleeping on your right has its health benefits over the left, especially if you have chronic pain such as an iliac crest fracture, sciatica, or lower back pain. It helps to have a supportive mattress too, no matter your preferred sleeping position.

Additionally, when you fall asleep on your left for many years, you’re more likely to develop osteoarthritis as well.

Which side to sleep on for stomach ache?

If you’ve got a stomach ache, sleeping on your side can help. The best way to lay on your side for stomach ache pain relief is to sleep on the side that isn’t hurting you, curled up in a fetal position. This will help carry the pain from the tummy ache away from where you can only feel it on one side. If you have a lot of pain in your stomach or spine, you may want to alternate sleeping on both sides for a few days until your body gets used to it.

Which side to lay on for digestion issues?

In addition to helping with stomach aches, according to Medical News Today you should also sleep on your left side if you have digestive problems. Digestion is a very important part of our body, and sleeping on your side relaxes the throat, stomach, and intestines. If you want to try this method to help with digestion, make sure that your bed is not too soft or too hard, as this can make it harder for you to digest while you are sleeping.

What about heartburn?

For people suffering from heartburn, it’s best to sleep flat on your back or your stomach. However, if you must sleep on your side, according to the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research the best sleeping position to reduce heartburn would be sleeping on your left.

According to a report in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, sleeping with a firm pillow between your knees can also help with this problem if you’re not feeling well enough for sleeping on your stomach or back.

Which side should pregnant women sleep on?

Now that we’ve talked about which side is best for digestion and stomach ache relief let’s discuss which way pregnant women should sleep while they are pregnant. Doctors have found that pregnant women sleep best on their left side, to help with the flow of blood to the heart. In addition, side sleeping on your left allows for a better oxygen flow to the baby.

Which side to lay on for nausea?

If you’re feeling nauseous, try side sleeping on your left, legs bent and in a fetal position. Nausea tends to subside if you lie on your left (in some cases, simply rolling to the left side can relieve symptoms).

Which side to sleep on for morning sickness?

The fetus is still tiny in the first month of pregnancy. The baby can’t kick or roll over yet so that it causes no movement in your stomach, which causes no nausea. So you can lie on either side when you have morning sickness.

How about shoulder pain?

There is no right or wrong side here, but obviously, avoid sleeping on the side which hurts; sleep on the side that isn’t affected.

For best results and a good night’s sleep, doctors recommend that sleeping on your back is ideal for body posture, so it will help improve sleep quality and reduce shoulder pain in the future. However, some people have reported that stomach sleeping can relieve pressure on aching shoulders.

Conclusion

As we now know, whether you prefer to sleep on your side or your back, when the body positions itself throughout the night over a number of hours, it can lead to both good and bad outcomes.

The most important thing is to listen to your body and act accordingly. Suppose you are experiencing sleep apnea, physical discomfort or pain in any area of your body during sleep. In that case, you may want to try switching sleeping positions onto the other side for a few days to see if this action alleviates the problem.

If so, then you might have found out which side should you sleep on. And lastly, by no means should you take this as medical advice. If in doubt, consult your doctor for any concerns regarding your health and sleeping position.

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