What is the Best Side to Sleep on: Left or Right?
Last Updated on November 23, 2023
Did you know that your go-to sleep position can affect your overall health and wellness? It's true! If you're a side sleeper, the side you roll over to once it's time to turn out the lights may be a simple matter of comfort. But you might be surprised to find out that sleeping on your left side is known to provide additional health benefits.
Overview: What's the Best Side to Sleep on for Your Health?
Long story short, the left side is the best side for sleeping when it comes to your health. According to researchers, left-side sleeping encourages better digestion and lymphatic drainage, boosts brainpower and reduces snoring.
9 Benefits of Sleeping on Your Side
While the left side may be the “best” for your health in most cases, there are some caveats. Take a look at the 9 benefits below, and keep in mind that some are specific to sleeping on your right side, instead.
1. Aligns Your Back
Side sleeping aligns your neck, head and spine, keeping everything in a neutral position and relieving unnecessary pressure on your muscles and nerves. If you often wake up to pinching nerve pain, or an achy lower back, you may want to consider sleeping on your side.
2. Reduces Snoring
Does snoring keep you (or your partner) awake at night? If the answer is yes, experts suggest you may want to consider side sleeping. Sleeping on your side keeps your airways open, reducing—and sometimes even eliminating—snoring altogether.
If sleep apnea is a concern, a 2011 study found that side sleeping decreased the frequency of obstructive respiratory events in patients experiencing mild and severe disease.
3. Cuts Down on Aches and Pains
Many medical experts suggest sleeping on your side if you suffer from a chronic or acute pain condition such as fibromyalgia, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), arthritis or a simple muscle pull. Because side sleeping reduces pain in the hips and back, it can cut down on unnecessary aches and pains throughout the night (especially important for expectant mothers!).
4. Boosts Brain Power
A 2015 animal study found that side sleeping helps the body remove toxins from the brain and may even decrease the risk of neurological disease. Although their findings await testing in humans, academics posit that a lateral sleep position helps to remove waste products, including those in the brain.
5. Helps Your Heart
One caveat to the left-side list is if you have a heart condition. A 2018 study found that sleeping on the left side caused the heart to shift and turn. The results could be observed by watching electrocardiogram (or ECG) activity while subjects slept. When the study participants slept on their right side, ECG activity was almost indiscernible.
Wondering why that is? The researchers in this study found that when you sleep on your right, the heart is held in place by the fine layer of tissue between the lungs called the mediastinum.
And when you consider the fact that over 80% of your heart is on the left side of your body, it makes complete sense that sleeping on your right side is a better choice for those with concerns about heart health.
6. Aids Digestion
If you experience heartburn, acid reflux or indigestion at bedtime, you may benefit from sleeping on your left side. In fact, research has shown a higher incidence of acid reflux when sleeping on the right because it relaxes the muscles between the esophagus and stomach. When these muscles relax, digestive acids can creep up towards your esophagus more easily.
When it comes to indigestion, the left side should be your first choice because both the stomach and the pancreas are located towards the left side of the body. According to Healthline, sleeping this way can help you better digest your dinner (or midnight snack) because your stomach will more easily channel its gastric juices while encouraging your pancreas to secrete important enzymes.
Note: An adjustable power base may also help in your quest to eliminate bedtime digestive issues.
7. Assists with Lymphatic Drainage
Some people who get armpit pain from sleeping on their side may think it's related to lymphatic drainage. But it's often from another condition called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome triggered by pressure on the bursae (a thin membrane of tissue that counters friction at a joint). Swollen lymph nodes are usually a result of infection from viruses or bacteria, and they can be incredibly uncomfortable.
So, if you're looking for an idea on how to sleep comfortably with swollen lymph nodes, experts recommend shifting over to your left side, allowing your body to filter lymph fluid and waste through the lymph nodes.
8. Reduces Pressure on Your Abdomen
If you suffer from an enlarged spleen, you will want to sleep on your left side. If you sleep on your right side, there will be more pressure put on the abdomen, which will make it more challenging for this blood-purifying organ to do its essential job of filtering out waste. The waste substances transported through the lymph vessels will reach the spleen much easier if you sleep on your left side.
9. Encourages Healthy Sleep in Pregnancy
According to Mayo Clinic, left-side sleeping is the ideal position for healthy sleep during pregnancy, both for the mom and baby. Left is the superior choice because it prevents the excess weight from being applied to the liver and improves the necessary circulation to deliver crucial nutrients to the baby.
It's Time to Pick a Side
Overall, the best side to sleep on is left for various health-related reasons. But remember, it will always depend on your individual health condition and concerns. As always, it's best to speak with your doctor before making any significant changes in your lifestyle that may affect your health. But based on the research we've uncovered, the left side tends to be the best option for most people.
One universal tip everyone can use to amplify the health-boosting benefits of sleeping on their side is to be sure you have the best mattress for side sleeping. A memory foam mattress with a medium-plush feel (like our GhostBed Luxe ) should do the trick.
And don't worry if you roll over onto your back or stomach in the middle of the night. You can always quickly roll back over to the left side and get back on track.
Marc has spent the last two decades designing & manufacturing mattresses and other sleep products, drawing on a lifetime of experience working with the material sciences. With several patents to his name, he works closely with the GhostBed team to create products with the perfect balance of comfort & support. Learn More