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Sleep Positions and Your Brain

Posted By Joan Evans for Neuro-BSCOM

Have you ever wondered how sleep positions affect your brain? Getting a good night’s sleep is vital for survival. Good, consistent sleep keeps your immune system functioning properly, reduces the risk of disease, and keeps your brain sharp. Think about all the nights when you lost a few hours of sleep. Your brain was deprived of valuable sleep and it was obvious as you struggled to think clearly and do other things such as driving, working, or even walking. Not only is a solid 7 to 8 hours of sleep one of the best things you can do for your brain, but the way you sleep can also affect your brain health.

Positioning for Good Sleep

A majority of sleepers have a “tried and true” sleeping position. Whether you sleep on your back, stomach, or side, it’s likely you have slept in that position your whole life. Sleep experts recommend side sleeping for better posture and less back pain, but recent research suggests that side sleeping also benefits your brain. When we sleep, our brain clears its glymphatic pathway of toxins more efficiently than during the waking hours. Scientists found that mice, who slept on their sides (a natural sleeping position for humans and animals), had better functioning glymphatic pathways.

Side sleep helps to filter out damaging proteins, that lead to brain diseases, that build up around the spinal and brain cord. When toxins build up in the brain, neurological conditions such as Alzheimers or Parkinsons. Additionally, side sleeping is often a more “sound” sleeping position. The fewer sleep disturbances may mean fewer issues in brain health such as memory loss.

Stay on Your Side, Stay Asleep

Proper sleep positioning can help you sleep longer and without interruptions that can keep your glymphatic pathway working. According to researcher, Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, many types of memory issues are linked to sleep disturbances, such as trouble falling asleep. The increase of sleep disturbances can result in greater chance of memory loss, hence the importance of having a restful night of sleep.

What if you’re not a natural side sleeper? It may take some time to acclimate to side sleeping, but over time you may notice the benefits. If you’re worried about shifting to a different sleeping position in the middle of the night, put a pillow behind your back to prevent easily rolling onto your stomach or back.

Falling asleep or staying asleep are issues that many not-so-sound sleepers face on a nightly basis. If you struggle with sleep, check out these natural sleep solutions for a better night’s sleep and for a healthier brain.