Poor sleep and lack of sleep is a common health issue that can lead to complications, like high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression. Even those who do manage to get 7 or 8 hours of sleep may be damaging their health by sleeping the wrong way.

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How We Sleep Matters

Everyone has their favorite sleeping position, but they may not realize that the position in which they sleep may be complicating their health. Sleeping wrong can lead to back, neck, and stomach pain, and exacerbate health issues like sleep apnea and poor blood flow. Doctors, chiropractors, and sleep experts have determined that sleeping on your left side promotes better sleep and better overall health. ServiceNearMe.com lists the following reasons why sleeping on your left side can be beneficial to your health.

Better Digestion

Heartburn and digestion problems are very common and can be caused by a variety of issues. One of these issues may simply be that you are sleeping wrong. The stomach and pancreas are located on the left side of the body, so sleeping on that side can aid in their proper function. Food moves through your digestive system after you lay down to sleep. Laying on your left side aids in digestion and makes you more comfortable, preventing disruptions to sleep.

Better Heart Health

Your heart is also located on the left side of your body, so sleeping on your left side aids in blood flow toward the heart, which puts less stress on this very important organ. 75% of the body’s lymphatic fluid drains into the left side of the heart. Sleeping on your left side allows gravity to aid in the drainage of these fluids, taking more of the workload off of the heart. The aorta, the biggest artery in the body, begins at the top of the heart, arches to the left and travels downward to the abdomen. When you sleep on your left side, you are allowing your heart to pump that large amount of blood downhill, rather than making it pump uphill.

Reduce Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a potentially deadly sleep disorder that causes the sufferer to experience pauses in breathing and shallow breathing as they sleep. Almost 50% of people who snore very loudly have sleep apnea. It is caused by at least a 90% obstruction of the airways when tissue and muscle relax into those airways during sleep. Sleeping on your back can make snoring worse by pushing muscles back into the upper airway. To help reduce snoring, try sleeping on your left side, which can alleviate snoring by keeping your tongue and throat in a neutral position.

During Pregnancy

Sleeping on the left side helps pregnant women take pressure off their spine. By aiding in blood flow to the heart, it also aids in blood flow to the uterus and fetus, which is good for mother and baby. It can also aid in the flow of nutrients to the placenta. Doctors and chiropractors advise pregnant women to sleep on their left sides with a pillow in between their knees.

Sleeping habits can be hard to change, especially if you have been sleeping one way most of your life. Right-side sleepers may have a hard time training themselves to sleep on their left side. Back sleeper may have a hard time sleeping on either side.

For those who do not normally sleep on their left sides, here are some ways to encourage better sleep and left-side sleeping.

Get on a Sleep Schedule

The benefits of sleeping on your left side will be negated by not getting enough sleep. Tune in to your body’s natural sleep cycle by going to bed when you get sleepy, then stay on the same sleep schedule every night. Avoid changing your sleep schedule on weekends, if possible.

Sleep in Total Darkness

Your body produces melatonin naturally to help you sleep. The darker the room is, the more melatonin your brain produces. Avoid any light sources at night, including the television, so that the production of melatonin will not be interrupted. For people who absolutely cannot sleep in a completely dark room, try keeping the light as dim as possible.

Clear Your Mind

Many people complain that when they lie down to sleep at night, their brain goes into overdrive. Stress at work or in relationships or even a happy event that you’re planning may produce stress, anger, or anxiety, which can keep you from dropping off to sleep. Try meditation or reading prior to going to sleep. Write in a journal or log with the intention of transferring your worries from your mind onto the sheet of paper, and then leave them there. Find productive ways to channel your stress during the day, such as playing a sport, listening to music, or even discussing the things that stress you with a friend or therapist. When you’re ready to sleep, turn out all the lights and clear your mind.

Limit What You Eat and Drink

Avoid heavy eating or drinking in the last few hours before you go to bed so that your body won’t have to digest recently eaten food when you lie down to sleep. Your evening meal should be eaten at least three or four hours before bedtime. Caffeinated drinks should be avoided about 6 hours prior to bedtime. Do not eat spicy or acidic foods several hours before going to bed to avoid the potential heartburn that may accompany eating those kinds of foods.

Sleep with a Full Body Pillow

Now that you have done the things you need to do to get plenty of uninterrupted sleep, how can you train your body to sleep on the left side?

One technique that has been found to be quite successful is to sleep with a firm, full body pillow up close and parallel to your back. The pillow should prevent you from changing positions during the night. This might take a few nights to get used to but you should begin to notice that your sleep improves and you feel better in the morning due to sleeping on your left side.

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