To the left to the left, help your body clear your shit out to the left
We all know that eating a balanced diet, moving our bodies, and getting enough sleep each night are the pillars of good health, but the position in which we catch our Z’s can have a huge, overall impact on how we feel when it’s time to wake up.
Ayurvedic medicine has recommended left-side sleeping, or Vamkushi, as a means of improving health and specifically digestion for centuries. Modern science has proven this to be overwhelmingly true for most individuals in study after study, discovering additional health benefits to the posture throughout the trials.
While bodies appear relatively even on the outside, the sheer amount of organs required to keep a human functioning makes for a very uneven internal set up. Resting on your left side allows gravity to help pass gastric from the small intestine, through the large intestine, and finally into the descending colon, resulting in a high likelihood of waking up ready to have a bowel movement. In fact, several studies have found that left-side sleeping decresed symptoms in individuals suffering from chronic acid reflux, whereas sleeping on the right side increased heartburn and other digestive issues in participants who do not often experience indigestion.
The advantages of sleeping on the left don’t end with the digestive system. The lymphatic system, which is responsible for removing excess fluids from body tissues, absorption and transportation of fatty acids to the circulatory system, and production of immune cells, also lives to the left. As the lymph system filters and purifies, waste your body no longer needs travels to the thoracic duct, while the remaining lymph fluid is dumped into the left side via your heart- which also conveniently residies to the left! Because gravity encourages lymph drainage away from the heart, aortic circulation can also improve from sleeping on the left. This is why doctors often recommend pregnant women sleep on the left side. The spleen — again, on the left side — has many roles, and one of the most important is purifying blood to bolster your immune system. So not only does sleeping on the left side improve aid in digestive and blood circulation, it can help to give your bloodstream a boost in fighting off infection.
The final huge benefit to side sleeping is not specific to the left. Researchers found that sleeping on one’s side allows the body to clear waste chemicals from the brain much more efficiently than sleeping on one’s back or stomach. The findings suggest that humans may have adapted to lateral sleeping to most efficiently clear our brains of the metabolic waste products that build up while we are awake. Our brains are much more efficient in clearing out metabolic waste when we are lying down, which scientists believe could be the reason humans have adapted to sleeping laterally. Interestingly, side sleeping is also the most popular position in the animal kingdom, and research suggests they do it for the same brain-boosting benefits.
If you find the switch over to the left side difficult, we have a few tips that may make the transition more comfortable. Placing a large pillow behind your back provides a physical barrier, making shifting to another position more difficult. Sleeping on the other side of the bed can also help trick your brain and body into relaxing on your left. Leaving a dim light on the right side of your bed can help make flipping over less likley. If you’re finding the switch difficult, even small amounts of time spent on the left will help your body to help you, in fact, ayurveda recommends resting on your left side for 10 minutes after a large meal. Happy sleeping!