Sleep position is often a matter of comfort, but in some cases your sleeping position may be important to your health. Sleeping on the left side of the body is often recommended for women while they are pregnant, as well as people with other conditions.
When Sleeping On Your Left Is Helpful
Benefits of Left-Sided Sleeping During Pregnancy
Sleeping on your side (and specifically on your left) is often recommended during pregnancy, especially during the later trimesters. Sleeping in other positions is not necessarily bad for baby or for mom, but left-side sleeping may have certain benefits. According to the Nemours Foundation, left-sided sleeping during pregnancy:
- Prevents the uterus from applying pressure to the liver (which is on the right side of the body).
- Is beneficial to circulation.
- Improves blood flow to the fetus, the uterus, and the kidneys.
- Takes pressure off the back, which may alleviate typical pregnancy-related back pain.
Benefits of Left-Sided Sleeping for Those With Heartburn
People who experience heartburn may find relief from nighttime symptoms by sleeping on their left side. When you are on your left side, the stomach is positioned below the entrance to the stomach from the esophagus (called the cardiac sphincter). Because symptoms of heartburn are caused when the stomach contents back up into the esophagus, keeping the cardiac sphincter above the stomach may help prevent discomfort from heartburn.
Sleeping with the head elevated can also help prevent nighttime symptoms of heartburn.
When Side-Sleeping (Right or Left) Is Helpful
Side Sleeping and Snoring
Snoring is a common problem that can occur for many reasons. Back sleeping is associated with snoring because while you are on your back, your tongue moves back into your throat. For this reason, sleeping on your side (either right or left) or on your stomach is recommended to prevent snoring.
Side Sleeping to Relieve Neck and Back Pain
Neck and back pain are very common problems that could be affected by sleep position. In many cases, sleeping on the side (either left or right) or on the back may help alleviate back and neck pain. Pillows or other sleep aids might be used to keep the spine in a more natural position while sleeping.
When Sleeping On the Left Is Not Recommended
If you have chronic heart failure or have had a heart attack, sleeping on your right side (instead of the left) may be recommended by your physician. Sleeping on your right side may lower your heart rate and your blood pressure. Sleeping on your left side may have a negative effect on sympathetic nervous activity (which includes heart rate and blood pressure).
It's not fully understood why sleeping on your right side may be healthier for your heart. One theory is that the heart is better positioned when you are lying on your right. The heart is slightly to the left in your chest cavity, and when you lie on your right side, the heart is higher in your body. It's unclear if people who do not have a heart condition can get the same heart-healthy benefits from sleeping on their right side.
Important Points to Remember About Left-Sided Sleeping
Sleep position is often a matter of comfort, and most people change positions while sleeping and find themselves waking in a different position than the one in which they fell asleep. If it is recommended that you sleep on your left side for medical reasons, you can try sleeping with a pillow or a tennis ball behind your back to prevent you from rolling over. There are several types of body pillows on the market (some made with pregnant women in mind) that can work to keep you sleeping in one position. Some people try putting the tennis ball in the back of their pajamas, even sewing it into place to prevent it from moving.
Unless your physician has specifically recommended a particular sleep position, choose the sleep position that is most comfortable for you. If you have questions about how your position during sleep can affect your health, speak to your doctor.