The benefits of sleeping on your side

As someone who (shamefully) snores, I spend a lot of time getting myself in the perfect position at night, not just for me, but for my partner.

If I had it my way, I’d be starfished and flat on my back, chin to the wind and mouth hanging open (nice visuals, right?). 

Unfortunately, I do feel somewhat responsible for my partner’s comfort, especially since he’s such a light sleeper, so my usual sleeping position tends to see me curled up on my side with my chin tucked neatly in – the anti-snoring position. 

Although it can cause some postural issues (which can be fixed by adding an extra pillow or two), luckily for me, it turns out there are tons of benefits to sleeping on your side when it comes to overall health and wellbeing. 

What are the benefits to sleeping on your side?

Reduces snoring

Okay, first and foremost – as I’ve come to learn – sleeping on your side massively reduces the likelihood of snoring. 

‘This is because back sleeping can often lead to worsened snoring and obstructive sleep apnea,’ explains Eachnight sleep expert Kiera Pritchard.

‘Your jaw, tongue, and other soft tissues collapse in your throat when you lie on your back and the collapsed soft tissue narrows your airway and makes breathing more difficult, thus resulting in snoring.’

She adds that while sleeping on your stomach can also reduce snoring, it’s not as beneficial as side-sleeping because it obstructs your breathing in other ways, which can lead to postural problems due to having to twist your neck to the side to breathe. 

Prevents sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder characterised by your breathing stopping and starting throughout the night. 

‘Left untreated, sleep apnoea has been linked to more health problems such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and asthma, among others,’ says Pritchard.

‘Through side sleeping, you can significantly reduce your chances of having obstructive sleep apnea.’

Aids digestion

Sleeping on your side can actually aid digestion by preventing stomach acid from rising and holding stomach contents in place better than if you were to sleep on your back or stomach. 

Pritchard says: ‘When you lie flat on your front or back, your stomach’s acid can flow up your oesophagus, causing damage. 

‘However, lying on your side ensures gravity will keep your stomach acid from flowing upward. 

Digestive issues that can be prevented or managed by side-sleeping include heartburn and acid reflux.’

Helps with brain function

Last, but definitely not least, sleeping on your side can help to clear out toxins from your brain – a function that may play a key role in preventing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. 

‘Your body has a waste system known as the glymphatic system,’ says Pritchard. 

‘Its job is to clear out any waste in the brain and may also help deliver compounds such as glucose, lipids, amino acids, and neurotransmitters.

‘Your sleep position can influence its effectiveness as the system operates more efficiently when you lie on your side than on your back or front. 

‘A 2015 study speculated that may be part of the reason side sleeping is the most popular position.’

All in all, it’s very validating to know I’ve been getting my sleeping position right, whether it was by choice or not. 

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