Health & Wellbeing

Sleeping on your side appears to cut the risk of neurological disorders

Sleeping on your side appears ...
Sleeping on one's side could help clear waste and other harmful chemical solutes from the brain
Sleeping on one's side could help clear waste and other harmful chemical solutes from the brain
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Sleeping on one's side could help clear waste and other harmful chemical solutes from the brain
Sleeping on one's side could help clear waste and other harmful chemical solutes from the brain

New research suggests that sleeping on your side could help cut the chances of developing some neurological disorders, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Compared to sleeping on one's back or stomach, sleeping on one's side appears to allow the brain to more efficiently remove waste chemicals that may contribute to the development of such conditions.

The research team, led by Helene Benveniste, MD, PHD, a Professor in the Departments of Anesthesiology and Radiology at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, used dynamic contrast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to view the glymphatic pathway in rodent brains. This is the system in mammals responsible for clearing wastes and other harmful chemical solutes from the brain by way of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) filtering through the brain and exchanging with interstitial fluid (ISF).

It is during sleep that the glymphatic pathway is most efficient at removing brain waste, including amyloid β and tau proteins, whose build up in the brain is associated with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. The researchers ascertained the efficiency of this system in the brains of anesthetized rodents in the side, down, and up sleeping positions by viewing the CSF-ISF exchange rates via MRI.

"The analysis showed us consistently that glymphatic transport was most efficient in the lateral (side) position when compared to the supine (up) or prone (down) positions," said Dr.Benveniste. "Because of this finding, we propose that the body posture and sleep quality should be considered when standardizing future diagnostic imaging procedures to assess CSF-ISF transport in humans and therefore the assessment of the clearance of damaging brain proteins that may contribute to or cause brain diseases."

Colleagues at the University of Rochester validated the MRI data and assessed the influence of body posture in clearing amyloid from the brains using fluorescence microscopy and radioactive tracers.

"It is interesting that the lateral sleep position is already the most popular in human and most animals – even in the wild – and it appears that we have adapted the lateral sleep position to most efficiently clear our brain of the metabolic waste products that built up while we are awake," says Dr. Nedergaard, PHD, from the University of Rochester."The study therefore adds further support to the concept that sleep subserves a distinct biological function of sleep and that is to 'clean up' the mess that accumulates while we are awake. Our finding brings new insight into this topic by showing it is also important what position you sleep in."

Although the researchers expect the human glymphatic pathway will also clear brain waste most efficiently when a person sleeps on their side, tests on humans are still required to confirm this.

The team's paper appears in the Journal ofNeuroscience.

Source: Stony Brook University

Interesting, I read that in Islam, the Prophet Muhammad has said that one should sleep on its right. It isn't surprising that this is being verified thousands of years after he said this :)
In Islam, it is advised (more than 1400 years ago) to sleep on the right side with right hand under the cheek. This way of sleeping has proven to have many benefits among which is the above research findings.
Bob Flint
Start on the left three minutes, switch to the right side drift off to sleep. Collects & transfers blood from the left to the right slows heart rate, and relaxes the entire body.
"Brain Drain" has a whole new meaning.
Oh, that's Talmudic & predates Islam by maybe 500 years. It's recorded in Tractate Berakhoth 13, but I believe it says to start the night on the left side & in the middle of the night switch to the right side. The left side helps w/digestion.
Robert Walther
Resting on your left side relieves indigestion. I have to sleep on my left or right side since dual, emergency, open-heart surgeries 10 years ago. An unexpected benefit of having my chest split open. Who knew?
That's interesting. I've noticed that I belch when I lie on my left side - not sure that's good for digestion. I figure the stomach/duodenum shape acts as a U-bend when you're lying on the right side, which stops gas coming up.
Heikki Kääriäinen
I have noticed that sleeping in my camping hammock gives me a better sleep than any bed.
Possibly it has something to do with lack of pressure points as a good hammock provides a body hugging support from all sides.