New research suggest your sleep position can have a significant impact on your neurological functions and brain health. Sleeping in a lateral position, that is, on your side, could help to clear away wastes that accumulate in the brain. These wastes, including soluble amyloid-beta, contribute to brain disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
An international research team at Stony Brook University studied the effects of sleep position on brain health in mice and recently published their findings in The Journal of Nature Neuroscience.
The brain’s glymphatic pathway is a system that clears waste and other potentially harmful chemicals from the brain. Our brains remove waste better during sleep than when we are awake, but there appears to be more to it.
Sleep Position and Brain Health
To determine how sleep position can affect brain health, the scientists had to be able to see what goes on in our brain while we sleep. Dynamic contrast magnetic resonance (MRI) imaging has been used for several years to monitor glymphatic pathways. In this study, researchers looked at the pathways of sleeping mice.
Amyloids are proteins found throughout the body. As these proteins build up, they create amyloid plaques that have been associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Recently, it was demonstrated that poor sleep increases buildup of amyloid-beta in the brain.
This Stony Brook University study showed that mice sleeping in the lateral sleep position were more efficient at removing wastes from the brain. Using dynamic MRI and kinetic modeling, researchers measured the efficiency of waste removal for mice in three different sleeping positions-supine (on the back), lateral (on the side), and prone (on the stomach).
Courtesy of Today on NBC.
Most Popular Sleep Position
The researchers discovered side-sleeping appears to be the best position for glymphatic transport. Perhaps not coincidentally, the lateral sleep position is the most popular sleep position in humans and most animals. We may have adapted side-sleeping to better clear our brains of metabolic wastes that accumulate during waking hours. Left side sleeping is also believed to aid digestion, and is recommended to pregnant women for improving circulation.
This new discovery adds to the evidence of sleep’s necessary role in cleaning the mess that piles up in our minds while we are awake. Those messes can add up to severe brain problems. Quality sleep is important for many reasons, now we are fairly certain it can help stave off these disorders.
Better Sleep for Better Health
Make sure your bedroom is a good place to sleep. Reduce the amount of light and noise to help eliminate disturbances. People tend to sleep better in cooler environments, so if you can, reduce your bedroom temperature at night. Avoid looking at screens from tablets and smartphones, the light can decrease your sleep quality. Create a nighttime ritual to prepare your body for sleep. We are creatures of habit and our bodies anticipate regular activity.
Getting good sleep also starts with a good bed. Not all mattresses are conducive for side sleeping. You need a mattress that will give enough to allow you to sink into it, but provides enough support for proper spine alignment. You also want a mattress that doesn’t off-gas a bunch of toxic pollutants or chemicals.
We’ve done several articles on the best types of mattresses, and memory foam consistently tends to rate highest among consumers. In our memory foam comparisons, one brand that stands out for value and good reviews is Amerisleep.
Amerisleep is a plant-based memory foam mattress brand that has a couple options that are ideal for side sleepers. Not all mattress lines offer beds that have thick enough comfort layers (3”+) and the right density range (3.5-5 lb) to accommodate the unique needs of side sleeping. The Amerisleep Colonial Bed has just the right amount of support and conformability to align your spine while sleeping on your side and it won’t create pressure points which can inhibit blood flow.
Sleep is important for many reasons. By intervening and improving sleep quality, we can help stave off a lot of serious afflictions. Invest in your sleep, and you sleep you pay off.