Sunday, August 30, 2015

Is It Better To Sleep on Your Side Or Your Back?

The great thing about Ayurveda and really life is that usually the best answer to a question depends on who is asking the question.  As human beings we are all unique, and we, therefore, do not have to decide whether an item or course of action is good or bad.  The issue becomes whether something is right for us an individual.

To take it a step further, the answer to a question needs to be framed in the context of what a person is trying to accomplish. For example, in Ayurveda a food is judged by whether it is good for a certain body type.  Bananas are a healthy food.  Bananas are high in potassium and pectin, a form of fiber. Plus they have magnesium, vitamins C and B6, and they are high in antioxidants.  Yet, for certain body types, bananas are not recommended in Ayurveda because they have a heavy sweet quality that puts kapha types out of balance.  If someone is looking to be healthy, they choose foods based on how they interact with their body.  If someone is eating for pleasure, their goal is simply taste.  The goal and the individual help define how we answer a question and the action we will take.

It is the same thing for deciding which sleeping position is best (no, I didn't forget the original question-it's just in holistic health and coaching going deeper helps you more than simply a quick answer).  During sleep one of the fascinating biological processes that take place is brain detoxification. The brain has a unique method of removing toxic waste through the glymphatic system (lymphatic system working on the glial brain cells that manage this system).  The glymphatic system flushes the waste from the brain into the body's circulatory system and eventually liver from where it's ultimately eliminated.  This system works mostly when we sleep.  Clearing out this waste is essential for health and to prevent diseases like Alzheimer's where plaque builds up in the brain.

Researchers recently found that different body postures during sleep (sleeping on one's side or back) may also affect waste removal.  When animals slept on their sides, the waste removal system worked more efficiently.  Translated to human terms, this will provide greater protection against the chance of developing neurodegenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer's.

However, some people hold that sleeping on your back is best for preventing wrinkles, reducing acid reflux and helping back pain by providing better alignment of the head, neck and spine.  People with these health issues may be better off sleeping on their back.  Additionally, people who prefer to sleep on their back may be better off sleeping that way because sleep is so important.  Waking up in the middle of the night even for brief periods will adversely affect one's health increasing risks for cardiovascular disease, cancer and Alzheimer's.

So, the answer on the sleep position depends on who you are and what is going on with your body.  Yet, the most important issue is to sleep in the position that will give you the best quality of uninterrupted sleep.

Stay healthy & well,

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