Your Sleeping Position Could Help Prevent Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s

How you sleep can affect your waking life. Certain sleep positions have proven to be more effective than others at producing more restful sleep. Experts agree that sleeping on your side is most beneficial, as it clears your airways, helps to alleviate back pain and other posture related pains and makes for a more restful night’s sleep. A recent study conducted by the Stony Brook University in New York has found that sleeping on your side may also help reduce your chances of developing neurological illnesses such as Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Benefits to Sleeping On Your Side

Sleeping on your side leads to more restful sleep, primarily because it helps keep your airways clear. This position is commonly recommended to people who are prone to sleep apnea, a condition in which the airways become obstructed and you stop breathing momentarily. These periods in which you stop breathing cause you to wake up temporarily, disrupting the REM cycle necessary for body restoration. According to an article on Harvard Medical School’s Blog titled “2 Ways to Protect Your Heart: Improve Your Sleep and Manage Stress,” poor sleep can have many dangerous consequences. “Over time, inadequate or poor quality sleep can increase the risk for a number of chronic health problems, including heart disease. Studies have linked short-term sleep deprivation with several well-known contributors to heart disease, including high cholesterol, high triglycerides and high blood pressure.” Poor cardiovascular health has often been tied to neurological disease because it increases the likelihood that blood flow to the brain will be impacted. 

Why Sleeping On Your Side Protects Against Neurological Disorders

Restful sleep is crucial in maintaining your health. According to Harvard Medical School, “In studies of humans and other animals, they have discovered that sleep plays a critical role in immune function, metabolism, memory, learning, and other vital functions.” The Stony Brook University study found that sleeping on your side helps your body rid itself of “brain waste” more effectively. Its blog details the study and its findings. “By using dynamic contrast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to image the brain’s glymphatic pathway, a complex system that clears wastes and other harmful chemical solutes from the brain, Stony Brook University researchers Hedok Lee, PhD, Helene Benveniste, MD, PhD, and colleagues, discovered that a lateral sleeping position is the best position to most efficiently remove waste from the brain.”

Researchers stated that sleeping on one’s side is the most common sleep position in humans and animals, and they speculated that they health benefits may be the reason why. The team suggested potential uses for its findings, as published on the Stony Brook University blog: “‘The analysis showed us consistently that glymphatic transport was most efficient in the lateral position when compared to the supine or prone 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.’”

If you are a back or a stomach sleeper, transitioning to your side could provide a number of positive health benefits. It may be difficult at first, but you can employ tools such as a body pillow or a mattress with a different level of firmness could help you make the change. Your body will probably naturally revert to its favored position during the night, but with time and persistence, you should be able to make the change. Take advantage of the health benefits of side sleeping and lower your risk of developing neurological illnesses.