The Effects of Sleeping on Your Side

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For many people, sleeping on their side feels more comfortable than sleeping on the back or stomach. During sleep we often switch positions without even realizing it, yet some sleep postures can be potentially harmful to your health over a period of time if stress is placed on the internal organs. These are things we often don't know or think about, so it's worth understanding the possible side effects of sleeping on your side.

Sleeping on Left Side

  • Some people believe that sleeping on the left side of the body is safer than any other posture. This may be true if it is done for a short time and you switch to other postures during the night. But sleeping on the left side may be dangerous to health if it is done regularly, according to Dennis Auckley, M.D., of MetroHealth's Center for Sleep Medicine. This is particularly the case for those with heart problems, such as people recovering from a heart attack or heart failure, since sleeping on the left side causes a decrease in the body's sympathetic nervous activity, which normally controls blood pressure and heart rate. It also puts stress on the stomach and liver. If, however, you feel most comfortable and refreshed after sleeping on your left side, it is probably fine as long as you change positions periodically.

Sleeping on Left Side During Pregnancy

  • During pregnancy, a doctor may recommend that the woman sleep on her left side. This is because of the position of the liver and the fact that when a pregnant woman sleeps on her left side, the pressure from the uterus is taken off the liver, which is located on the right side of the abdomen. Also, the uterus weighs much more during pregnancy. Heart function will be more efficient and circulation will be better, providing more nutrients to the body and fetus. Sleeping on the left may also be easier for pregnant women, as it places less stress on the back.

Sleeping on Right Side

  • Sleeping on the right side is the next best thing to sleeping on your back because your internal organs are not putting pressure on the heart. Due to this lack of pressure on the internal organs, sleep is usually longer and more refreshing. This, of course, is assuming the person does not have an injury or disability that might make sleeping on the right side uncomfortable.

Sleeping on Your Side Comfortably

  • For people with joint pains, such as those in the back, knees or hips, sleeping on either side of the body can be uncomfortable. For this reason, it is recommended that you place a pillow between your knees and not position the upper leg over and higher (closer to the chest) than the lower leg, as this can aggravate lower back pain. Position the top knee on the pillow, but closer to the foot of the bed than the bottom knee.

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