Left vs. Right Side Sleeping: What's the Difference?

Side sleeper? We have news. There are specific benefits to sleeping on your right side or your left

Learn the different benefits of sleeping on your left or right side

In our growing quest to maximize our physical and mental wellness, we’ve learned that sleep is crucial. We now find ourselves working to optimize our sleep-time, asking questions like: should I be sleeping on my left side or my right side? We’ve found our best side sleeper mattresses, our most preferred bed sheets, and our best side sleeper pillows or pillows for neck pain, and we’ve even invested in a comfy mattress topper and a new comforter—all to ensure we are getting our best night’s sleep. But what is our best night’s sleep? Is it better to side sleep on the left side or the right side? Does it even make a difference?

As it turns out, yes it does!

On top of being a left-side or a right-side sleeper, we can also be “fetal” sleepers, meaning we are not just laying on our side, but doing so in a curled-up position. This dreamers’ tactic scores points for spinal comfort and alignment, but also could spell poorer breathing capacity overnight and body tightness in the morning, whether sleeping on the left side or the right side.

Scientific research shows that side sleeping actually helps the body eliminate harmful waste in key, unique ways—with each side having its own pro/con list, as well as some shared advantages and disadvantages. For example, as another added benefit to fetal sleeping, when we curl up on our right or left side, the brain’s ability to cleanse mental daily waste is improved, leaving us feeling recharged and refreshed in the morning. As a long-term result, we are able to better fight off the effects of neurological diseases, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons.

Traditional left side and right side sleeping (non-fetal) also share a number of other positive and negative differences with other sleeping positions. While side sleeping can make us less likely to snore or to experience episodes of sleep apnea, in time, it can also cause wrinkles, shoulder and jaw discomfort, and can even inflame carpal tunnel syndrome. Still, the positives may outweigh these potential drawbacks, overall.

When it comes to left vs. right side, sleeping on the left side generally seems to be the best-prescribed option; this position is most ideal for helping aid in digestion and subsequent waste removal, generally making our tummies and bodies just feel better for the day ahead. The floor plan of our internal organs and intestines reaps the biggest payoff from gravity when we park it portside and sleep on our left, so doctors often recommend at least trying to start off the night this way.

Sleeping on the left side is also said to be the best option for pregnant sleepers, as it can be utilized to improve circulation, breathing, and general comfort.

For all of our best night’s sleep, a number of different types of specialized sleep pillows and styles of posture when choosing our most comfortable positions are available to help our bodies find the most comfort—a worthwhile investment and education, since we sleep for a whole third of our lives.

While the left side may work some natural, amazing bio-magic for our bellies, sleeping on our right side makes a strong case for being pro-heart health, so don’t count it out, yet! Studies show that our nervous system is able to relax into sleep with us a bit more effectively when we snooze on our right side, resulting in better long-term heart health.

Nonetheless, with all yin comes yang, and right-side sleeping can also have the unwanted side effect of causing complications with acid reflux disease. Whereas left side sleeping keeps digestion on course, right-side sleeping has the inverse effect, making it difficult for the body to carry out its nightly physical waste process. This often produces an unpleasant sensation in the chest and throat for many people, negating all of our other best night’s sleep preparations.

In the end, a mixture of sleeping on our left side and our right side may be the best option of all. Allowing our physical and mental systems to dispel the previous day and invigorate us with only what we need for the day to come rests solely in a good night’s sleep, and we now have medical evidence to show that sleeping on each side benefits us in a number of exclusive ways. These benefits seem to be worth cozying up in a side sleeping position, especially since most of the potential negative effects of side sleeping, like wrinkles and bodily discomfort, can be staved off by removing repetition and adding some left side vs. right side variety. Sweet side slumbers!

Resources — WebMDHealthlineThe Sleep DoctorAmerican Pregnancy