Some people know which position always works best for falling asleep. For others, it may take some time to find the right level of comfort to doze off. And while it’s not uncommon to wake up with back or neck pain after a poor rest, most assume that the best way to sleep is the one that makes you most comfortable. But research has shown that sleeping in certain positions can benefit your brain by reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Read on to see how you might want to catch your forty winks.
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In a study published in The Journal of Neuroscience in August 2015, a team of researchers from Stony Brook University examined how different sleeping positions could affect the brain’s lymphatic pathway, which is a system that works to clean up chemical waste from the brain the same way the body’s lymphatic system removes waste from other organs. To test their theory, the team used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the brains of rats sleeping in a side-lying position, in a face-down lying position, or in a face-up lying position on the back.
The results revealed that sleep in side position allowed the system to work more efficiently to eliminate waste than sleeping while lying down or lying down. “Because of this finding, we propose that body posture and sleep quality should be taken into account when standardizing future diagnostic imaging procedures to assess CSF-ISF transport in humans and thus the assessment clearance of damaging brain proteins that may contribute to or cause brain diseases,” Helene BenvenisteMD, PhD, the study’s principal investigator, said in a statement.
The findings shed light on how the brain uses time while we sleep to get rid of potentially harmful chemicals, including amyloid and tau proteins that can lead to neurological damage when they build up. Experts say this means that even if rest in lateral position has already been shown to provide support for the spine and reduce acid reflux, it could be good for brain health as well as.
“Sleeping on your side has been shown to be the most beneficial position for your brain, as this position helps your brain eliminate interstitial waste faster than other positions,” Narwan Aminian expert from sleep health website Eachnight, said The sun. “This leads to multiple benefits, including potentially reducing the risk of developing neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease.”
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Benveniste concludes that while similar tests in humans would likely yield similar results, there is a need to fully understand how sleep affects the glymphatic system. Still, others involved in the research pointed to the potential significance of the study’s findings.
“Interestingly, the side sleeping position is already the most popular among humans and most animals, even in the wild, and it seems we’ve adapted the side sleeping position to more effectively clear our brains of metabolic waste that has accumulated while we are awake,” Maiken Nedergaard, MD, one of the study’s co-authors, said in a statement. “The study therefore adds further support to the concept that sleep serves a biological function distinct from sleep, and that is to ‘clean up’ the clutter that accumulates while we are awake.”
“Many types of dementia are linked to sleep disturbances, including difficulty falling asleep,” she added. “There is growing recognition that these sleep disturbances can accelerate memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease. Our discovery sheds new light on this topic by showing that knowing what position you sleep in is also important. .”
If you’re looking to change your preferred sleeping position, it may not be as easy for some as simply turning over: Having the right configuration for your bed can also have a noticeable effect on transition to side sleep.
“Pillows are serious sleep products that have a big impact on both your sleep and your overall health,” Michael Breusauthor of The sleep doctor dietRecount Prevention. “The main purpose of a pillow is to align the cervical spine [the part in your neck] so there is no bending [bend] or tension [muscle tightness] in the neck during sleep.”
Breus warns that pillows that are too thick or too thin can throw your body out of alignment as you drift away, noting that it’s essential your head isn’t tilted up or down while you rest. To check if everything lines up, he suggests having your sleep partner or a friend check your position while you dine lying down to see if everything is straight. “Choose a pillow thick enough to fill the space between your ear and your shoulder [5 to 6 inches]“, he recommends, adding that if you still experience neck pain, “try a spoon, an S-shape or a neck bolster. “
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