We can’t really control the position we sleep in – most of us wriggle around all night long in search for the most comfortable snoozing spot.
But according to scientists, sleeping in one particular position could be really good for us.
According to a new report published by The Journal of Neuroscience, we should all be sleeping on our sides. Scientists reckon that lying on our side helps to clear out ‘brain waste’, which could help prevent Alzheimer’s and neurodegenerative diseases.
Luckily, most of us sleep on our sides anyway. It’s actually the most common sleep position – for both humans and, interestingly, animals in the wild.
Scientists came up with their discovery as part of a study on how sleeping positions affect the brain’s waste. Testing their various theories on rodents, they used MRIs to look at the glymphatic, or waste clearance, brain pathway of rodents under anesthesia, while they were lying in three different positions: on their sides (known as the lateral position), on their backs (supine position) and on their stomachs (prone position).
They found that when sleeping on their side, the rodents cleared their brain waste much more efficiently.
“The rodents who were in the lateral position cleared amyloid beta about 25 percent better than when in the prone or supine position,” lead study author Helene Benveniste, MD, PhD, professor at Stony Brook University, tells Yahoo Health.
Clearing waste products efficiently ensures that they don’t build up in the brain. “When amyloid beta builds up it can form aggregated plaques, which are very difficult for the brain to get rid of,” Benveniste says. These plaques are a telltale characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
So what exactly is this ‘brain waste’ we keep harping on about?
In a nutshell, brain waste is a bunch of chemicals such as amyloid and tau proteins that can upset the processes that happen in the brain if it’s left to build up.
While we sleep, a fluid flows through the brain to naturally clear away this ‘waste’ – which is why opting to sleep in a position that gives this process a helping hand could be hugely beneficial.
This glymphatic system is generally inactive during the day, but at night the size of the waste clearance canals in the brain increase by around 60 per cent, allowing fluids to flow through the body at a much faster rate.
This theory hasn’t yet been proven, but it could be a huge leap for the prevention of dementia and related illnesses. And if nothing else, it has definitely made us want to crawl back into bed and give this side-sleeping thing a go.
If only lying on our sides all night didn’t give us a dead arm, eh?