Research suggests sleeping on one's side can provide a better night's sleep than laying on one's back or stomach. The study led by a team of researchers at the Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York found sleeping laterally can help the brain get rid of toxic waste products more efficiently.
The study -- published in the Journal of Neuroscience -- shows how the positions of the legs, arms, head and back affect the systemic health of an individual and help eliminate the brain waste, thereby reducing the risk of Alzheimer's and other neurological conditions.
The lead researcher Dr. Helene Benveniste and the rest of the research team studied the glymphatic pathways in mice using magnetic resonance imaging. In the glymphatic pathway, the cerebrospinal fluid in the brain exchanges its waste metabolites with the interstitial fluid, from where it is set out to be discarded from the body.
The Medical Daily reported the rodents were anesthetized to sleep in three positions -- side, prone and supine. The research team found the glymphatic transport to be much more efficient when the rodents were sleeping in lateral position.
"It is interesting that the lateral sleep position is already the most popular in human and most animals -- even in the wild -- and it appears that we have adopted the lateral sleep position to most efficiently clear our brain of the metabolic waste products that built up while we are awake," researcher Maiken Nedergaard said in a university news release.
Another study published in the the Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice in 2007 found a majority of people prefer to sleep on their sides rather than on their stomachs or backs. The study concluded people sleeping in lateral position woke up less during the night due to neck, back or leg pain as compared to those who slept in the other positions.