When we go to sleep, we find comfort on our back, side, stomach or the fetal position. Do you ever think about how you sleep?
Surprisingly, the sleeping posture you choose in life could have beneficial or destructive outcomes. Who knew it made a difference…
Research at Stony Brook University shows how sleeping posture might help reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and a few other neurological disorders.
Sleep is crucial and has a major impact on our mood, overall well-being and most importantly, our brain health.
What’s the best sleeping position?
A group of researchers at Stony Brook University used dynamic contrast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to image the brain’s glymphatic pathway leading to the finding that a lateral sleeping position is the best position to efficiently remove waste from the brain.
The study also observed that in humans and many animals, the lateral sleeping position is naturally the most common. Thus sleeping on your side instead of sleeping on your back or stomach could be the best way to get rid of brain waste and to reduce your chance of developing a neurological disorder like Alzheimer’s. Experts believe that neurological diseases derive from the buildup of brain waste chemicals, so the cleansing process when we sleep is critical for good health.
BRAIN WASTE: The Glymphatic Pathway Cleanse
The glymphatic pathway is most efficient during sleep. It is the time your brain uses to flush out brain waste. Brain waste includes tau proteins, amyloid β and other waste chemicals that may adversely impact brain processes if they accumulate.
The research used the dynamic contrast MRI method along with kinetic modeling to quantify the CSF-ISF exchange rates. The analysis consistently showed that glymphatic transport was most efficient in the lateral position when compared to the supine or prone positions. Interestingly, the lateral sleep position is already the most popular in human and most animals. It appears as if we have adopted the lateral sleep position, which efficiently helps rid our brain of the metabolic waste products that built up while we are awake.
Could this be one of the missing links as to why sleep disturbances may accelerate memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease?
Not only is getting enough sleep necessary, but also the posture you employ is important for healthy brain development, says Dr. Helene Benveniste, Principal Investigator and a Professor at the Department of Anesthesiology and Radiology at Stony Brook University School of Medicine.
Dr. Beneviste further adds that based on these new findings, body posture, and sleep quality should be considered when standardizing future diagnostic imaging procedures to assess CSF-ISF transport in
humans along with the assessment of the clearance of damaging brain proteins that may contribute to or cause brain diseases.
Your Future Sleep Posture
Most of the people find it difficult to record their position during sleep. However the research observed that the people who adopted the side sleeping positions were less likely to wake up in the night bothered by shoulder, neck or arm pain as compared to others who went to sleep in any other position without giving a second thought. This means we can essentially ward off many neurological disease directly linked to sleep by adjusting how we lie when we sleep. Understanding how and when the brain activates the glymphatic system and clears waste can help us figure out how to make it work efficiently.
Reader – How do you sleep at night? After reading this, will you think again about your sleeping posture?