Scientists have a knack for telling us what to do, there’s no doubt about it. Drink one cup of coffee per day to stay alert and reduce cancer risk, opt for a Mediterranean diet and exercise regularly to stay in shape and healthy, and the list only goes on and on.
Well, it looks like there is one other thing many of us are probably doing wrong and that science can help improve: sleeping.
In a recent paper in the Journal of Neuroscience, a team of researchers at Stony Brook University in New York argue that the absolute best position to sleep in is on the side. Sleeping on one’s back or stomach, on the other hand, is a big no-no.
So, why should we sleep on the side?
The research team explain that, having carried out several experiments and tests, they found that the brain’s so-called glymphatic pathway, which is basically a system in charge of clearing waste and harmful products, works best when we lie on either of our sides.
In a nutshell, sleeping on the side means helping the body remove potentially harmful compounds that tend to build up in the brain and that can impair cognitive abilities.
“The analysis showed us consistently that glymphatic transport was most efficient in the lateral position when compared to the supine or prone positions,” Stony Brook University scientist Helene Benveniste explained in an interview, as cited by Medical Express.
The researchers argue that, by making it easier for the glymphatic system to clear waste, sleeping on the side not only improves brain function but also reduces the risk of developing neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Many sleep on the side instinctively
What’s interesting is that, according to the Stony Brook University team behind this investigation, many people and even animals prefer sleeping on the side rather than on their back or stomach. This might be because the body instinctively knows that this sleeping position is the best for the brain.
“The lateral sleep position is already the most popular in human and most animals – even in the wild – and it appears that we have adapted the lateral sleep position to most efficiently clear our brain of the metabolic waste products that built up while we are awake,” said researcher Maiken Nedergaard.