This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
Chances are your sleeping posture is something you think very little about. But a study published in The Journal of Neuroscience finds there’s one in particular that may be better than the rest for decreasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
As we’ve reported in the past, when you sleep, the brain is diligently involved in removing toxins that accumulate during the day. This function is vitally important because the buildup of harmful chemicals can lead to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. In fact, the link between brain toxins and neurodegenerative illness is so strong that such disorders have been called “dirty brain diseases.”
Now, the latest discovery linking certain sleep habits to brain health has found that sleeping on your side may be better than sleeping on your back or stomach, because it helps the brain remove damaging wastes more effectively.
While the lymphatic system cleans away toxins from the rest of the body, the brain has its separate system of waste removal. It is the glymphatic pathway, a network of piping surrounding the blood vessels, which propels the cleansing agent of the cerebrospinal fluid forcefully through the brain. The process works similarly to the lymphatic system. It is critical for brain health, as some of the toxins are proteins that produce the buildup of amyloid plaque — the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
In the experiment at Stony Brook University, researchers anesthetized rodents and then used MRIs and computer modeling to measure the effectiveness of the brain’s filtration system. After putting the rodents in the positions of lying on their side, back and stomach, side lying proved to be the most conducive for removing toxins.
“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 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 Dr. Maiken Nedergaard. “The study therefore adds further support to the concept that sleep subserves a distinct biological function of sleep and that is to ‘clean up’ the mess that accumulates while we are awake. Many types of dementia are linked to sleep disturbances, including difficulties in falling asleep. It is increasing acknowledged that these sleep disturbances may accelerate memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease. Our finding brings new insight into this topic by showing it is also important what position you sleep in,” she explained.
Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep
Regardless of your sleeping position, optimal shuteye is essential for health. Research shows poor sleep increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as accelerates the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Noted natural health practitioner Dr. Joseph Mercola provides the following tips for good sleep.
- Get bright sunlight exposure regularly, especially in the morning.
- Set your thermostat at a cool temperature, and make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible.
- Avoid watching TV or using the computer at least one hour before retiring.
- Turn off your wireless router before you go to bed because the electromagnetic radiation can disrupt you melatonin production, which can interfere with sleep.