7 Reasons to Try This Position in Bed.

Via on Jun 26, 2013

Breakfast at Tiffanys Audrey Hepburn

Have you ever wondered to what extent the two sides of your body mirror each other?

It is very common for me to have a patient tell me that they have all their issues on just one side of the body. A pain in the left foot, a bad left hip, a bad left shoulder, left-sided abdominal pain, a pain in the neck on the right side; why?

Why do rashes choose the left or right side of the body?

Why does the acuity of the eyes differ so greatly from one to the other?

Why do we get pains often on just one side of the body?

According to Ayurveda, the left side of the body is completely different than the right side, and, while I know it sounds strange, emphasizing the left side for rest and sleep offers some time tested wisdom for very real health and longevity benefits.

Join me as we investigate this old Ayurvedic concept and see if it still holds water today.

 

The Lymph Drains toward the Left

Interestingly, the left side of the body is the dominant lymphatic side. The majority of the body’s lymph fluid drains into the thoracic duct, located on the left side. Along the way, lymph fluid carrying proteins, glucose and other metabolites and waste products is purified by lymph nodes and is then drained into the left side of the heart.

Because of this, it is common in Ayurveda to deduce that left side ailments may be due to chronic lymphatic congestion. When the lymphatic system congests, it is more likely that lymph will back up on the left, more lymph-dominant side of the body. Whether or not this is always true is debatable, but you can see the logic at play here.

In the same non-scientific vein, issues that show up on the right side are thought to be due to imbalances in the liver and blood. Since the liver is on the right side of the body, liver congestion will more easily back up into the right side of the body and potentially cause problems.

The Priority System of the Body

According the Ayurveda, congestion happens in the body according to a certain pattern, or priority system. In this priority system, the lymph is the body’s first detox system to congest, before the liver and blood become overwhelmed. Thus, early lymph issues may present more on the left side of the body and move to the right as they become more long-standing and begin to congest the liver and the blood, at which point symptoms may start to show up on the right side of the body.

You can read more about lymph-related issues in the Detox and Lymphatic Health section of my article library.

Ever Feel Sleepy After a Big Meal?

hungry woman looking huge sandwichIn Ayurveda, it is common practice to rest on the left side of the body after taking a meal. Unlike a siesta where we take the whole afternoon off, Ayurveda suggests a short, ten minute rest on the left side to help the body properly digest the food.

The stomach and the pancreas (which make digestive enzymes) hang like slings on the left side. When you lie on the left side, the stomach and pancreas hang naturally, allowing for optimal and efficient digestion. The food is encouraged to move through the stomach naturally and the pancreatic enzymes are released as needed rather than all at once, which might happen more easily if you were on the right side with the pull of gravity.

If you lie on the right side, the stomach and pancreas will hang in a somewhat unnatural position, forcing them to empty their contents prematurely.

Meanwhile, the liver and gallbladder hang on the right side. Resting on the left side allows them to hang freely and secrete precious bile, with the help of gravity, into the digestive tract to emulsify fats and neutralize the acids of the stomach.

When the digestive process is encouraged in this way, in can often be a smoother and ultimately shorter digestive cycle that doesn’t leave you feeling sapped throughout the entire afternoon. So by taking a short rest on the left side, you may actually save yourself more fatigue throughout the day!

Get energized—not tired—from your meal! Here’s how:

Try eating a large midday meal in a relaxed fashion, followed by a 10 minute rest on the left side and see if you find yourself with more energy and better digestion as a result.

The Magic of Sleeping on the Left Side

Better Elimination

The small intestine dumps waste through the ileocecal valve (ICV) on the right side of the body into the beginning of the large intestine. The large intestine travels up the right side of your belly the across the tummy, where it dumps waste into the descending colon on the left side.

Sleeping on the left side allows gravity to encourage the food waste to move more easily from the small intestine into the large intestine through the ICV.

As the night wears on and you continue to sleep on your left side, the waste moves more easily into the descending colon. With the help of gravity and a good night’s sleep on the left the side, the descending colon is full of waste to easily eliminate completely each morning.

Better Heart Function

Of course, one of the biggest players on the left side is the heart. It makes sense that if you sleep on your left side, the lymph drainage toward the heart will again be helped by gravity, taking some of the workload off the heart as you sleep.

The aorta, which is the biggest artery in the body, leaves the top of the heart and arches to the left before it heads down into the abdomen. By sleeping on the left side, the heart is pumping its biggest payload downhill into the descending aorta.

Sleeping on the left also allows much of the intestines to hang away from the very thin-walled inferior vena cava (IVC) which brings venous blood back toward the heart. Interestingly, the IVC lies against the right side of the spine, so when you lie on the left much of the viscera falls away from the IVC. Here again, gravity is just making the heart’s job a little easier.

The Spleen Is On the Left

The spleen, which is part of the lymphatic system, is also on the left. The spleen is much like a gigantic lymph node, except that in addition to filtering lymph it also filters blood. When you lay on the left side, drainage back to the spleen is once again helped and made easier by gravity.

Remember, the lymph system drains all the cells in the body via movement and muscular contractions, rather than being pumped by the heart. Helping the lymph to drain to the spleen and heart with gravity is a good thing.

Try it!

So maybe this non-scientific technique of sleeping and resting on the left side makes some sense after all. I am a big fan of understanding ancient wisdom and then finding proof with modern science. In this case, I admit I lack some of the modern science but there is more than enough anatomical logic here to give it a whirl.

 

Relephant:

The 3 Ayurvedic Ground Rules for Restful Sleep. 

 

Like elephant health & wellness on Facebook.

Ed: Kate Bartolotta

 

 

 

About Dr. John Douillard

John Douillard, DC, has published over 500 health videos and articles that are available on his website. He has written six books, produced numerous health DVDs and CDs, and has formulated his own line of organic health care products. He is the former Director of Player Development for the New Jersey Nets NBA team. He has been featured on the Dr. Oz Show, in Woman's World Magazine and in Yoga Journal. He currently directs the LifeSpa Ayurvedic Center in Boulder, CO, where he lives with his wife and six children. Join Dr. John for the (Free!) 3 Season Diet Challenge for 12 months of seasonal guidance.

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26 Responses to “7 Reasons to Try This Position in Bed.”

  1. Mannu says:

    Wow!!! This all makes so much sense. Very long time ago I read somewhere tat it was better to sleep on your right side so as not to smother or squeeze the heart. Ever since I have been sleeping on my right side. Even if sometimes my body asks to do otherwise I have been forcing myself to sleep on the right side because I read that somewhere so long ago!!!! I will give this a try starting tonight.

    Thank You!!!

    • onehearttantra says:

      Yes, me too Mannu, I read that too and started sleeping on my right side but it's hard and I still favour the left most of the time. Glad I read this.

  2. Coco says:

    This is interesting and I'm always happy to try new things; thanks for the info:-)

    My questions is then why do we (usually) roll to our right side after our asana practice in yoga? I have heard many theories on this but is there reason from Ayurvedic point of view?

    • Jennifer Williams-Fields Jennifer W-Fields says:

      I was taught we roll to the right in savasana to make the left nostril more dominant. The left side is the cooling breath, whereas the right side is the warming breath. After practice we want to cool down so we lay on the right to let the left side take over.

  3. papa_tom says:

    awwww, but in Taoist practice, the recommendation is to sleep on the right side

    …guess I'll just go back to sleeping on my back ;)

    • Caging says:

      Hehehe,True. But this technique makes more sense on an Anatomical level. Using Gravity as the tool. The Taoist method would force one to build more strength internally as it is against gravity. Both work but for different reason. One for strength first and than efficiency while the other for efficiency and relief instantly. Anyway it is only for 10 or so mins after food. One could vary it I'm sure.

      • josef med buddha says:

        yess…..its much more then anatomy then this wayard modern ayurvedist interpreter has to offfer

    • josef ruibn says:

      Right side sleeeping is what is reccomended in Taoist, Tibetan Buddhist, and yogic traditions. We have to take care with modern ayurvedic people like John who try to create something new that goes against thousands of years of practice and wisdom, and does not present things in an authentic genuine way…and this is one of themmmmmm……

  4. Atreides says:

    Ayurvedic doctor in India said sleep on the right side for relaxation, rest on the left after a meal if necessary.

  5. roy says:

    my dad who lived into 3 digits, had a rib cage which was flatter on his right side since that's how he insisted on sleeping. he said that he felt that the heart was more comfortable this way. when i have experimented, i have felt a discomfort of the heart when lying on the left side.

  6. Chuck says:

    People with congestive heart failure prefer to sleep on the right side. And the ileocecal valve allows waste to travel from the small intestine to the large intestine, and not flow back into the small intestine, so the waste needs to flow upward if you sleep on the left side. This seems contrary to what Dr. Douillard says: "Sleeping on the left side allows gravity to encourage the food waste to move more easily from the small intestine into the large intestine through the ICV." Seems to me that the body needs to kind of shift around through the night, anyway, and not stay in one position for a full 8 hour sleep. But, I'm no expert.

    • I agree with you. I switch on both sides and on my back during the night and that works out just fine for me. While if I sleep only on one side it makes my limbs numb or my shoulder hurt.

  7. Saraswati J. swati says:

    Thank you. This is very helpful.

  8. Tara says:

    I have always slept on my left side. That is just my natural position, although occasionally I sleep on my back now that I am older. NB – I do not do yoga and I am not particularly "healthy."

  9. My Sociopath says:

    I am a certified yoga teacher and went to the top yoga teaching school (not a yoga studio) in the country (had to take courses in Sanskrit, the yoga sutras, and Anatomy). I learned that we must be careful of putting pressure on the left side of the body because that is where the heart is.

    So, I have been trying to sleep on my right side and I get this loud, thumping, pulsating, beating vibration in my heart area that goes up into my ears and is a loud ear thumping. It is scary.

    I turn to my left side and lie on my heart (as your article says to do), and I am perfectly relaxed and comfortable.

    It's the opposite of what every Yogi has learned!

    Do you know why this is happening? Great article:)

  10. Shalom says:

    This article makes sense from a Jewish perspective as well. On Passover we eat in a reclined fashion, always to the left side. The main reason given in the traditional sources is that if one leans to the right, food is more likely to travel down the windpipe instead of the esophagus. It would not surprise me if Ayurveda said something similar about eating and there were more physical benefits. As for sleeping, Judaism encourages sleeping on the side (either), as sleeping on the stomach or back is more likely to lead to nocturnal emissions.

  11. Aparna Amy says:

    Just to clarify, Ayurveda doesn’t recommend sleeping after meals at all. If you find yourself tired after eating, you’ve eaten more than your Agni is prepared to digest. Traditional guidelines for eating would be to fill the stomach 1/2 full of solid food, 1/4 full of warm liquid, and leave 1/4 empty to allow for the amashay and jathr agni and pachak pitta to begin the gross digestion process. If you must lay down or rest after eating, resting on your left side is preferable than the right for the above reasons, but preferably, take 100 steps to stimulate digestion, practice Vajrasana and keep your torso vertical.

    • awarenivore says:

      Thank you. Also, I've hear if you sleep on your right side you're a yogi, left side you're a rogi (diseased person.) With the right nostril up, we are more stimulated, with the left nostril up, more ready for sleep…

  12. Anni says:

    "Dr"?

    Sleeping on the left increases risk for Arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat)

  13. VERY interesting and helpful post! Thank you for this info, I'm trying it tonight :)

  14. Drea says:

    I was born feet first and left handed. I have never been able to lay on my left side, when I do everything goes numb from the ends of my fingers to the tip of my toes. I am blessed with (insert sarcasm here) crohn's colitis and diverticulitis. I understand now.

  15. Ellen says:

    Small correction – the article states that "The majority of the body’s lymph fluid drains into the thoracic duct, located on the left side. Along the way, lymph fluid carrying proteins, glucose and other metabolites and waste products is purified by lymph nodes and is then drained into the left side of the heart." Incorrect. "Flowing slowly along the primary lymphatics, the lymph empties into progressively larger lymphatic vessels which ultimately converge as the Thoracic Duct and drain their contents into the right and left subclavian veins in the thorax." These veins then return the blood and lymph fluids to the RIGHT side of the heart.
    On a personal note, I begin my sleep on the left side, shift to the right side, back to the left, and usually finish on the right. Some nights there is a short stint on my back. Don't know how people can maintain the same position all night!

  16. Gillian says:

    I love sleeping on my left side. I turn quite a bit during the night and so sometimes I am on my right side. Only to turn back onto my left side and I always feel so comforted and content when I turn onto my left side. Gillian

  17. Sleeping inn the right side is advocated by Ayurveda because you then breathe through the left nostril – the moon breath.

  18. Nicole says:

    Even mainstream doctors and pregnancy books tell pregnant women to try to always sleep on their left side. Have for decades. Their reasoning is usually that blood gets to the placenta better this way and puts less strain on the mother's heart. It's also a good way to reduce false labor contractions or to check on the baby when you haven't felt movement for awhile. Good to know there is a benefit for non-pregnant folks too.

  19. laurapalooza says:

    When I was pregnant with my son, my doctor had me sleep on my left side for improved circulation. It became so comfortable that I still sleep on my left side and feel very refreshed in the morning.

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