There is an optimal sleeping position for brain health says a new study. Researchers say that sleeping on your side is the suitable to help the brain's nighttime process of clearing out waste and harmful chemicals.
The study was carried out with mice to see how well they were able to remove waste when they were made to sleep on either backs, stomachs or sides. The system that gets rid of bad buildup and harmful chemicals in the brain, known as the glymphatic pathway, was observed with MRI scans to see how well it performed in various sleep stances. Beta amyloid and tau proteins are brain waste which are associated with plaques and tangles common in Alzheimer's patients.
"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," University of Rochester researcher Maiken Nedergaard said in a release. It's estimated that nearly two in three Americans sleep on their side.
Though further testing needs to be done in humans, the study does support other findings which boost the connection between sleep and Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other neurological diseases.
"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," said Nedergaard. "Many types of dementia are linked to sleep disturbances, including difficulties in falling asleep. It is increasingly 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."
To keep the brain healthy and disease free sleep is essential, say a number of studies. Poor sleep doesn't just affect your mind's ability to save new memories, but it can create a channel allowing the harmful proteins to affect long-term memory storage, says a study from June. Older men who reported sleep troubles were 1.5 times as likely to develop Alzheimer's than their easy-sleeping counterparts, according to study from 2014.