How you sleep has an effect on your brain, and you might start considering sleeping sideways from now on.
In a research published in The Journal of Neuroscience, it was revealed that sleeping in the lateral position or on one's side makes the brain's cleaning and waste removal process more efficient, which can help reduce the possibility of developing neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
The study led by Helene Benveniste, Professor of Anesthesiology at Stony Brook University, New York, investigated the process after past studies suggested that the brain is better at removing the harmful substances in the brain during sleep. Thus, they sought to find out if sleeping posture has an effect in the process.
In conducting the study, the researchers specifically focused on the glymphatic pathway, a complex system in the brain that is responsible for removing the waste products that damage the normal function of cells and tissues.
According to Medical News Today, the system filters cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) through the brain and exchanges it with interstitial fluid (ISF) in order to clean the potentially toxic chemical wastes including amyloid beta and tau proteins that are the common signs of Alzheimer's.
The researchers used a dynamic contrast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) together with computer modeling to measure and evaluate the CSF-ISF exchange in the brains of rodents placed in lateral (lying on side), prone (lying on stomach), and supine (lying on back) position.
The analysis illustrates that the glymphatic system is most active when lying on the side as compared when lying on the back and stomach.
Even if it is not yet tested in human subjects, the researchers believe that sleeping position plays a vital role in the process while noting that the lateral sleeping position is the "most popular position observed in humans and most animals, even in the wild."
"Although our finding awaits testing in humans, we speculate that the lateral position during sleep has advantage with regard to the removal of waste products including Aβ (soluble amyloids), because clinical studies have shown that sleep drives Aβ clearance from the brain," the researchers concluded in the study.
Sleep serves an important biological function of cleaning up the wastes that build up when we are awake. Previous and continuous studies have shown that poor sleep is associated with an increased risk of dementia as well as the possibility of heart attack and stroke for men.
"Our finding brings new insight into this topic by showing it is also important what position you sleep in," Co-author Dr. Maiken Nedergaard of the University of Rochester, NY, told the Medical News Today.