The Sleeping Position That’s Best for Brain Health?

The Best Sleeping Position for Optimal Brain Health

Pillows and people are always a lovely match, but there are plenty of other reasons why sleep is so important. Sleep restores, recharges, solves problems, processes emotions and memories leftover from the day, and quite literally, cleanses the brain. Bodies tend to unfold as they want to during sleep, but new research has found that it’s not just sleep that influences brain health, but also sleep position.

During sleep, the space between brain cells expands, allowing fluid to rapidly flow through the brain and wash away toxins that have built up in the central nervous system during waking hours.

[irp posts=”97″ name=”The Remarkable New Discovery About What Your Brain Does While You Sleep”]

 

The efficient removal of waste products from the brain will reduce the risk of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s. 

In a recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers investigated how sleeping position affects the removal of toxins from the brain. 

The study found that sleeping on the side was the most efficient way to cleanse the brain of waste, reducing the risk of neurological disease. Evolution might have given us a hand here – sleeping on the side is already the most popular way to sleep for humans and most animals, even in the wild.

The study was conducted on mice – not because researchers wanted to find the best sleep position for tiny four-legged ones with fur, but because of their biological and genetic similarity to humans.

Many types of dementia have been linked to sleep disturbances and difficulties falling asleep. The effective removal of brain waste seems to have an important role in protecting against such disorders. When toxins aren’t eliminated, the risk of memory loss, Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases is increased. Sleep, and more specifically sleeping on your side, facilitates the removal of these harmful brain toxins.

Now … if only the opportunities for peaceful, happy zzz’s were as plenty as the reasons.

 

7 Comments

Sylvia Britton

So many schools of thought – left side so acid reflux doesn’t happen and heart surgery patients are told to do this (I’m one of those), yet I find sleeping on my left side gives me a deeper, more restful sleep. Is either side helpful for flushing CSF, or is one better than the other. The above article says “…the side…”. Has there been other research on which side?

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Olli-Petteri Nivaro

It says ‘lateral position’ (as opposed to prone/supine) so I’m confident that they made the same observation for both left- and right-side sleepers; if there was any significant difference, it would be reasonable to assume that they’d have reported it.

And as far as I can tell, this paper is the first one to address the effect of sleeping position on glymphatic transport (it doesn’t sound like an experiment that you’d readily come up with and get funds for, either), and since it was published in August 2015, I wouldn’t expect any additional info on this subject — at least from research using human subjects — before 2016.

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Betty

What would be the safest thing to take to help you sleep through the night? I enjoy a glass of wine each evening before bed but dont think it has anything to do with waking up repeatedly. Thank you

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Pia Gundersen

That was an interesting article. How, specifically, does the brain do this? What happens in the brain during sleep and where does the waste go?
Thank you.
Pia

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Hey Sigmund

During sleep, the cells in the brain shrink, allowing an opening up the space between the cells. This allows cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) – which usually covers the surface of the brain during the day – to flow through the brain and take toxins with it. The CSF flows through a kind of plumbing system called the glymphatic system, which appears to be able to work 10 times harder when we’re asleep. There enormous amount of energy required to pump CSF. The brain has enough to do while during waking hours, so this pumping takes place while we’re asleep. In lab experiments with mice, it has been found that waste from the cells is flushed out via the blood vessels in the brain, into the circulatory stytem f the body and eventually into the liver. Hope that makes it clearer.

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Anxiety shows up to check that you’re okay, not to tell you that you’re not. It’s your brain’s way of saying, ‘Not sure - there might be some trouble here, but there might not be, but just in case you should be ready for it if it comes, which it might not – but just in case you’d better be ready to run or fight – but it might be totally fine.’ Brains can be so confusing sometimes! 

You have a brain that is strong, healthy and hardworking. It’s magnificent and it’s doing a brilliant job of doing exactly what brains are meant to do – keep you alive. 

Your brain is fabulous, but it needs you to be the boss. Here’s how. When you feel anxious, ask yourself two questions:

- ‘Do I feel like this because I’m in danger or because there’s something brave or important I need to do?’

- Then, ‘Is this a time for me to be safe (sometimes it might be) or is this a time for me to be brave?

And remember, you will always have ‘brave’ in you, and anxiety doesn’t change that a bit.♥️

#positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #parenting #childanxiety #heywarrior #heywarriorbook
The temptation to fix their big feelings can be seismic. Often this is connected to needing to ease our own discomfort at their discomfort, which is so very normal.

Big feelings in them are meant to raise (sometimes big) feelings in us. This is all a healthy part of the attachment system. It happens to mobilise us to respond to their distress, or to protect them if their distress is in response to danger.

Emotion is energy in motion. We don’t want to bury it, stop it, smother it, and we don’t need to fix it. What we need to do is make a safe passage for it to move through them. 

Think of emotion like a river. Our job is to hold the ground strong and steady at the banks so the river can move safely, without bursting the banks.

However hard that river is racing, they need to know we can be with the river (the emotion), be with them, and handle it. This might feel or look like you aren’t doing anything, but actually it’s everything.

The safety that comes from you being the strong, steady presence that can lovingly contain their big feelings will let the emotional energy move through them and bring the brain back to calm.

Eventually, when they have lots of experience of us doing this with them, they will learn to do it for themselves, but that will take time and experience. The experience happens every time you hold them steady through their feelings. 

This doesn’t mean ignoring big behaviour. For them, this can feel too much like bursting through the banks, which won’t feel safe. Sometimes you might need to recall the boundary and let them know where the edges are, while at the same time letting them see that you can handle the big of the feeling. Its about loving and leading all at once. ‘It’s okay to be angry. It’s not okay to use those words at me.’

Ultimately, big feelings are a call for support. Sometimes support looks like breathing and being with. Sometimes it looks like showing them you can hold the boundary, even when they feel like they’re about to burst through it. And if they’re using spicy words to get us to back off, it might look like respecting their need for space but staying in reaching distance, ‘Ok, I’m right here whenever you need.’♥️
We all need certain things to feel safe enough to put ourselves into the world. Kids with anxiety have magic in them, every one of them, but until they have a felt sense of safety, it will often stay hidden.

‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what they feel. At school, they might have the safest, most loving teacher in the safest, most loving school. This doesn’t mean they will feel enough relational safety straight away that will make it easier for them to do hard things. They can still do those hard things, but those things are going to feel bigger for a while. This is where they’ll need us and their other anchor adult to be patient, gentle, and persistent.

Children aren’t meant to feel safe with and take the lead from every adult. It’s not the adult’s role that makes the difference, but their relationship with the child.

Children are no different to us. Just because an adult tells them they’ll be okay, it doesn’t mean they’ll feel it or believe it. What they need is to be given time to actually experience the person as being safe, supportive and ready to catch them.

Relationship is key. The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains in our way. When we feel someone really caring about us, we’re more likely to open up to their influence
and learn from them.

But we have to be patient. Even for teachers with big hearts and who undertand the importance of attachment relationships, it can take time.

Any adult at school can play an important part in helping a child feel safe – as long as that adult is loving, warm, and willing to do the work to connect with that child. It might be the librarian, the counsellor, the office person, a teacher aide. It doesn’t matter who, as long as it is someone who can be available for that child at dropoff or when feelings get big during the day and do little check-ins along the way.

A teacher, or any important adult can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
There is a beautiful ‘everythingness’ in all of us. The key to living well is being able to live flexibly and more deliberately between our edges.

So often though, the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ we inhale in childhood and as we grow, lead us to abandon some of those precious, needed parts of us. ‘Don’t be angry/ selfish/ shy/ rude. She’s not a maths person.’ ‘Don’t argue.’ Ugh.

Let’s make sure our children don’t cancel parts of themselves. They are everything, but not always all at once. They can be anxious and brave. Strong and soft. Angry and calm. Big and small. Generous and self-ish. Some things they will find hard, and they can do hard things. None of these are wrong ways to be. What trips us up is rigidity, and only ever responding from one side of who we can be.

We all have extremes or parts we favour. This is what makes up the beautiful, complex, individuality of us. We don’t need to change this, but the more we can open our children to the possibility in them, the more options they will have in responding to challenges, the everyday, people, and the world. 

We can do this by validating their ‘is’ without needing them to be different for a while in the moment, and also speaking to the other parts of them when we can. 

‘Yes maths is hard, and I know you can do hard things. How can I help?’

‘I can see how anxious you feel. That’s so okay. I also know you have brave in you.’

‘I love your ‘big’ and the way you make us laugh. You light up the room.’ And then at other times: ‘It can be hard being in a room with new people can’t it. It’s okay to be quiet. I could see you taking it all in.’

‘It’s okay to want space from people. Sometimes you just want your things and yourself for yourself, hey. I feel like that sometimes too. I love the way you know when you need this.’ And then at other times, ‘You looked like you loved being with your friends today. I loved watching you share.’

The are everything, but not all at once. Our job is to help them live flexibly and more deliberately between the full range of who they are and who they can be: anxious/brave; kind/self-ish; focussed inward/outward; angry/calm. This will take time, and there is no hurry.♥️

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