Every night, more than 300 million Americans prepare to get a good night’s sleep. They brush their teeth, turn back the covers, crawl into bed and then many do something that research suggests may rob them of their dreams—as well as their memories.
They sleep on their backs.
According to a study recently published in The Journal of Neuroscience, people who sleep on their backs might be more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who sleep on their sides or stomach.
According to researchers at Stony Brook University of New York, sleeping on your side might actually help to remove waste material from your brain. This waste material, if left in the brain, can lead to Alzheimer’s, dementia and other types of neurological diseases.
The researchers ran people through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines to measure how their brains clear waste and other chemicals that adversely affect the body during sleep. What they found was surprising.
The study demonstrated that the brains of side sleepers were much more effective at clearing the harmful waste and chemicals from their neurological systems than those who slept on their backs. According to researchers, lying in a lateral position proved much more effective and efficient at cleaning the chemicals. This is important because an abundance of chemicals such as amyloid and tau proteins are linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers found that consistently removing the harmful material from the brain is an important way to lower the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s.
What to do
The biggest question arising from the research is whether or not people should make a point to attempt to sleep on their sides. The answer is: maybe.
While the research seems to indicate that people who sleep on their sides have brains that are better at ridding themselves of harmful chemicals, it’s unclear exactly what role this plays in preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other neurological issues.
Nonetheless, the cleansing of these chemicals from your brain is likely a good thing. So if possible, people should try to sleep on their sides or stomach rather than on their backs.
Some 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, an insidious illness that robs people of their memories as well as their dreams for the future. Anything you can do to minimize your chances of developing the condition, including re-positioning your body while you sleep, just might be worth the effort.
A health care professional can help you determine other ways you might be able to lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.