Everyone has an opinion in the great sleep position debate: whether taking a snooze in the fetal position, conking out face down or laying back on the pillow is healthiest and most restful.
Scientists have weighed in occasionally – and the latest study shows there may be more at play than just snoring more or an aching back.
Sleeping on the lateral, or side, position helps clear the brain of waste and could even potentially reduce the chances of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, according to a team of Stony Brook University researchers.
The glymphatic pathway – which clears the brain – is most efficient during sleep, and works best when rodents in the experiment slept on their side, according to the paper, published Tuesday in the Journal of Neuroscience.
The dynamic contrast MRI showed that when the rodents slept on their side, the cerebrospinal fluid most efficiently filtered through the brain and exchanged with interstitial fluid through the pathway, said Helene Benveniste, one of the authors.
This process cleared amyloid and tau proteins – both chemical gunk indicated as a culprit in the development of Alzheimer’s, the researchers said.
“We propose that body posture and sleep quality should be considered when standardizing future diagnostic imaging procedures to assess CSF-ISF transport in humans and therefore the assessment of the clearance of damaging brain proteins that may contribute to or cause brain diseases,” said Benveniste.