Stony Brook Researchers: Sleeping in Lateral Position Best for Brain

Stony Brook researchers publish findings in the Journal of Neuroscience that show the lateral position more efficiently rids the brain of solutes that may contribute to disease
Stony Brook Researchers: The lateral sleep position more efficiently rids the brain of solutes that may contribute to disease

Researchers from Stony Brook University have recently concluded a study to determine if a person’s position during sleep had any significant impact on the brains ability to rid itself of waste.

Stony Brook University researchers Hedok Lee, PhD, Helene Benveniste, MD, PhD, and colleagues discovered that a persons sleeping position does make a difference in the brain’s ability to de-clutter itself during the night. According to researchers sleeping in the lateral, or side position, as compared to sleeping on one’s back or stomach, may more effectively remove brain waste. The lateral position may also prove to be an important practice to help reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases.

Past sleep studies have been primarily focused on tackling issues regarding how a person slept during the night impacted their snoring or ongoing back pain problems. This study, however, is the first to provide clear evidence that a person’s sleeping position can make a difference in their  brain’s ability to function properly.

This new study focused its efforts on the glymphatic pathway, a pathway that clears the brain of  amyloid and tau proteins – both being chemical “gunk” in the brain. The glymphatic pathway is a complex system that clears waste and other harmful chemical solutes from the brain. Amyloid and Tau proteins have both been indicated as a culprit in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, the buildup of these chemicals negatively affect brain processes if they build up.

Since the researchers knew from past studies that the glymphatic pathway process was most efficient during sleep, they decided it was appropriate to do a sleep study focusing on the positioning of the test subjects and the amount of activity occurring in the glymphatic pathways. To do this the researchers used MRI’s to monitor the clearing of the glymphatic pathway in rodents over the course of several years.

“The analysis showed us consistently that glymphatic transport was most efficient in the lateral position when compared to the supine or prone positions,” said Dr. Benveniste. “Because of this finding, we propose that the 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.”

The completed paper, The Effect of Body Posture on Brain Glymphatic Transport has been published in the  Journal of Neuroscience.


Sources: Stony Brook University and Laboratory Equiptment

Image: Stony Brook University

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