Amazing Benefits of Sleeping on Your Left Side

Have you ever wondered to what extent the two sides of your body mirror each other?

It is very common for me to have a patient tell me that they have all their issues on just one side of the body. A pain in the left foot, a bad left hip, a bad left shoulder, left-sided abdominal pain, a pain in the neck on the right side; why?

Why do rashes choose the left or right side of the body?

Why does the acuity of the eyes differ so greatly from one to the other?

Why do we get pains often on just one side of the body?

According to Ayurveda, the left side of the body is completely different than the right side, and, while I know it sounds strange, emphasizing the left side for rest and sleep offers some time tested wisdom for very real health and longevity benefits.

Join me as we investigate this old Ayurvedic concept and see if it still holds water today.



7 Reasons to Try Sleeping on Your Left Side:

Here are some of Ayurveda’s reasons for recommending the left side for sleep. Keep reading for more detailed discussion.

  • Facilitate lymphatic drainage
  • Makes it easier for the heart to pump downhill
  • Better elimination
  • Support healthy spleen function
  • Encourages proper digestion
  • Helps circulation back to the heart
  • Helps bile flow more freely


The Lymph Drains toward the Left

Interestingly, the left side of the body is the dominant lymphatic side. The majority of the body’s lymph fluid drains into the thoracic duct, located on the left side. Along the way, lymph fluid carrying proteins, glucose and other metabolites and waste products is purified by lymph nodes and is then drained into the left side of the heart.

Because of this, it is common in Ayurveda to deduce that left side ailments may be due to chronic lymphatic congestion. When the lymphatic system congests, it is more likely that lymph will back up on the left, more lymph-dominant side of the body. Whether or not this is always true is debatable, but you can see the logic at play here.

In the same non-scientific vein, issues that show up on the right side are thought to be due to imbalances in the liver and blood. Since the liver is on the right side of the body, liver congestion will more easily back up into the right side of the body and potentially cause problems.

The Priority System of the Body

According the Ayurveda, congestion happens in the body according to a certain pattern, or priority system. In this priority system, the lymph is the body’s first detox system to congest, before the liver and blood become overwhelmed. Thus, early lymph issues may present more on the left side of the body and move to the right as they become more long-standing and begin to congest the liver and the blood, at which point symptoms may start to show up on the right side of the body.

You can read more about lymph-related issues in the Detox and Lymphatic Health section of my article library.

Dog sleeping on left side cradling alarm clockThe Magic of Sleeping on the Left Side

Better Elimination

The small intestine dumps waste through the ileocecal valve (ICV) on the right side of the body into the beginning of the large intestine. The large intestine travels up the right side of your belly the across the tummy, where it dumps waste into the descending colon on the left side.

Sleeping on the left side allows gravity to encourage the food waste to move more easily from the small intestine into the large intestine through the ICV.

As the night wears on and you continue to sleep on your left side, the waste moves more easily into the descending colon. With the help of gravity and a good night’s sleep on the left the side, the descending colon is full of waste to easily eliminate completely each morning.

Better Heart Function

Of course, one of the biggest players on the left side is the heart. It makes sense that if you sleep on your left side, the lymph drainage toward the heart will again be helped by gravity, taking some of the workload off the heart as you sleep.

The aorta, which is the biggest artery in the body, leaves the top of the heart and arches to the left before it heads down into the abdomen. By sleeping on the left side, the heart is pumping its biggest payload downhill into the descending aorta.

Sleeping on the left also allows much of the intestines to hang away from the very thin-walled inferior vena cava (IVC) which brings venous blood back toward the heart. Interestingly, the IVC lies against the right side of the spine, so when you lie on the left much of the viscera falls away from the IVC. Here again, gravity is just making the heart’s job a little easier.

The Spleen Is On the Left

The spleen, which is part of the lymphatic system, is also on the left. The spleen is much like a gigantic lymph node, except that in addition to filtering lymph it also filters blood. When you lay on the left side, drainage back to the spleen is once again helped and made easier by gravity.

Remember, the lymph system drains all the cells in the body via movement and muscular contractions, rather than being pumped by the heart. Helping the lymph to drain to the spleen and heart with gravity is a good thing.

Ever Feel Sleepy After a Big Meal?

In Ayurveda, it is common practice to rest on the left side of the body after taking a meal. Unlike a siesta where we take the whole afternoon off, Ayurveda suggests a short, ten minute hungry woman looking huge sandwichrest on the left side to help the body properly digest the food.

The stomach and the pancreas (which make digestive enzymes) hang like slings on the left side. When you lie on the left side, the stomach and pancreas hang naturally, allowing for optimal and efficient digestion. The food is encouraged to move through the stomach naturally and the pancreatic enzymes are released as needed rather than all at once, which might happen more easily than if you were on the right side with the pull of gravity.

If you lie on the right side, the stomach and pancreas will hang in a somewhat unnatural position, forcing them to empty their contents prematurely.

Meanwhile, the liver and gallbladder hang on the right side. Resting on the left side allows them to hang freely and secrete precious bile, with the help of gravity, into the digestive tract to emulsify fats and neutralize the acids of the stomach.

When the digestive process is encouraged in this way, in can often be a smoother and ultimately shorter digestive cycle that doesn’t leave you feeling sapped throughout the entire afternoon. So by taking a short rest on the left side, you may actually save yourself more fatigue throughout the day!

Get energized – not tired – from your meal! Here’s how:

Try eating a large midday meal in a relaxed fashion, followed by a 10 minute rest on the left side and see if you find yourself with more energy and better digestion as a result.

Try it!

So maybe this non-scientific technique of sleeping and resting on the left side makes some sense after all. I am a big fan of understanding ancient wisdom and then finding proof with modern science. In this case, I admit I lack some of the modern science but there is more than enough anatomical logic here to give it a whirl.


  1. Dorothy says

    I have found that when I sleep on my left side, my bladder fills up more often and consequently I have to get up to go to the bathroom. So that’s why I have mainly slept on my right side for years. However, I want to enjoy the benefits of sleeping on my left side, so I am going to make the switch starting tonight!

  2. bob says

    Laying on your left side can encourage your food to make its way through your bowels. Saying that laying on you left side “promotes digestion” is misleading and riddiculous. That would be like saying that the fact that a river flows allows a deer to drink water from it. Yes, the river flowing ensures that there is water to drink, but does not promise that a deer can or will drink from it. Exactly in the same way helping to move your food through your bowels cannot ensure proper digestion and so using the buzz statement “encourages proper digestion” gives the reader no real knowledge of what “laying on your left side” actually helps and makes you look like you dont actually know what you’re talking about.

    • bob says

      Im aware that you explain it later but that buzz statement is still silly. It makes me want to run from your post before i can get to the part where you tell us what the hay you actually meant. Since I hold firm that the two are not equal.

  3. Yvonne says

    Don’t believe that I believe it’s easier to get hurt sleeping on your left ,I remember physic attacks began happening to me ,6 years ago when I was told to sleep on my left side . I was also told that that’s the side that hold our secrets .

  4. Laurence says

    I usually sleep on my right side because it opens up my left nasal passage which seems to be congested a lot, do you know why that is? I do notice that sleeping on the left side , I wake up feeling better just more congested on the left side, going to try sleeping on the left side more if it has more benefits.

    • CDR. S says

      Sweet pea if that’s the case you may want to see your doctor. That could be a sign of something being wrong.
      Its actually not normal and sounds like a mucus and possibly allergy problem. You could have fluid in your lungs and just happen to notice it more while on that side. Just a thought.

  5. Nay says

    last few year I have been waking up with plain in left eye. Even my friend told me that something wrong with my eye. I went to 2 eye doctors and my regular doctor and have it checked. Everyone said there is nothing wrong, but I feel pain almost everyday. From last few months I forced my self on my back or right side and I noticed no pain or less pain in my left eye when I wake up. Doctors can’t explain why.
    I am from India and I do remember my dad telling me about sleeping on left side and how it helps.
    However, I can’t sleep on left side to avoid plain in left eye. Let me know if you have any suggestion.

    • CDR. S says

      I can’t explain why your eye does that it is a bit strange. But perhaps a nerve problem that reacts to you laying on that side? Or possibly something behind it? Or maybe something with the muscles that makes it sit funny when you lay on that side? Those are my best ideas (really hope nothings behind it and kinda doubt it but it happens). But if you want to continue laying on your left side I may have a couple ideas to try. You could try them together or try them apart or not at all. You could try putting a body pillow behind you on the right side and use it to prop you somewhat onto your left side but still somewhat be on your back. If you’re a snuggler this may not work and you might just turn around and hug it while you sleep. You could also try laying on your left side but keeping your head turned upright. Using special pillows could aid in this as well. It may take some practice and getting it just right but it could be useful. They may not be fool proof but they may help.

    • John Douillard says

      Hi Nay,
      It is ,of course, impossible to suggest that the left side sleeping is best for every condition.
      It sounds like a circulation block that is causing pressure to build in your eye. I would get it checked out.
      I would suggest Ayurvedic therapies for the head such as:
      Brahmi Brain
      Shiro abyhanga
      Shiro Abyhanga Nasya

      Hope this helps .
      Be well,
      Dr. John

  6. Tonya says

    I’m up at 2am dealing with acid reflux because I didn’t sleep on my left side tonight.

    I have suffered with acid reflux since I was in my teens. I read an article about 8 months ago that talked about the benefits of sleeping on the left side, and it stated that sleeping this way helps reduce acid reflux. I had tried everything else, so I figured why not try this. Long story short, that was the end of my acid reflux.

    I used to have to watch what I ate before going to bed, and make sure I ate at least 4 hours in advance. Now, I can lie down right after I eat as long as I lay on the left side.

    This past evening, I ate a heavy meal, drank plenty of fluids and went to sleep on my stomach!!! Now I’m up suffering.

    I’m a firm believer (and walking testimony) to the benefits of sleeping on the left side.


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