Snooze on your side? How your sleep position can affect your health

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A viral photo on Twitter has social media users comparing their sleeping positions. The chart shows 18 different options, ranging from sleeping straight on one’s back to curling up around a pillow, and some positions look harder to sleep in than others.

© Angeliki Jackson sleeping positions

TODAY co-hosts Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager even talked with Kathie Lee Gifford about which positions they themselves prefer.

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“Wait. What’s happening here?” asked Hoda, while Jenna pointed out that one of the options looked like a “frog position.”

Finally, though, Jenna decided that she slept “kind of on her back,” while Hoda and Kathie Lee both said that they were side sleepers — a position that can help with more than just getting a good night’s rest.

A recent study from Stony Brook University examined how sleep position can affect the brain and found that side sleeping may be best for health. They examined rates and found that sleeping on the side made it easier for the brain to eliminate amyloid-beta. Although the research awaits testing in humans, the researchers speculated that side sleeping helps clear out waste from the brain.

Between 50 to 70 million U.S. adults live with sleep disorders and 30 percent of Americans struggle with poor sleep habits, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Bad sleep contributes to many health problems, including cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and dementia. This study increases the understanding of how sleep contributes to dementia.

“These studies are important because they help shine a light on the underlying mechanisms so we can understand the physiology of sleep,” said Dr. Carol Ash, director of sleep medicine at Meridian Health New Jersey. “Simple changes in behavior become a simple way to intervene and perhaps stop the process of dementia before it starts.”

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