Everyone sleeps a little differently. Whether you’re a back sleeper, stomach sleeper, or side sleeper, luckily there’s a mattress for you. Our bodies are unique and different, so it makes sense that different people would have their own preferred sleeping position. Typically, sleeping position is thought of as merely a personal preference with little impact on overall sleep quality or physical health. However, according to new research published by a team of Dutch and French cardiologists, side sleeping may be dangerous. Is it time for hundreds of millions of people worldwide to rethink how they sleep each night?

Not yet. This is the first study to come to this conclusion, so more data would be needed before sleep scientists begin definitively warning against side sleeping. Still, the results of this study are surprising. In a study of 500 patients who agreed to wear sleep sensors, it was discovered that 30% of patients experienced cardiac arrhythmia – irregular heartbeats – when sleeping on their sides. Only 19% of back or stomach sleepers experienced the same irregular heartbeat symptoms while sleeping.

It’s unknown if any other factors might have contributed to this finding. It’s been found that heart palpitations or irregular heartbeats are more easily felt when lying on one’s left side due to the heart’s proximity with the left chest wall, but whether or not this influenced the prevalence of identifying arrhythmia in this study is not stated.

If these results are confirmed by further research, it could possibly shine light on the role that sleeping position plays in some sleep disorders or cardiovascular complications. Might there be a connection in sleep position and our physical well-being? The links between one’s sleep health and overall health well-documented, after all. Until more data confirm this finding, this study remains an anomaly. Still, there will likely be some who will find themselves thinking twice about sleeping on their sides tonight.

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician from the mountains of Western North Carolina. Contact him at [email protected]

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