Sleep on your back or on your side? Sleeping this way could increase your risk of dementia

Dementia affects about 850,000 people in the UK. That number could rise to one million by 2025, according to the Alzheimer’s Society.

The position that people sleep could be contributing to the rising numbers of dementia patients, after research revealed that sleeping on your back or stomach increased your risk of a condition.

Sleeping on your side - the most popular way to sleep - was linked to a lower risk of dementia than lying on your back or front, the researchers from Stony Brook University claimed.

Lying on your side helps the brain to clear out waste and harmful chemicals, they added.

“Many types of dementia are linked to sleep disturbances, including difficulties in falling asleep,” said researcher Dr Maiken Nedergaard.

“It is increasingly acknowledged that these sleep disturbances may accelerate memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease.

“Our finding brings new insight into this topic by showing it is also important what position you sleep in.”

Sleeping in a lateral position - on your side - improves the brain’s glymphatic pathway, the researchers said. The glymphatic pathway is a system that clears out the brain’s waste chemicals.

Evolutionary, humans may prefer to sleep on their sides because it helps to clear the brain out, the scientists said.

Dr Nedergaard said: “It is interesting that the lateral sleep position is already the most popular in human and most animals – even in the wild – and it appears that we have adapted the lateral sleep position to most efficiently clear our brain of the metabolic waste products that built up while we are awake.”

Sleeping on your side could also lower the risk for Parkinson’s disease, and other neurological diseases, according to clinical nutritionist Dr Josh Axe.

Maintaining good oral hygiene, and going for at least three walks every week, could help to lower your dementia risk, too.

Taking care of your teeth and gums helps to protect the brain, said Dr Axe.

Brushing your teeth less than seven times in a week increased the risk of dementia by up to 65 per cent, he said.

Bacteria that causes gum disease could make its way up to the brain, and set off an inflammatory process that causes brain damage.