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Sleeping on your left side increases chance of nightmares

By Tim Sandle     Dec 30, 2015 in Science
Want to avoid the chance of waking up in a cold sweat following a stomach-churning nightmare? Then sleep on your right-hand side, according to new research.
There are many things, some proven and some unproven, that influence the quality of sleep and with it the types of dreams (and nightmares) a person experiences. A troubled mind is clearly a strong influencer; whereas eating cheese or Chinese food late at night is perhaps less grounded in psychological science.
How about the position that you sleep in? Scientists think the position you adopt — on front, on back, to the right or left — influences the quality of sleep and the intensity and types of dreams. For example, 10 years ago research published in the journal Sleep and Hypnosis ("Sleeping Position, Dream Emotions, and Subjective Sleep Quality") showed the relationship between sleeping positions, dream characteristics, and subjective sleep quality. With this study, the rate of nightmare sufferers was significantly higher in left-side sleepers (at around one in three) compared with right-side sleepers (around one in 10.)
The reason was attributed to dreaming and sleep quality being associated with underlying brain functions and these may be affected by body posture.
More recent research has added to this and also found that participants who slept face down reported the most lucid dreams. Such dreams included excitement, love affairs and aliens. Other sleeping positions recorded less interesting dreams, based on the waking diaries completed by the 670 people who took part.
Interviewed by Science Reporter, the lead researcher Calvin Kai-Ching Yu stated, “This effect can’t be fully explained by personality factors, which are merely weakly associated with sleep position.”
The research is published in the appropriately titled journal Dreaming, in a paper headed "The effect of sleep position on dream experiences."
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