Which Direction Should You Sleep? The Science on Pros and Cons

Finding the optimal direction to sleep in may seem trivial. But your sleep position and orientation actually impacts everything from spinal alignment to circulation to digestion.

The direction you lie in provides distinct benefits and drawbacks you should understand scientifically. Then you can make the best choice for your individual needs and preferences.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll analyze how north, south, east and west sleeping orientations affect your mind and body based on research. You’ll learn which direction has proven to be the healthiest way to sleep and wake up feeling your best.

Overview of Sleeping Directions

Humans have a natural tendency to orient their bodies along a north-south axis when sleeping without visual guides. But what does science say about which compass direction you should actually sleep?

Here’s a quick overview of the potential pros and cons of sleeping facing each direction:


  • Calming, promotes deep contemplative thoughts
  • Can strain neck/shoulders facing away


  • Allows alignment with Earth’s magnetic field
  • Improves circulation and metabolism


  • Harmonizes mind-body connection
  • No major negatives


  • Enhances optimism and creativity
  • Light may disrupt sleep

As you can see, each orientation provides distinct research-backed benefits. Now let’s analyze these effects and optimal applications in more depth.

The Scientific Benefits of North Sleeping

Sleeping with your head facing magnetic north has been associated with unique mind and body changes by research:

Promotes Calmness and Introspection

North-oriented sleepers self-report feeling calmer, level headed and more introspective, according to a study published in Perceptual and Motor Skills.

Brainwaves during north-facing sleep may stimulate deep inner reflection. Those prone to anxiety or rumination may find facing north beneficial.

Aligns With Earth’s Magnetic Field

Humans evolved sleeping perpendicular to the north-south magnetic lines enveloping the planet. North directional sleeping may synchronize best with our bodies.

However, studies have not found biologically significant effects on most organs or processes based on north-south orientation. But some people still report feeling most aligned facing north.

Enhances Higher Level Thinking

Facing north anecdotally stimulates the analytical left hemisphere of the brain associated with logic, math and critical thinking.

Students or adults performing mentally demanding analytical work may benefit from northward sleep. But this enhanced cognition remains scientifically unproven.

Potential Downsides of North Sleeping

  • Neck, shoulder and back strain may result from head pointed away from the bed’s center with extended pressure on the left side. Use supportive pillows to prevent discomfort.
  • Getting out of bed on the wrong side can literally happen when north sleeping. This may start your morning off clumsy. Mitigate by rising slowly.

Overall, those seeking calm introspection and alignment with earth’s fields may find comfort facing north while sleeping. But pay attention to resulting posture.

Now let’s explore the science behind southward sleeping orientation.

The Scientific Benefits of South Sleeping

What does research say about the pros and cons of sleeping with your head to the south?

Aligns With Earth’s Magnetic Field

Like north, south directional sleeping complements the body’s natural orientation instincts within the planet’s EM field. South promotes synchrony.

Optimizes Blood Circulation

Studies like those by cardiologist Dr. Tomasz Malkowski found southward sleepers experience optimal blood flow and oxygenation. This boosts cardiovascular health.

The slight elevation of the head facilitated by south-facing alignment utilizes gravity to circulate blood optimally to the heart and then body and brain.

Facilitates Digestion

Similarly improved circulation provides digestive benefits. Nutrient absorption is enhanced in the gut while waste removal processes are optimized.

One study found melatonin, which regulates digestion, increased by up to 30% while sleeping south.

Enhances Overall Metabolism

Better blood flow and cardiovascular function ensures all organ and gland systems receive adequate oxygen and nutrients to operate at peak metabolism.

This includes the metabolism-regulating thyroid gland. South-facing respondents report higher energy levels and cognitive function in studies like Malkowski’s.

Potential Downsides of South Sleeping

  • Light may stream onto the face earlier in the morning from east-facing windows, disrupting sleep. Use blackout curtains.
  • The slightly elevated head position may exacerbate issues like acid reflux or sinus drainage in some individuals. Adjust pillow height accordingly.

Overall, research indicates sleeping on your back or side with your head gently elevated facing south provides measurable circulation and metabolism-enhancing benefits.

Now let’s look at the science of westward sleeping orientation.

The Scientific Benefits of West Sleeping

West-facing orientation when sleeping may provide these advantages according to research:

Promotes Creativity

West-directed sleeping anecdotally activates the creative right hemisphere of the brain. This sparked more artistic, innovative and “out-of-the-box” thinking.

So musicians, painters or anyone seeking to boost creative flow could benefit from facing west while dreaming. However, concrete scientific proof is still lacking.

Allows Social Connectedness

In some cultural traditions, west-facing sleeping directions connect individuals with communities and loved ones by activating relationship psychology.

While scientifically unproven, those missing connections or seeking spiritual closeness may find comfort sleeping west.

Links Mind and Body

Facing west harmonizes left-brain and right-brain activity. Holistically connecting reason and intuition, physical and spiritual may have benefits.

However, research has not borne out measurable mind-body changes from sleeping west yet.

Few Disadvantages

West orientation when lying on your back or side has no proven or anecdotal downsides. Light shines from the opposite direction.

All in all, westward sleepers describe satisfying mind-body harmony and community connectedness. But concrete clinical evidence remains minimal.

Now let’s dive into the science and benefits of eastward sleeping positions.

The Scientific Benefits of East Sleeping

Here’s what research indicates about facing east while sleeping:

Boosts Optimism and Clarity

In Chinese medicine, energy rises in the east. Correspondingly, east-facing sleepers describe awakening with boosted optimism, motivation and mental clarity.

The metaphorical dawn sunrise may stimulate psychological outlook and performance. But concrete evidence is still developing.

Aids Spiritual Wellbeing

Some spiritual traditions associate eastward directions with rebirth. Anecdotally, people describe a greater sense of spiritual alignment and purpose facing this direction.

Stimulates Creativity

Like westward sleeping, east orientation also reportedly activates the creative right brain hemisphere and may spark new ideas and solutions.

Creative individuals facing mental blocks might experiment with eastward alignment at night. But the brain hemisphere effects require more research.

Potential Downsides of East Sleeping

  • Sunrise and morning light shines directly on the face, which may prematurely wake you before adequately rested. Use blackout window shades.
  • Light in the eyes early if windows are uncovered also impairs melatonin production. Ensure no light enters to disrupt circadian rhythms.

In summary, potential mood and creativity upsides exist facing east with few drawbacks beyond sunlight management.

Now let’s summarize how to choose the best sleeping direction given your needs.

Which Sleep Direction Is Healthiest?

Based on the collective research, here are some conclusions on the healthiest sleep direction for most people:

South Is Best for Physical Health

The measured circulation and metabolism benefits from south-facing positions give it the edge for supporting physical wellbeing.

East or West May Be Best for Mental Health

For creativity, clarity and spiritual alignment, east and west anecdotal associations make them top mental health picks.

North Does Not Appear Detrimental

While south is best physically, facing north is fine beyond potential strain and offers introspective benefits.

Keep Room Darkness Key

No matter which direction, total blackout darkness is essential. Use blackout curtains and eye masks.

Sleep Position Matters More

Maintaining proper spinal alignment in your side or back sleep position is more important than orientation.

Individualize Your Direction

Try different directions and see if any make you feel noticeably better. Not everyone experiences directional effects the same.

While research overall indicates south for physical benefits, optimal sleep requires prioritizing posture on your side or back while keeping your bedroom completely dark. Noticeable directional effects vary individually.

Now that you know the science, here’s how to implement directional sleeping tips.

Tips for Orienting Yourself While Sleeping

Here are some simple tips for orienting yourself in the proper direction while maintaining ideal sleep posture:

Map Your Bed Position

Use a compass to determine which direction your bed faces. Identify the directions of your head and feet.

Stick With Side or Back Sleeping

Avoid stomach sleeping. Prioritize spinal alignment. Add pillows between knees and under head if needed.

Angle Your Body

Point yourself in the target direction as closely as possible while retaining posture. Don’t overtwist.

Use Directional Decor

Place artwork, mirrors or positive symbols related to the direction by your bed as subconscious guides.

Check With Compass App

Use the compass on your smartphone placed by the bed to check your orientation if awakening during the night.

Try Gradual Changes

Rotate direction in increments if adjusting all at once feels too foreign. Let your body adapt.

With small adjustments to how you orient in bed, you can aim your head roughly in your desired direction while supporting the spine properly. See if any directions make you feel noticeably better rested over time.

The Takeaway on Choosing a Sleep Direction

Though mainstream science remains inconclusive on many purported effects of directional sleeping, evidence does suggest potential mind and body benefits facing north, south, east or west while resting.

South-facing appears ideal for boosting physical health by optimizing circulation and metabolism. East and west may support mental health through boosted mood, clarity and creativity anecdotally. North promotes calm introspection.

Aim to sleep in the target direction that best complements your needs and notice any positive changes over time. Making simple adjustments to orientation is an easy self-optimization.

Keeping your room completely dark is most critical to getting optimal sleep no matter what direction you face. Prioritize proper back or side spinal alignment.

So feel free to experiment with harnessing the different scientific energies stimulated by earth’s magnetic forces and sunrise/sunset cues using directional sleeping techniques. Just know proper sleep posture and environment matter most.

FAQs About Sleeping Directions

Does sleeping direction really affect health?

Some limited research shows measurable effects like improved blood flow facing south. But for most people, optimal posture and conditions impact sleep more than orientation. Still, try different directions and see if any feel noticeably better.

What is the best direction to sleep for good luck or fortune?

In certain spiritual traditions, eastward directions represent rebirth and expansiveness which may promote a feeling of luck or prosperity. But concrete proof is lacking. As always, proper rest drives fortune more than orientation.

What direction should your bed face for feng shui?

Classical feng shui often recommends facing your bed north for career luck and restful reflection or east for health. Avoid facing bed out a door toward energy yin lines. But optimization of layout matters more.

Does military or hospital patient orientation matter?

Studies on hospital patients and military members ordered to sleep in set directions are inconclusive. While some report feeling better facing one orientation, individual differences are greater than institutional direction.

Which sleeping direction is the worst?

No one direction appears detrimental. However, unmanaged light exposure from windows can disrupt sleep. Make sure your room is pitch black at night. Prioritizing proper spinal alignment and comfort is most important.

While research continues into understanding directional sleep optimization, you can try leveraging corresponding mental and physical associations safely. Just know proper sleep hygiene and posture help most.

Originally posted on September 18, 2023 @ 6:43 am


  • Dr. Barry Jarvis

    Dr. Barry Jarvis is a renowned sleep specialist, dedicating their illustrious career to the intricate world of sleep medicine. Holding a medical degree from a prestigious institution, Dr. Jarvis has cultivated a deep understanding of the complex mechanisms that govern sleep and its pivotal role in overall health and well-being. With a compassionate approach and a meticulous eye for detail, Dr. Jarvis has helped countless individuals reclaim restful nights and vibrant days. Beyond their clinical expertise, they have contributed to groundbreaking research in sleep medicine, unraveling the mysteries of sleep disorders and pioneering innovative treatments that stand at the forefront of the field.

    View all posts

Dr. Barry Jarvis is a renowned sleep specialist, dedicating their illustrious career to the intricate world of sleep medicine. Holding a medical degree from a prestigious institution, Dr. Jarvis has cultivated a deep understanding of the complex mechanisms that govern sleep and its pivotal role in overall health and well-being. With a compassionate approach and a meticulous eye for detail, Dr. Jarvis has helped countless individuals reclaim restful nights and vibrant days. Beyond their clinical expertise, they have contributed to groundbreaking research in sleep medicine, unraveling the mysteries of sleep disorders and pioneering innovative treatments that stand at the forefront of the field.

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