How The Right Sleeping Direction Can Give You a Better Night's Rest

Discover if the direction you sleep in can affect your quality of rest with this deep dive into ancient wisdom, modern science, and personal anecdotes.

By Anuradha Gupta | Updated on : December 21, 2020

Does the direction you sleep towards impact the quality of your rest? Ancient sources, such as Ayurveda, say yes--but has modern science confirmed it?

Can your sleeping direction make a difference in whether you get a good night’s sleep? Ayurveda says yes!

One of the three main focuses of Ayurveda is sleep or Nidra. Since so much importance is given to restful sleep, Ayurveda has a lot of recommendations about how to get a good night’s sleep!

Let’s talk mythology

Tell me a story I can relate to. Tell me a story that can guide me. Tell me a story I can pass on. Myths are stories that put us in touch with our values and cultural context. Here is a clue from a famous myth about sleep direction: 

Legend has it that Goddess Parvathi went for a holy bath and asked her son, Lord Ganesh, to stand guard. When Lord Shiva, her husband, and Lord Ganesh’s father, asked to enter the space where his Mother was bathing, Lord Ganesh refused to let him in. Incensed, Lord Shiva chopped off his head. Goddess Parvathi emerged, took in the scene, and threatened to end all of creation. In response, Lord Shiva asked his followers to bring him the head of any creature sleeping in the north direction (the belief is that the soul departs from the north to find union with Brahman or Consciousness). An elephant was discovered sleeping in the direction of the north, his head was chopped off, and found its way to Lord Ganesh. Thus, the Elephant God Lord Ganesh acquired his head, plus a promise from Dad to appease Mom that their son would be the first God worshipped in any ceremony. 

Quite the story, isn’t it?

Another perspective

Ayurveda is secular but has roots in Vedic texts. According to the Vishnu Purana (corroborated by the epic, Mahabharat), “It is beneficial to lie down with the head placed southward or eastward. The person who lies down with his head placed in contrary directions becomes diseased.”

Let’s back up…

What is your concept of a sleep position? We’re not talking about sleeping in the fetal position or on your stomach, nor turning to your left or right side to sleep (yes, Ayurveda has recommendations about that too). 

Normally, when we give directions in English, we say stuff like go straight, turn left, etc, but most traditional cultures have a reverence for the cardinal directions; north, east, west, and south. In fact, some languages don’t even have the concept of an egocentric system of coordinates (left and right, or front and back). Languages like Guugu Yimithirr, an aboriginal language from Australia, and the Sambali language in the Philippines, actually use compass directions and geographical landmarks. 

So does it actually make a difference in what direction we sleep in?
The study of science is a quest for truth, proving a theorem and asserting that ‘hence’ is always pure joy. It would seem to me, as a scientist, that the direction of sleep is meant to avoid geomagnetic interference. The Earth is a huge (albeit weak) magnet, but is its impact on human beings statistically significant? 

The earth’s magnetic positive pole is to the north, and the negative, to the south. A human’s head is the positive side of a magnet, and feet, negative. Positive poles repel, so I’m assuming if we lay with our head to the north, the repelling forces will cause exhaustion.

Vastu, Ayurveda’s sister science, deals with directions; it is the ancient science of architecture and environmental harmony and wellbeing. The objective of Vastu is to create a congenial setting to live and work within by using the Panchamahabhutas, (the five great elements of Ether, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth), directions, and energy fields for enhanced health, wealth, prosperity, and happiness. 

I asked Michael Mastro, a leading North American Vastu expert, about sleep directions, and this was his advice: “We never sleep with our head to the north, because positive magnetic energy comes from the north pole, and our body is a magnet with positive polarity in our head, so this is like bringing two positive ends of magnets together (hence!); they repel each other and disturb blood flow, circulation, and digestion, which does not give restful sleep. Sleeping in the south direction, if you have health issues, is very beneficial (these recommendations don’t change in the Southern Hemisphere).” 

Ayurveda and Vastu concur on sleep direction:

South-North: Sleep with the head towards the south and feet towards the north.

East-West: East is a good direction too; sleep with the head towards the east and feet towards the west.

Avoid sleeping with the head towards the west. 

Never sleep with the head towards the north.


While finding our true north (the north star has always been used for navigation) is spiritually and navigationally sound, north-facing sleep is not recommended at all, as it can cause issues with blood circulation, increased stress, physical and psychiatric issues, and sleep disturbances like insomnia. (The only exception is for yogis that want to practice lucid dreaming and astral travel, and I haven’t met any such yogis--I would absolutely recommend that yoga maya be avoided). Dr. Vasant Lad says, “Only dead people sleep pointing north.” Indeed, the Hindu custom is to arrange a corpse with the head pointing north till the body is cremated because the belief is that that is the route for the soul to exit the body, as Lord Ganesh’s myth suggests. 


Sleeping with your head towards the East direction is supposed to be great for everyone, particularly students, because it enhances memory, improves concentration, and is good for overall health. The sun rises in the east, and it is considered a direction of positive waves and force of action. It makes a person feel rejuvenated and energized. It is also supposed to be good for meditation and spiritual pursuits. Vastu consultants often advise that a child’s bed be head-to-the-East and feet-to-the-West in direction. East-West sleep enhances creativity, is good for conception, and balances all three Doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha humors). Studies have shown that people who sleep in this direction have shorter REM sleep cycles and eye movement (compared to north-south sleep), implying fewer dreams and more sound sleep.


Sleeping west to east is not advised. There are some who suggest that it increases Rajas or ambition, and restlessness, but there are better ways to do that. Some even consider it to be a neutral position for sleep. However, according to Vastu, sleeping with one’s head to the west can lead to restless and disturbed sleep, nightmares, and a tendency towards violence. 


If one goes by the theory of magnets, a mutual attraction between the negative south and positive head creates harmony in sleep. According to mythology, south is the direction of Lord Yama, and promotes heavy, deep sleep, like the restorative sleep of death. Vastu practitioners consider this to be the best type of sleep for health, lowering blood pressure, and promoting positive energy, wealth, prosperity, and harmony. 

Dr. John Douillard, DC, CAP gives more tips about different directions in this article, which also gives therapeutic guidelines (to be used under the guidance of a Vastu or Ayurvedic professional). For Vata people, who often have anxiety and cold hands, sleeping with the head towards the south or southeast is recommended. People with Pitta aggravation can sleep towards the northwest (for a limited time). Sleeping in the west may bring a Kapha vikruti back to balance, again for a limited time. 

Also consider magnetic therapy, which is an alternative medical practice that uses static (i.e. unmoving) magnets to alleviate pain and other health concerns; while science is expressing reservations until the benefits have been proven by allopathic testing, a 2015 estimate by BBC pegs the sale of global therapeutic magnets at $1 billion, showing how popular this form of therapy is.

I love when Ayurvedic or any research corroborates Ayurvedic principles (for instance, the study of Circadian rhythms corroborates Dinacharya or the daily regimen recommendations of Ayurveda).

In 2009, a study in India in the Department of Physiology at Himalayan Institute of Medical Sciences was undertaken to observe whether sleeping with the head in a specific direction has any effect on heart rate, blood pressure, and serum cortisol during supine rest. It found that those instructed to sleep with their head in the south direction had the lowest SBP (systolic blood pressure), DBP (diastolic blood pressure), HR (heart rate), and SC (serum cortisol). These were statistically significant findings, though it was recommended that further studies were needed in different groups. 

Can earth’s weak geomagnetic field impact our neural signals?

Now here’s the good news! A 2019 scientific study found evidence of humans having working magnetic sensors that send signals to the brain. 

Bees, turtles, fish, birds, and some mammals (whales, bats, cows) use their magnetic sense as homing devices and for navigation, in conjunction with cues like sight, smell, and hearing. These animals share the same ancestors we do. Thus far, science was looking for uniquely human behavioral responses to magnetic fields, but when the parameters of the study were changed to whether humans can sense the magnetic field, we obtained the evidence we were looking for: there is a sensory ability in our subconscious brain to detect magnetic signals! 

Indeed, humans can sense the earth’s magnetic field. Scientifically, there is so much unexplored about the world, and I’m awed by the fact that we don’t know what we don’t know. 

Does sleep direction actually impact our quality of rest? 

Ayurveda and Vastu assert that it does. If you have trouble sleeping you might want to try a different sleeping position, as in ‘sleeping direction’, and do your own research. I’m going to sleep on it…with my head facing the south or east, of course! 

Before resting your head on your pillow tonight, I invite you to attend a free breath and meditation live online session. You will have the opportunity to learn an easy breathing technique and experience a guided meditation led by a trained instructor. You also learn about SKY Breath Meditation, something I practice every day! Bonus: Meditation can help give you a good night’s sleep! Select a date and time that best suits you! You’ll be glad you did!

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For even more helpful information, read Meditation for Better Sleep: How to Tuck Your Mind and Body into Bed and Guided Sleep Meditation for You: Fall Asleep in Minutes.


Anuradha Gupta is an Engineer, MBA, and Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor. She has a corporate background and volunteers for Art of Living and other nonprofits. You can find her on Facebook or on LinkedIn.

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