I recently bought a condo.
After six years of living in a studio the size of a postage stamp to recover from chronic illness, I’m going ALL OUT decorating this new home. (Think West Elm meets Joss & Main meets Marie Kondo.)
It’s a small, but powerful space with a good size bedroom, however, I’m not totally sure where to put my bed. I basically have two options… I can put the bed on the most aesthetically pleasing wall which puts my head facing NORTH. Or, I can put it on the opposite wall, which in the world of feng shui, is less pleasing but my head would be facing SOUTH.
Why would this even matter you might ask?
Well, let me provide a little background on some of the philosophies surrounding the directions in which we sleep.
(Honestly, I just need to PICK A WALL already so I can save my feng shui sanity!)
Here is what the research says…
By now, you've probably heard the old adage that sleeping north is somehow harmful to your health. But is it really true?
It’s suggested that the geographical direction in which we lie down greatly influences sleep. This stems mainly from practices like Feng Shui and Vastu Shastra.
Both feng shui and vastu shastra believe in universal energy flow. When we’re in harmony with this energy, we achieve a greater state of well-being.
According to these practices, you simply MUST avoid sleeping with your head in the northern direction. Ever scoffed at an elder who told you this? Well, they may have been on to something!
Sleeping with your head in the northern direction impacts blood flow. This is due to the earth’s magnetic field which affects iron in the blood. When sleeping north, the iron in the blood puts pressure on the brain, which can cause poor sleep and crappy health over time.
Japanese tradition concurs that sleeping with your head to the north is considered a "bad omen" mainly because the direction is reminiscent of death. Only those that are deceased should lie with their head north.
Well, yikes 😬
Let’s explore that magnetic field a bit more…
The Earth’s magnetic field is a natural field that originates from the planet core and extends into the vast space surrounding Earth.
The magnetic pole extends north to south with the positive (+) pole to the north and negative (-) pole to the south. Consider the idea that the human organism is also like the magnetic pole - the top of the head is positively charged, and the bottom of the feet negatively charged.
What happens when you place two positively charged magnets together? They REPEL, of course! The same can be said for lying with our heads to the north - you've got two positive poles not really getting along.
Some believe that because the earth’s pole is SO much greater, it creates a subconscious conflict all night long causing us to wake up feeling completely exhausted.
Science proves that animals in nearly all branches of the animal kingdom have the ability to detect and respond to the magnetic field. Honeybees (my all-time favorite creatures on earth), fish, reptiles, etc. all possess an internal magnetic compass. Certain mammal species always graze and sleep facing certain directions.
It’s been theorized that humans share a similar internal compass.
I definitely want my bed facing in the best direction possible for my internal compass, not to mention the magnetic pole, but… I really like the way it LOOKS facing the opposite direction.
In feng shui, bed placement is the most important consideration after the main door and the kitchen stove/oven. (I can tell you with absolute certainty that oven placement is very low on my priority list).
Now, let’s do a deeper dive into the science of feng shui...
Feng shui, we know, is an ancient Chinese practice that focuses on energy and placement in everyday life. But feng shui also has some theories about sleep.
In feng shui, both the location of the bedroom and the direction of the furniture are vital to the free flow of energy that is critical to good sleep.
Here is what feng shui has to say about the directions we sleep:
Head west – Sometimes considered the best condition for a good night’s sleep because it creates contentment. However, facing west also can bring laziness and low motivation. (Pretty sure I don’t want that.)
Head east – This direction is associated with feelings of ambition and growth. If a person is young, this direction is often advised because it could promote career expansion. Placing the head of your bed in the east, represents creativity and the beginning or start of absolutely everything.
Head south-east – If you have trouble communicating with others, this is the direction for you. It promotes good communication and enhances creativity.
Head south-west – This is a calming direction. If you’re feeling restless, it may help you feel at peace. It also enhances a feeling of being more settled in life and relationship.
Head north – Facing north increases sleep disorders and makes you lethargic. It’s referred to as the “death position.” If you are older, however, this position may promote calmness and tranquility.
Head north-east – This direction can create nightmares and make one feel on edge. It brings out intense emotions.
Head south – This direction isn’t the greatest because it’s associated with intense energy. If you find yourself in heated arguments for no apparent reason, try rearranging your sleep quarters away from this direction.
The word “vastu” translates to “dwelling” and the term “shastra” implies “teaching” or “knowledge.” Vastu shastra represents a conduit between man and nature. It considers a house to be a living soul having prana (life-force). An ecosystem of sorts.
It aims to create harmonious spaces that are in tune with Mother Nature.
Sleep Directions According to Vastu Shastra
Head north - Not surprisingly, this comes with some potentially disastrous consequences. Sleeping north draws energy out of the body disrupting mind-body integration. If one chooses this direction, they potentially face major sickness and sleep deprivation.
The Hindu belief is that north is the chosen route for the soul to exit the body, thereby making it desirable for lucid dreaming and astral travel only.
Head south – Ding, ding, ding! Sleepers, we have a WINNER. Sleeping with the head to the south inspires deep, heavy sleep and going back to our magnetic pole theory, this clearly makes sense. There’s a harmonious exchange energy that promotes health and happiness.
Head east – Sleeping with the head pointing east is another ideal position. It boosts memory, increases concentration, and promotes meditative sleep. A good position for scholars, teachers and those with academic pursuits.
Head west – Sleeping west is a bit of a mixed bag. Some say it’s ideal if you are a success-driven, fame-oriented, wealth achieving individual. Others suggest that west is a more neutral sleeping position that can create unsettling dreams.
🌻 Put your bed on the opposite side of the doorway (makes sense)
🌻 Make sure your bed is against the wall (not underneath windows)
🌻 Keep bookshelves and mirrors out of the direct line of your bed
🌻 Avoid extra clutter around your sleeping space (Hence Marie Kondo)
🌻 Keep electronics out of the room (I SO agree with this!)
🌻 Keep the walls a softer shade like white or cream (Got that covered)
🌻 Keep windows and closets shut (Hmm... I LOVE fresh air, though?)
Not surprisingly, there's not a ton of research out there on this quandary. I think as awareness grows around sleep science, so will the research and we’ll see more studies pop up on the subject. Here are few that currently exist:
A 2015 study on geographical sleep directions states:
“… sleep in the north-south position is advised to improve sleep quality.”
A 1987 study suggests that the duration of REM latency is shortened by sleepers in the east-west direction (p= 0.02) versus north-south.
So, this contradicts things a bit.
This interesting foray into the world of sleep directions hasn’t made my personal dilemma any easier.
Obviously, I’m a HUGE fan of holistic health and all of the ancient wisdoms that fall under that umbrella. When I’m in need of clarity, I turn first to nature as she so often holds the key to that which I am seeking. (I did heal from chronic Lyme disease using bee venom therapy after all.)
I could go with my bed facing south which in terms of magnetism, would definitely be my best bet. However, per feng shui wisdom, I wouldn’t have a view of the door or the window and I'd be looking directly into the giant mirror panels that comprise my closet (oddly unnerving).
So, I am left with the north direction which after writing this blog, I realize is pretty much the kiss of death when it comes to sleep directions.
But here’s what I believe about sleep…
I think it’s our beliefs about sleep and the associations we have with sleep that create our sleep. And I believe I can sleep well anywhere at any time.
In my opinion, the right location for my bed is the one that lights me up and makes me feel the best in my sleep sanctuary.
So I'm going with NORTH!
And if I don’t like it, I’ll just change it. Because I can 😊
(I love adulting.)
Do YOU have any stories about sleep directions? Drop me a line, I’d love to know.
Always in support,
Beth Kendall MA, FNTP
Holistic Sleep Coach
Health Disclaimer: The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.
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