Why Do Left Handed People Have More Sleep Problems?

4 min read

Last Modified 3 March 2021 First Added 18 November 2016

By Leigh Horan

It’s not easy being a leftie. In a world where we tend to read and write from left to right, where keyboards and game controllers are right-hand orientated and where using scissors and can openers is a painstaking process, it would appear that left handed people have a hard enough time as it is. But apparently these daily struggles aren’t torture enough, with research indicating that those who are left handed are also more likely to suffer from poor sleep.

Left-handed people can sleep badly

As well as having to put up with knocking elbows with everyone you eat next to, a left handed person has a much higher chance of suffering from the sleep condition PLMD, otherwise known as periodic limb movement disorder. This problem causes the sufferer to involuntarily and spasmodically kick and jerk their limbs whilst sleeping. People suffering from this typically have disturbed sleep, with their uncontrollable movements often rousing them.

image of man unable to sleep

In a study by the University of Toledo Medical Centre in Ohio, 100 sleep clinic patients were surveyed on their experience of limb movements on both sides of their body whilst sleeping. Whilst only 69% of right handed participants had encountered such an annoyance, a staggering 94% of left handed patients had undergone the nighttime movements. According to a press release related to the findings this means that ‘left-handed people have significantly higher chances of having bilateral limb movements, indicating the potential for PLMD.’

Why left-handed people’s sleep suffers

The findings from this study indicate that PLMD originates in the brain, according to Dawn Alita R. Hernandez, a professor of medicine where the study was held at the University of Toledo. Those who are left handed have a marginally different shift in dominant brain hemisphere than those who are right handed. What this means is that if the source of periodic limb movement disorder comes from the brain, then those suffering from it are likely to also be left-handed patients. Basically, left handed people’s sleep suffers because their brain is wired differently.

image of couple uncomfortable in bed

Other studies have also highlighted the high percentage of sufferers of mental issues such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia who are also left-handed. According to a Yale study, 11% of those suffering from a mental illness that took part in the survey were also left handed, which, seeing as lefties only make up 10 percent of the world population, is an incredibly high number. Of course, it has been heavily documented that mental disorders such as these also lead to sleep problems, with chronic sleep problems affecting ‘50% to 80% of patients in a typical psychiatric practice’. What this then shows is that left handed people are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to sleep health and getting their recommended 8 hours.

Related: What Happens To Your Body During 8 Hours Of Sleep?

Can it improve for left-handed people?

image of a woman who has slept well

Of course, not all left-handed people suffer from PLMD, though the study does indicate that a high number of those that favour their left hand do. Unfortunately, for those that are suffering from the disorder there is not yet enough information to permanently cure it. There are however several forms of drug which can help to alleviate the symptoms for the duration in which they are taken. Avoiding caffeinated food and beverages can also help to lessen the symptoms.

For those left handed patients suffering with poor sleep as a result of various mental issues, there are, of course, ways to better this over time, which your doctor will aid you with.

How left-handed people can sleep well

If you’re a left-handed person who is concerned about their sleep health then never fear; PLMD only affects a small percentage of people and not all of these are left-handed, either. There are many ways that you can better your sleep health, including making sure you have a bed and bedding that suits your needs.

You should also make sure you avoid caffeine for at least four to six hours before heading to bed, as well as avoiding looking at electronic screens for too long into the evening. Another tip is to regulate your sleep schedule so that you consistently achieve at least 8 hours of sleep every night. By making sure you go to bed at the same time every night there’s a much bigger chance that you’ll get the amount of sleep you need.

Do you know of any sleep troubles that could be connected to left handedness? Let us know all about it in the comments section!

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