The Best Side to Sleep on for Heartburn (The Side That Matters!)

 sleeping in recliner acid reflux
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It is a fact that people with heartburn find it not easy to get a restful sleep. Acid slips into the esophagus when you fall asleep in the wrong position creating discomfort and therefore resulting in irritation and insomnia (Source: Everyday Health).

It is approximated that as many as 10 percent of Americans have episodes of heartburn (pyrosis) every day, and another 44 percent experience symptoms at least once a month. There is an explanation why this is fairly true.  Gravity helps to keep the esophagus clear of food and digestive fluids, but when you lie down,  you lose due to gravity and acid.  Therefore, reflux easily flows back into the esophagus.

Experiencing heartburn can be bothersome at any time, but worse yet is nighttime heartburn which carries its own set of problems. Research has shown that nighttime heartburn increases the risk for esophageal cancer. This is because by lying in a reclined position, it allows digestive acid to remain in the esophagus longer.

People with heartburn are said to be 11 times more likely to develop esophageal cancer than those who did not have nighttime symptoms according to an American Gastroenterological Association study. It is therefore vital to find the best side to sleep on for heartburn and avoid a serious health condition.

Sleeping Habits

Most of us rarely consider the position we sleep in, we formed our sleeping habits early in life and we simply can’t imagine sleeping any other way. An extensive research into the impact of our sleeping positions suggests that we may benefit from assessing whether or not our chosen sleeping position is truly ideal. This is because we spend a confound one-third of our lives sleeping.

This is a very long time for those who spend sleeping in one single position and many hours spent exerting pressure on certain parts of the body. This habit will undeniably have an effect on your body. In fact, lying in an awkward position that is not ideal can significantly impact your health and general well-being.

Other than worsen your heartburn, the poor sleeping position has been linked to many other complaints including fatigue, sleep apnea, muscle cramps, headaches, impaired circulation, and digestive problems.

The Best Side to Sleep on for Heartburn?

“Sleeping on the left side puts pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter, because of where the organs are situated”, says sleep and pediatric medicine specialist Dr. Priyanka Yadav, DO of the Sleep for Life Center in Hillsborough, New Jersey (The sphincter is the hatch that food passes through as it goes to the gut. When the sphincter is stressed, the burning stomach acid creeps back up making an irritation on your throat.)

When lying on your left side, ensure your arms are resting comfortably in front of you. Also, bend your knees into a semi-fetal position by curling your legs slightly towards your upper body. In case you are having a really bad heartburn, roll onto your back and use a few wedge-shaped pillows to prop up your chest and head.

You can, as well, slip bricks under your bed frame to raise the head of your bed by up to six inches.  This will allow gravity to work in your favor and prevent heartburn. Sleeping on your left side position has proved to be the best way to sleep when you experience heartburn.

Some of the sleeping mistakes that you must look to avoid are:

  • Sleeping on your right side, this places the stomach above the esophagus, therefore, relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter allowing acid to flow into the esophagus.
  • Propping yourself with regular pillows, this only raises your head and not your entire upper body which is needed to effectively control acid flow.
  • Lying down flat on your bed, this allows acid to easily reach the esophagus.

Final Thoughts


Long-term heartburn can lead to serious health problems and should not be left untreated. Fortunately, sometimes it takes a few lifestyle changes to prevent this nighttime ordeal. There are also other several practical steps that you can take to stop heartburn: Stay upright after eating, eat a light dinner, and avoid late-night snacking.

After taking all the necessary precautions and you still experience burning, change your sleep position and lie on your left side to offer some relief. The practice of altering your sleep position to control heartburn symptoms is called Positioning Therapy and in many cases, it is extremely effective.

There is no reason why that heartburn should prevent you from getting a good night’s rest, consider following this expert advice to keep the symptoms under control and help you sleep soundly.

If heartburn still persists, schedule an appointment to see a doctor. To find the source of your heartburn the doctor can perform tests and prescribe the right treatment to get the condition under control. So take action today!

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