5-Minute Health Tip: Sleep on Your Left Side to Outwit Indigestion

Did you know that 44% of Americans suffer from heartburn at least once a month…14% at least once a week…and 7% of Americans deal with indigestion every day? Nighttime seems to be the worst for heartburn sufferers, as a reported 80% experience symptoms in the evening, when acid creeps into the esophagus and causes indigestion and ensuing insomnia. Research studies, however, provide an easy health tip for people dealing with nighttime heartburn. It’s as easy as sleeping on your left side.

sleep and memorySleep on Your Left Side to Prevent Indigestion

Scientists hypothesize that when you sleep on your left side, the junction between your stomach and esophagus stays above the level of gastric acid. When you sleep on your right side, however, your lower esophageal sphincter muscle relaxes, and gastric acids in the stomach leak into the esophagus, thereby causing heartburn.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology confirms this hypothesis. Healthy subjects were fed a high-fat, heartburn-inducing meal on different days. Right after eating, they spent four hours laying on either their right or left sides while esophageal acidity was monitored. Results showed that “the total amount of reflux time was significantly greater” when the subjects lay on their right side.

A different study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology showed that when patients with chronic heartburn slept on their right sides after a high-fat dinner and a bedtime snack they experienced dramatically higher acid levels and longer “esophageal acid clearance.”

Sleep on an Incline

Research also suggests that sleeping on an incline can help reduce nighttime indigestion. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that when heartburn sufferers propped the head up about 11 inches, symptoms significantly decreased. Gravity helps keep stomach acids in the stomach where they belong! Experts suggest sleeping on a wedge-shaped pillow 6-10 inches thick, or raising the head of the bed on 4-6 inch blocks so that the entire body is slightly raised at an incline.