The Best Sleep Position for Decreasing Acid Reflux

By Patricia Raymond, Michelle Beaver

Loss of sleep is the most common complaint from people who have heartburn. Sixty percent of Americans with chronic acid reflux report experiencing heartburn at night.

Donna, a 55-year-old woman, is a perfect example of how acid reflux can impact sleeping patterns. For the past few years, Donna has been struggling with nighttime heartburn from her acid reflux. In a typical week, she experiences reflux symptoms two or three times, usually a few hours before bedtime.

Getting into bed when her symptoms flare up is not an option, unless Donna decides that having acid burn her throat and into her nose is something she wants. Lying down increases the intensity of her symptoms to the point where sleep is the last thing on her mind. No amount of antacids or medication makes a difference. To get any rest, she has to sleep upright in a reclining chair.

Donna is onto the right idea, because gravity can be one of the most effective ways to combat nighttime acid reflux. When you lie down after eating, it makes it easier for stomach acid to move up your esophagus. Slightly elevating your head and shoulders allows gravity to help keep the acid down, which often reduces heartburn.

Try raising the head of your bed by about 6 inches. Placing blocks or pillows underneath the mattress can be the most effective way to do this. This approach isn’t always an option, especially if your significant other doesn’t suffer from reflux, or you sleep on a water bed. If you can’t elevate the head of your bed, you may want to invest in a specially designed wedge pillow.

Stacking regular pillows is an option, but make sure to create a level incline down to your hips, otherwise you put excess strain on your neck and shoulders, and squish your abdomen, raising the stomach pressure and promoting reflux.

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You can also try sleeping on your left side. Lying on your left side aids the stomach emptying by putting the outflow of the stomach downstream, reducing the likelihood that you’ll experience reflux symptoms.