To avoid night-time acid reflux, sleep on your left side.
Many people with heartburn or acid reflux find it gets worse at night. It’s a pretty mechanical reason: When you are lying down, stomach acid can move more easily into your esophagus, where it burns.
If you’ve ever had heartburn, you know something about acid reflux—when stomach acids back up into your esophagus and throat. Some people feel this as heartburn. Others may notice a bad taste in their mouths. But any way you slice it, acid reflux isn’t pleasant—especially when you are trying to sleep.
Studies have shown that your sleeping position can help prevent or reduce heartburn. Sleeping on your left side seems to help, while sleeping on your right side makes it worse.
Doctors are not sure why, but it probably relates to the position of the opening of your stomach, called the lower esophageal sphincter. When you sleep on your right, the stomach sits higher than the esophagus, allowing food and stomach acid to slide up your throat. When you’re on your left, the stomach is lower than the esophagus, so the pressure of gravity keeps food down. Sleeping on your left side helps stomach acid stay where it belongs, in your stomach.
Over-the-counter medicines or antacids can help, but the position you sleep in can make a world of a difference when it comes to relief. You can also help prevent nighttime heartburn and acid reflux by avoiding large or heavy meals close to bedtime and acidic, spicy, or fatty foods (think pizza or orange juice).
Acid reflux can happen with or without the feeling of heartburn and everyone gets it from time to time. If symptoms persist or keep reoccurring it could be a sign of a chronic condition called GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease.
If your heartburn persists, contact your doctor. Diet or lifestyle changes can help and your doctor can help you figure out if your symptoms are GERD and what treatments might help.
If your heartburn starts feeling more like chest pain, call 9-1-1 or get to an ER.