Digestion problems are a pain to deal with – especially when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep (or lack of).
From waking up with heartburn, acid reflux or stomach pains from constipation, your digestive tract plays a huge role in the overall quality of your sleep.
But did you know thereare a couple of simple tricks to help ease your IBS symptoms, improve digestion and sleep quality without any niggling gut problems?
Adjust your sleeping position.
Below, we’ll dive into the best sleeping positions to aid digestion and answer some frequently asked questions on the topic of sleeping positions and gut health.
Let’s dive in!
The Best Sleeping Position to Aid Digestion: Sleep on Your Left Side
To the left, to the left!
Did you know that sleeping on your left side can promote better coordination between your digestive system and GRAVITY?
This is because the small intestine moves waste to your right side to make its way to the large intestine, and then to the lower colon on the left side. This, combined with gravity, increases the likelihood of having your bowel movement first thing in the morning. Think of it as setting your internal alarm clock for a timely digestive wake-up call.
Sleeping on your left side can help reduce indigestion and heartburn by preventing stomach acid from flowing back into the oesophagus, due to the stomach’s position being below the esophageal opening in this posture.
Here’s how different sleeping positions can affect your digestive health:
✅ Left-Side Sleeping: Ever noticed how sometimes we instinctively curl up on our left side after eating? It’s not just a coincidence. Sleeping on the left side aids digestion by using gravity to move food through the small intestine and into the large intestine.
This position also reduces the risk of heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). So, if you’re looking for better digestion and reduced digestive issues, left-side sleeping might be your best position.
❌ Back Sleeping: While back sleeping can be great for spine health, it might not be the friendliest position for those with GERD.
If you’re a back sleeper and notice heartburn or other digestive symptoms, consider propping your head up a bit to prevent stomach acid from creeping into the oesophagus.
❌ Right-Side & Stomach Sleeping: Right-side sleepers and stomach sleepers may increase the risk of heartburn, especially after big meals.
If you’re prone to digestive issues, you might want to reconsider these positions.
The Connection Between Sleep and Digestion
When we talk about gut health, we often think of bloating, constipation, and probiotics. But sleep? Not so much.
Surprisingly, poor sleep and digestive health are more connected than most realise. A lack of sleep can exacerbate digestive issues, leading to symptoms like acid reflux and indigestion.
Ever had a big meal and then gone to bed only to be woken up in the middle of the night by heartburn?
Well, when you lie flat, stomach acid can flow back into the esophagus, leading to that dreaded burning sensation.
This is why lying on your left side can greatly reduce heartburn and acid reflux because the stomach is below the esophageal opening in this position – science, yo!
3 Tips for Sleeping to Help Digestion
1. Raise Your Head While Resting
Lifting your head and sleeping on your left side helps digestion at night. This position keeps a muscle (the LES) above stomach acid. If acid rises, gravity helps push it back down quickly.
2. Place a Pillow Between Your Knees for Support
If the above strategy doesn’t quite hit the mark, consider introducing a pillow between your knees. The unease you might feel could stem from a spine misalignment or neck strain when your knees are bent. Sliding a pillow between them might curb this discomfort, ensuring your spine stays neutral.
3. Adopt the Three-Hour Meal Gap Before Bedtime
Stop eating three hours before you intend to go to sleep. The three-hour guideline offers your body a buffer to efficiently process your last meal, saving you from waking to an upset stomach.
What Are the Health Benefits of Sleeping on Your Left Side?
Left-side sleeping appears to have multiple health benefits, including the following:
- Facilitating digestion
- Reducing heartburn
- Boosting the health of your brain
- Helping sleep apnea
So when it’s time to get some snooze, go on and try facing left – it might just make your sleep a little more special tonight.
Addressing Common Concerns With Sleeping on Your Left Side
- Neck Pain and Back Pain: Side sleepers often complain about neck and shoulder pain. Investing in a good pillow that provides proper neck support can make a world of difference.
- Sleep Apnea: If you experience snoring or interruptions in breathing, back sleeping might exacerbate these issues. In such cases, seeking medical advice is crucial.
- Other Health Issues: Beyond just digestion, our sleeping habits can impact heart health, blood flow, and even sinus issues. For instance, back sleeping can be beneficial for those with sinus problems as it allows for better drainage.
Sleeping Position for Digestive Issues FAQs
What are the best positions to lay in to relieve stomach pain?
For stomach pain, many find relief by lying on their left side. This position can help with digestion and gas release. Another comfortable position is curling up, almost like you’re hugging your knees. If you’re still not feeling right, try lying on your back and placing a pillow under your knees; it can take off some pressure.
What’s the best side to sleep on for better digestion and overall health?
The left side is your best bet. This position not only aids digestion but also helps with the natural flow of other body systems.
Does sleeping on your left help with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)?
Definitely! When you sleep on your left side, you’re reducing the chance of stomach acid flowing back into the oesophagus. This can be a game-changer for those with GERD, as it can decrease those unwelcome acid reflux episodes during the night.
Is stomach sleeping bad for digestion?
Yes, stomach sleeping can be less than ideal for digestion. When you lie on your stomach, you put extra pressure on your digestive organs, which can disrupt their natural functioning. Additionally, this position can increase the risk of acid reflux, especially if you’ve eaten shortly before sleeping. It’s generally better to sleep on your side, especially your left, to promote healthy digestion.