Help Get Rid of Heartburn by Improving Your Sleep Position
12. 22. 2017
Heartburn is a set of symptoms resulting from acid reflux, a condition in which stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. There are many factors that affect acid reflux including obesity, pregnancy, overeating, diet, smoking, diabetes, asthma and stress.
Anxiety and stress can be particularly high during the holidays, which means that it is important to manage other factors that you can control. One heartburn-contributing factor that you can control is your sleeping position. How you sleep directly affects your acid reflux, so when holiday stress is giving you heartburn — try a new sleeping position!
What is the Lower Esophageal Sphincter?
The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is responsible for regulating the flow of contents between the esophagus and the stomach. A properly functioning LES keeps food inside the stomach and occasionally releases gas causing a person to burp. If the lower esophageal sphincter does not fully close, digested food and stomach acid can escape into the esophagus. When you are awake, you can sometimes remedy reflux by just standing up and allowing gravity to return the digestive acid to your stomach. Reflux can be more harmful while you are sleeping because you are in a supine position for several hours and are unaware of the damage being done to your esophagus.
Ranking the Worst Sleeping Positions for Heartburn
Do you ever wake up with heartburn and wonder why? It could be because you are sleeping in a position that makes your stomach more prone to reflux. Here are the worst sleeping positions for heartburn:
- Sleeping flat on your back. If you have a poorly functioning LES, stomach acid can freely flow into the esophagus and cause heartburn symptoms that are often more frequent and last longer. Additionally, excessive stomach fat can put pressure on the LES, causing those who are overweight to experience even worse heartburn when lying on the back.
- Sleeping on your right side. Sleeping on your right side is better than sleeping on your back, but it can create a leaky faucet effect. Gravity is working against you in this position because the stomach is inverted on top of the esophagus. Liquid can leak into the esophagus and linger there much longer.
- Sleeping on your left side. In this position, the LES stays above the contents of the stomach and makes reflux more difficult. If reflux occurs, it tends to be more gaseous in nature. If it is liquid reflux, gravity returns contents quickly to the stomach.
Best Sleeping Position to Get Rid of Heartburn
Sleeping on your left side at an incline makes reflux almost impossible. The LES is positioned well above the stomach contents, even if the stomach is full. The incline reduces incidence of any reflux happening which prevents almost all exposure to stomach acid.
Reflux can cause many painful symptoms like heartburn, regurgitation, choking and coughing. These symptoms can range from annoying to frightening, but it is important that you visit your doctor. Untreated reflux can lead to prolonged acid exposure and health complications, such as erosive esophagitis, peptic strictures, esophageal ulcerations, Barrett’s esophagus or esophageal cancer.