Sleeping left-side down with your head and torso elevated is often suggested as a way of preventing night-time gastroesophageal reflux.

It is estimated that one in 10 people suffer from reflux at night.

A number of studies have identified a relationship between laying on the right side and increased cases of reflux symptoms, such as heartburn, compared to when laying on the left side.

The research

A 1994 study found that the total amount of reflux time was significantly greater with subjects in the right sleeping position than in the left.  While a 1999 study connected a right-side sleeper with greater acid levels and longer ‘oesophageal acid clearance’.

In 2015, researchers evaluated a sleep-positioning device consisting of an inclined base and body pillow that maintained lateral position while elevating the head/torso. It found that lying left-side down ‘reduces recumbent oesophageal acid exposure’.

An interesting study in 2020 assessed the impact of upright and recumbent body positions on gastroesophageal reflux episodes in children and adolescents. It found that post paediatric patients experienced reflux in the upright rather than recumbent position.

Why does sleeping on the left help?

Although several studies have shown that reflux is increased in patients sleeping on their right, there are not many explaining the reasons why.

Some propose increased transient relaxations of the lower oesophageal sphincter stomach valve in the right position, or that the gastroesophageal junction lies above the level of gastric acid in the left position.

One study in 2012 concluded that in gastroesophageal reflux disease patients, momentary lower oesophageal sphincter relaxations, distension (enlargement) of the proximal part of the stomach, and gastric emptying are increased when on the right compared to the left. Interestingly, this effect was not seen in healthy control patients.

How to ensure you sleep on the left

Reflux pillowIn 2020, a Dutch digital health startup called Side Sleep Technologies (SST) said it was developing wearable technology to train people to sleep on their left side. Its LEFT Device, when placed on the breastbone, would detect if someone was sleeping on their right side and vibrate.

However, the device no longer appears to be marketed and its website is no longer available.

Simple tips:

  • Sleep on a firm mattress with a pillow underneath your head
  • Put a pillow between your knees
  • Try positioning pillows to stop you rolling to your back or stomach

Putnams offers a range of supportive cushioning aids for a variety of health problems including acid reflux/ GERD/ GORD. There are two main types of bed wedges; a triangle pillow that sits on top of the mattress and a much firmer type that goes under the mattress tilting the whole bed.

An early and objective diagnosis of reflux, such as Peptest provides, opens the door to lifestyle changes, and future treatment. Peptest can also be used after reflux treatments to assess the success or failure of any treatment. Find out more about Peptest and order your Peptest home testing kit now.

Disclaimer: This is an informational blog and does not constitute diet or lifestyle advice. We always recommend you do your own research on top to ensure it’s right for your specific circumstances. You can always get in touch if you have any questions. As an Amazon Associate and Putnams Affiliate, we earn from qualifying purchases. You should always consult your doctor prior to undertaking any treatment for reflux. This blog content was last updated in 2021.

 

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