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.

In 2022, a study published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology investigated the effect of spontaneous sleep positions on the occurrence of gastroesophageal reflux at night. It found that sleeping on the left led to significantly shorter nocturnal oesophageal acid exposure time and faster oesophageal acid clearance compared with the right or being faced lying on the back.

Dutch digital health company Side Sleep Technologies has developed what it describes as a small non-invasive sleep position training wearable device that trains the user predominately to sleep on the left side’ called the LEFT. An app for the iPhone is used to connect with the LEFT device via Bluetooth and extract the positional data per night. It claims that more reflux-free nights are observed in those using the device.

According to its 2022 study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the electronic wearable device promotes sleeping in the left lateral decubitus position and effectively alleviates nocturnal reflux symptoms compared with sham treatment (an inactive procedure that is designed to mimic as closely as possible the active procedure being studied in a clinical trial).

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 pillowSimple 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 2022.


Sign up

Subscribe To Our Email Newsletter

Be the first to know about EXCLUSIVE discount offers and the latest research into reflux.

You have Successfully Subscribed!