Heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can be difficult and painful to live with — and not just during the day or after meals. One study showed that 1 in 4 adults with GERD suffer from this at night. The pain and discomfort this condition causes can interrupt sleep — and up to 55% of GERD patients suffer from sleep disturbances related to GERD or heartburn pain. This can have a serious and negative impact on quality of life.
The good news is that, apart from medications, there are simple lifestyle changes that can have a big impact on this condition.
Sleeping On The Left Side
It might come as a surprise, but sleeping on the left side is one simple way to cut down on the problem of nighttime GERD pain. No one is exactly sure why, but there are many theories:
- One theory is because the stomach is situated on the left side of the body and when you sleep at this time, gravity itself makes it less likely that the contents of the stomach will back up into the esophagus, causing painful reflux.
- Other studies have shown that sleeping on the left side can increase the pressure on the sphincter (opening) between the stomach and esophagus and make reflux less likely.
- Another clinical review of natural remedies for GERD found that many studies have shown that lying on the right side can increase the length of the GERD attack as well as the amount of acid that refluxes into the esophagus, whereas lying on the left side can reduce these problems. Left-lying positions are thought to prevent relaxation of the sphincter and keep the sphincter above the level of gastric acid.
Other Tips For Natural GERD Control
It is important to remember, however, that just sleeping on the left side is not enough to help manage this disease — there are other ways to control it naturally, including:
- Eating healthy and avoiding junk foods.
- Elevating the head of the bed at least 30 degrees to reduce the chance of reflux.
- Waiting at least an hour between finishing a meal and going to bed.
- Avoiding foods and beverages that can irritate the stomach, such as chocolate, alcohol, and spicy or fatty foods.
If GERD or reflux is a problem, it is important to talk to your doctor about this, as ongoing issues with it can permanently damage the esophagus. Sometimes, even with natural control tips like the ones mentioned above, prescription or over-the-counter medications are needed as well.