Sleep On This Side If Indigestion Is Keeping You Awake

'Tis the season...
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I like to tell myself I’m young, tough, and spry. And then, a hearty Christmas dinner (and sides, and snacks, and booze...) dispels my delusion completely.

Festive indigestion is so common in the UK that the NHS page on heartburn gets viewed once every 13 seconds around Christmas time (I feel so seen).

And a struggling stomach can prevent us from catching some much-needed Zzzs ― one paper found that nighttime stomach acid issues are “associated with sleep disturbances such as shorter sleep duration, difficulty falling asleep, arousals during sleep, poor sleep quality, and awakening early in the morning.”

If your indigestion is affecting your ability to sleep, we’ve got some expert wisdom to help you kip better during the most wonderful time of the year ― and it turns out it could be as simple as switching the side you sleep on.

Left is best

When you’re struggling to sleep on a gargling stomach, sleeping on your left side can help, the Gastrointestinal Society (from the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research) shared.

“Reflux can become much worse while you are sleeping or lying in bed; without the aid of gravity, it is much easier for stomach contents to spill... [and] flow into the [o]esophagus. This leads to an increase in symptoms, such as a burning in the chest, the feeling of food or liquid rising into the mouth, a sour or bitter taste, a sore throat, and coughing, which can make getting a good night’s sleep a difficult task,” they explained.

Your stomach is a curved organ, with much of its volume ― and contents ― lying on the left hand side.

This curve also means that it’s harder for stomach acid (which is the cause of indigestion and heartburn) to make its way into your oesophagus, because it’s got a steeper curve to clime than your sloped right-hand side.

So, “due to gravity, the shape of the stomach, and the angle of the connection between it and the esophagus, sleeping on your left side can greatly reduce reflux,” the GI Society shared.

“Another way to use gravity to help decrease nighttime GERD symptoms involves propping up the head section of the bed by about six inches,” they added.

Anything else?


The NHS advises you to quell indigestion by:

  • cutting down on tea, coffee, cola or alcohol,

  • raising your head and shoulders up when in bed – this can stop stomach acid coming up while you sleep,

  • avoid eating three to four hours before going to bed

  • skipping rich, spicy, or fatty foods

  • avoiding ibuprofen or aspirin – this can make indigestion worse, and

  • laying the cigarettes down.

Antacids, alginates, and proton pump inhibitors ― which you can usually buy over the counter ― can soothe existing issues, and you should see a medical professional if you have severe or ongoing indigestion and especially if you have bloody vomit or poo.

If you’re pretty sure it’s just seasonal overindulgence, though, well ― let’s switch to our left side, shall we?