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The Best Sleeping Position to Aid Digestion

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Update: May 17, 2023
5 min read

Written by

Rahul Upadhyay
Content Writer
Best Sleeping Position For Digestion

The digestive system is incredibly complex; it breaks down large insoluble food molecules into small water-soluble food molecules so they can be absorbed. So, any issues in this process can be a pain to deal with. However, experiencing any kind of digestive issues is quite common; they can be easily triggered by stress or a lifestyle change.

Some people believe that sleeping might help them with digestion, even though sleep and digestion are entirely different body concepts. So, how can sleep affect digestion?

Sleep can affect digestion because the digestive fluids and the acids in our stomach are active even as we sleep. In fact, sleep and digestion are related in several ways. For instance, poor sleep can cause indigestion and bloating; poor digestion can affect sleep quality.

How? Scroll down to know more. This article reviews the relationship between sleep and digestion and offers insight regarding the best sleeping position for digestion, backed up by some scientific reports and facts.

How Sleep Affects Digestion

The digestive fluids and the acids in our stomach are active even as we sleep. During sleep, the digestive system is regulated, and depending on the food and liquids ingested and the metabolism, the body converts food into energy.

This means a good night’s sleep significantly impacts every facet of health, including gut health. In addition, it is found that the circadian rhythm may influence nutrient absorption during sleep. And digestion is faster during the REM sleep stage compared to others.

On the other hand, lack of sleep can increase stress, which in turn causes the digestive system to experience serious repercussions. Lack of sleep can cause hormonal imbalance and impact gastrointestinal diseases, which can cause issues like heartburn, constipation or diarrhoea (also referred to as irritable bowel syndrome), and possibly bloating.

The Best Sleeping Positions for Digestion

Similar to sleeping, the sleep position also matters, from the brain to the gut. And according to research, body postures and movements during sleep are associated with sleep quality and various health outcomes. So following are some of the best sleeping positions for digestion.

On Your Left Side

It is believed that sleeping on the left side is the best sleeping position for digestion, and it might be true. Sleep expert Dr Raj explains how sleeping on the left can help. In this position, the food and acid are separated, and gravity helps pull the acid from refluxing into the oesophagus. As a result, the lower reflux of gastric contents reduces the chances of heartburn and symptoms of indigestion. 

Furthermore, heartburn or acid reflux is common in pregnancy due to hormonal changes and growing fetuses pressing against the stomach. And pregnant women are often recommended to sleep on their left side, which improves blood flow and kidney function. Sleeping on the left also helps take the pressure off the organs from the increasing weight of the uterus.
When sleeping on the left side, use an appropriately lofted pillow that can elevate the head. This will help further ease the heartburn.

On Your Side With a Pillow Between Your Legs

Sleeping healthy is all about achieving a neutral position. When sleeping on the side, keep the posture neutral, from neck to hips. Besides the head pillows, a pillow between the knees is an easy hack to keep the hips neutral. This also helps support the knees and keep them from collapsing onto each other.

On Your Back

Some people prefer sleeping on their backs. However, this might not be the best sleeping position for digestion or something else. For instance, feeling acid reflux in the throat after lying down is a nasty experience. Sleeping on the back can contribute to this acid reflux, allowing the stomach contents to gush up into the oesophagus. 

Besides acid reflux, a study reported that sleeping on the back can increase the likelihood of lumbar pain by 1.9 times. Another study reports that sleeping on the back during the third trimester of pregnancy is associated with reduced uterine blood flow and birth weight.

However, this does not mean one must force themselves to sleep in an uncomfortable position. All that needs is a little tinkering with the sleep position to not be at a disadvantage. So, how to sleep on your back?

On Your Back With a Pillow Under Your Knees

One way to make the back sleeping comfortable is to use a small pillow under the back of your knees. It will reduce stress on your spine and support the natural curve in your lower back. 

And with the right pillows, back sleeping can support the head, neck, and spine to rest in a neutral position. Moreover, sleeping on the back distributes the weight evenly, and reduces pressure on the face, preventing facial wrinkles.

On Your Back With Your Head Raised

Sleeping on your back with an elevated head is another back-sleeping hack. And according to research, sleeping with a shoulder-head elevation pillow can help open up the airways and reduce acid reflux.

Sleeping with an elevated head can also help with several medical health concerns. It can help reduce migraines and the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), such as snoring.

Besides pondering which side to lay on for digestion, consider other things concerning digestion. 

For example, observe your eating habits. Some foods can have either beneficial or adverse effects on health.

Eating a high-fibre diet, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains that are high in fibre, helps to prevent constipation and maintain a healthy weight. In addition, keeping a regular and consistent eating schedule allows the body to digest properly. 

Another thing to remember is to avoid late-night snacks and eating before bed because, according to Dr Jinal Patel, a dietitian, it can slow down the body’s metabolism, leading to certain chronic diseases.

Also, drink plenty of water. Besides keeping the body hydrated, water plays an essential role in digestion. Water helps break down and process food and helps create bulkier yet softer stools, which allows them to pass through more easily.

When to See a Doctor

Digestion combines versatile and multiple scales physicochemical processes, and any minor imbalance in the process can create issues. But it can be set back on track by drinking water and body movements. Because digestive problems are quite common, they can be easily triggered by stress or a lifestyle change.

But if there are consistent cases of digestive issues like constipation, bloating, gas, and diarrhoea, and it makes everyday life difficult, then book an appointment with your doctor. Also, list every symptom and discomfort to your healthcare provider.

Final Words

An important aspect of sleep is getting good rest after a long day. It impacts every facet of health. It can also affect digestion because the digestive fluids are active during sleep.  

A sleep position can affect digestion and alleviate or exacerbate health conditions like heartburn. And according to some research findings, body postures and movements during sleep are associated with smooth digestion. 

As per some research findings that we shared above, side sleeping, particularly on your left side, is recommended for reducing the chances of heartburn and symptoms of indigestion. However, if there are consistent digestive problems, get an appointment with your healthcare provider.


Does sleeping position affect digestion?

Yes, sleeping on your left side can help your digestive system and GRAVITY work together better.

What is the best position for fast digestion?

The left side of the body is where the stomach naturally rests, where it can better digest food. The waste is helped to move from the small intestine to the large intestine by gravity.

What is the healthiest sleeping position?

You should sleep on your side or back rather than your stomach. Maintaining your spine supported and balanced in either of these sleeping positions is simpler, relieving pressure on the spinal tissues and allowing your muscles to unwind and recover.

How should I sleep to relieve gas?

You can lie on your side with your knees bent to release trapped gas. Pull your knees closer to your chest if, after a few minutes, you still don’t feel any relief, or try switching between straight and bent legs.


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Written by

Rahul Upadhyay
Content Writer
10 years of experience as a content writer Previously worked as a copywriter for a health journal Ability to write in a variety of formats, including articles, white papers, and clinical trial summaries

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