Blame it on erratic lifestyles or improper eating habits, digestive issues such as bloating, acidity and constipation have become quite common in modern times. While drinking adequate water, exercising regularly, chewing food properly, and eating fibre-rich foods are known to aid digestion, turns out how you sleep matters, too. According to experts, sleeping position at night can affect gut health as it aids digestion and reduces heartburn.
As such, which is the best sleeping position for improved digestion? “Left-side sleeping has more health benefits as it easily transfers our digested food from our small intestine to the large intestine. Sleeping on the left side also prevents disorders like gastro-oesophageal reflux disease that causes belching and heartburn,” Dr Manira Dhamsana, Associate Consultant, Internal Medicine, Max Super Specialty Hospital, Dehradun said.
Agreeing, Dr Mahesh Gupta, Sr Consultant, Gastroenterology, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, suggested sleeping on the left side for better digestion. Explaining, he added, “The stomach is on the left side of the body, below the oesophagus. When we sleep on our left sides, it becomes difficult for stomach acid to rise up the digestive tract against gravity. Gravity, on the other hand, keeps acid in the stomach, potentially lowering the risk of heartburn and symptoms of indigestion.”
With the left side being the best sleeping position for digestion, it’s equally crucial to know the impact of sleeping on your right, back, or stomach. According to experts, sleeping on the right side after ingestion of food is an unhealthy practice. “It leads to heartburn and indigestion,” Dr Dhamsana said.
Similarly, sleeping on your back or stomach is also not advisable. “Sleeping on your back is not the best position if you have heartburn due to GERD or acid reflux. Back sleeping causes acid to enter the throat again, giving a burning sensation and discomfort throughout the night,” Dr Gupta said.
Dr Balaji G, Consultant – Gastroenterology, Fortis Hospital, Bannerghatta Road, Bangalore added that sleeping on the stomach “will increase acid reflux episodes in people with GERD or susceptible people for acid reflux.”
In addition to your sleeping position, you must also take note of not sleeping immediately sleeping after your meal. “There should be at least a gap of 2 hours between dinner and sleep to avoid acid reflux,” Dr Sumant Mantri, Senior Consultant, Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine, Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore said.
Agreeing Dr Gupta added that one should avoid lying down right after having food. “Ideally, one should avoid lying down or sleeping immediately after meals. Dinner or meals before sleeping time should be small and lighter. For people suffering from GERD, elevated head end of the bed, a walk after dinner and light dinner are helpful measures,” he said.
Ensuring proper quantity and quality of sleep will further ensure better digestion as experts highlighted the direct link between sleep and gut health. “There is a terminology called ‘brain-gut axis’ which states that all the hormones in the body are released early in the morning around 5 am. So, any disturbances in the sleep will affect in releasing these hormones which, in turn, will affect digestion in terms of indigestion, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea and acid reflux episodes,” Dr Balaji explained, adding that people who sleep late or follow night shifts, have late night dinners/snacks or sleep till late in the mornings are susceptible to these digestive issues.
Dr Dhamsana added that loss of circadian rhythm “leads to gastroparesis as most of the changes in the digestive process are made during sleep”.
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