Side to Sleep on for GERD

Written by: Ed Salazar



Time to read 5 min

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly known as GERD, is a chronic condition affecting millions of individuals worldwide. It is characterized by the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus, causing symptoms such as heartburn, regurgitation, and chest pain.


GERD can severely impact an individual's quality of life, and managing its symptoms is crucial. One aspect that often gets overlooked in the management of GERD is sleep. Sleep positions can play a significant role in alleviating or aggravating GERD symptoms.


This article aims to explore the relationship between sleep position and GERD and provide recommendations for those seeking a night of restful sleep.

Understanding the Mechanics of GERD

Before diving into the optimal side to sleep on for GERD, it is essential to understand the mechanics of GERD. The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is a muscular ring at the junction between the esophagus and the stomach. In normal conditions, the LES acts as a one-way valve, allowing food to enter the stomach while preventing stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus. However, in GERD, the LES is weakened or relaxes inappropriately, allowing stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus.

Several factors contribute to the weakening of the LES. These include obesity, smoking, consumption of certain foods and medications, and even the position of your body. By understanding how these factors work, you can make informed decisions about lifestyle changes that can help manage GERD symptoms.

Understanding the Best Side to Sleep on for GERD

A person's sleep position can significantly impact the symptoms of GERD. Lying flat on your back can cause the stomach acid to easily flow back into the esophagus, particularly when the LES is weakened. On the other hand, sleeping on your side can help prevent this backflow. However, the side you choose to sleep on matters. The left side is generally considered the best side to sleep on for GERD.

Why the Left Side?

Several studies have indicated that sleeping on your left side can alleviate the symptoms of GERD. This is primarily due to the anatomical structure of the stomach and esophagus. The stomach has a slight tilt to the left. When you sleep on your left side, the gastric juices pool away from the LES, reducing the chances of reflux.

Lower Esophageal Sphincter

In contrast, sleeping on your right side has been shown to exacerbate GERD symptoms. This position allows the stomach acid to pool near the LES, making it easier for the acid to flow back into the esophagus.

Techniques for Left Side Sleeping

We suggest shifting to left-side sleeping with our unique sleep positioning pillow. Designed with a proprietary inclined surface, it offers just the right amount of support to encourage side sleeping, especially on your left. This distinct design ensures you remain comfortably positioned throughout the night, effortlessly making left-side sleep a seamless part of your routine.

Elevating the Head of the Bed

In addition to sleeping on your left side, elevating the head of your bed can also be beneficial in managing GERD symptoms during sleep. This position uses gravity to keep the stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus.

Techniques for Elevation

There are several ways to elevate the head of the bed effectively. One method is to use a wedge pillow. These specially designed pillows are triangular and provide the necessary elevation. Another option is to place blocks under the legs at the head of your bed, raising it by six to eight inches. It's important to elevate the entire upper body, not just the head, as using extra pillows can sometimes worsen GERD symptoms.

Combining Left-Side Sleeping with Elevation

To maximize the benefits of sleeping positions for GERD, combining sleeping on the left side with head elevation is often recommended. This combination creates an optimal angle that uses gravity to keep stomach acid away from the LES, thus reducing the likelihood of acid reflux.

Diagnosis GERD

Consultation with a Healthcare Provider

While the left-side sleeping position combined with head elevation can be beneficial for many, it is essential to consult with a healthcare provider before making significant changes to your sleep habits, especially if you have been diagnosed with GERD or experienced severe symptoms. A healthcare provider can offer personalized advice and may suggest additional treatments or lifestyle changes based on your specific condition.

Adopting Additional Lifestyle Changes

In conjunction with optimizing your sleeping position, adopting lifestyle changes can be a potent combination in the management of GERD. These changes can strengthen the LES and decrease the production of stomach acid.

Dietary Modifications

Certain foods and beverages can irritate the esophagus or cause the LES to relax, contributing to GERD symptoms. 


Common culprits include spicy foods:


  • Citrus Fruits

  • Tomatoes

  • Chocolate

  • Mint

  • Garlic

  • Onions

  • Caffeinated or Alcoholic beverages


Reducing or eliminating these from your diet may alleviate symptoms.

Babe eating healthy food

Weight Management

Carrying excess weight, especially around the abdomen, puts pressure on the stomach and can contribute to GERD. Losing weight through a combination of a balanced diet and regular exercise can relieve this pressure and reduce symptoms.

Avoiding Late-Night Meals

Eating meals or snacks close to bedtime can exacerbate GERD symptoms. It’s advisable to have your last meal at least three hours before sleeping. This allows time for the stomach to empty, reducing the stomach acid volume that could reflux into the esophagus.

Monitoring and Adapting

As you change your sleep position and lifestyle, monitoring your symptoms closely is important. Keeping a journal of your dietary intake, sleep positions, and GERD symptoms can help identify patterns and provide valuable insights.

Using a GERD Symptom Journal

Preview of SnoreLessNow Sleep Tracker

In your journal, make a note of what you eat, when you eat it, the sleep positions you try, and any GERD symptoms you experience. Over time, you may begin to see correlations between certain foods, sleep positions, and your symptoms. Share this information with your healthcare provider to develop a personalized management plan. You can use our free sleep tracker here to get started.

Conclusion: Achieving Restful Sleep with GERD

GERD is a chronic condition that can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life, especially when it comes to sleep. By understanding the mechanics of GERD and the influence of sleep position, individuals can make informed decisions to manage their symptoms effectively.

Sleeping on the left side, with the head of the bed elevated, is often recommended as the optimal sleep position for individuals with GERD. Combining this with dietary modifications, weight management, and avoiding late-night meals can further alleviate symptoms.

Remember, it is important to consult a healthcare provider for personalized advice and closely monitor and adapt your sleep and lifestyle changes. Through vigilant management and adopting evidence-based practices, individuals with GERD can achieve a more restful and symptom-free night’s sleep.

About the Author

Ed Salazar Sleep Consultant and CEO

Ed Salazar

With over 20 years of experience in healthcare, Ed Salazar is a trusted sleep consultant and esteemed writer for the Good Night Blog. His medically-reviewed work and profound expertise make him a go-to resource for achieving quality sleep. Let Ed Salazar guide you on a transformative journey to restful nights and rejuvenation.