Avoid Lying Down After Eating

The three hour rule isn't the only thing that will stop nighttime heartburn

man sleeping on couch
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Avoid lying down for at least three hours after eating to help prevent nighttime heartburn. Getting horizontal with a full stomach can cause stomach contents to press harder against the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES is a bundle of muscles at the end of the esophagus that should keep the stomach contents put; however, when you lie down, it tends to relax which can increase the chances food will reflux back and cause that burning sensation you may be all too familiar with.


And it isn't just you suffering the consequences of eating late, or even eating the wrong stuff throughout the day. Nearly 50 million people suffer with nighttime heartburn at least once a week. That's a lot of people and a lot of heartburn. It also accounts for many hours of lost sleep that could result in an inability to perform adequately at work the next day.

In general, sleeping slows down your digestive system. If your digestive system is already impaired because of frequent reflux then staying upright until your body can process what you just ate is imperative.

But, avoiding lying down isn't all...

Too tired to wait? Must. Get. Sleep. Then, keep your head above your stomach. Create an incline by either stacking a few pillows, using a wedge pillow, or raising the head of your bed with blocks, planks, or bricks. This way you can use gravity to diminish your acid reflux. 

If you are able to wait the three hours after eating, another way to combat nighttime heartburn is to consider your sleeping position.

Sleeping on your left side may be better for your digestive health. Specifically, studies have shown that this will help aid in digestion and reduce stomach acid compared to right-side sleeping.

How you sleep and when you fall asleep are not the only ways to prevent nighttime heartburn. Other considerations:

Ultimately, avoiding lying down can't be your only preventive measure against heartburn. Keep track of how often you experience reflux when you lie down, and then when the meal prior was and what it was. If you notice a pattern, work with your healthcare professional to find ways to prevent it from happening. We all need our rest.

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