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Why does heartburn occur at night?

Heartburn while sleeping at night can be attributed to the gravitational force. When you lie down, food can travel from the stomach back up to the oesophagus because of the gravitational force. This does not happen when you are sitting or standing because the food and acid remains in the stomach, where the digestion process keeps it there, aided by the downward pull of gravity.

What is the best sleeping position for heartburn?

You don’t have to sleep sitting up to beat gravity at night. Nor do you need some magic cure for heartburn. How you sleep can directly affect how often you experience the symptoms of heartburn at night, how bad those symptoms are, and how long the acid stays in your oesophagus. You can also try consuming meals some hours before going to lie down to sleep.

You can expect significant relief by modifying the way you sleep.

Sleeping on your back

Although this is the best sleeping position for some, it can aggravate GERD symptoms in people affected by it. Back sleeping can be the worst for those who experience acid reflux at night. When you are sleeping flat on your back, the acid can escape from your stomach and flow freely into your oesophagus and beyond…and stay there. In this position, symptoms may often become more frequent and last longer as the acid has nowhere to go. The severity of the symptoms can also increase if you have stomach fat, which can push down on your stomach, forcing the contents to escape.

Sleeping on your right side

When lying flat on your right side, your stomach comes into position above your oesophagus, which creates a situation like a leaky faucet spouting stomach acid into the delicate lining of your oesophagus. This is especially true when your stomach is full. When lying flat on your right side, reflux symptoms tend to be more liquid in nature, which can lead to coughing, regurgitation, and choking, which can seem very scary in the middle of the night.

Sleeping on your left side

When you sleep on your left side, gravity will work in your favour as the stomach will be positioned below the oesophagus, making reflux more difficult to happen. If the stomach acid escapes, gravity can return it to your stomach quicker, as compared to when you are sleeping on your right side or on your back. When you sleep on your left side, reflux symptoms tend to be more gaseous in nature, which may be annoying but are usually less distressing.

Propping up your body

Sleeping at an incline can decrease reflux symptoms, allowing your body to get stomach acid back to your stomach quicker. When your entire torso is elevated, sleeping at an incline will allow gravity to return stomach acid to your stomach and keep it there.

Heartburn at night is a relatively mild condition. If the reason for heartburnis due to any chronic or serious condition, it should be dealt with before it leads to something more severe. Along with trying out home remedies for heartburn at night, one way of going about it is via sleep. The above guide on sleeping positions should help you prevent heartburn at night. Along with trying out the sleeping positions mentioned above, consult your doctor on what sleeping position would work best for you.

If you’re looking to consume medicines to treat heartburn, you can try Gaviscon that starts giving relief from Heartburn and indigestion in just 3 minutes and lasts upto 2X longer vs. ordinary Antacids*.


*Comparing Gaviscon with select ordinary antacid

  1. Chevrel B. A comparative crossover study on the treatment of heartburn and epigastric pain: Liquid Gaviscon and a magnesium--aluminium antacid gel. J Int Med Res. 1980;8(4):300-2.
  2. Mandel KG etal. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2000 Jun;14(6):669-90

Article published 1 July 2021