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How Your Sleep Position Is Affecting Your Digestion, From Experts

Is it best to sleep belly-up or on your tummy?

  • Posted on 19th May, 2022 00:30 AM
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How Your Sleep Position Is Affecting Your Digestion, From Experts Image

Every night while you're asleep, your body is doing double duty. It's resting, yes, but it's also repairing and replenishing itself so you can wake up feeling refreshed. Supporting your digestive system is one of its main priorities, and your sleep position might play a role in its success.

The question is, is sleeping on your stomach good for digestion, or is it better to snooze belly-up or on your side? Here's what experts have to say.

What happens in the digestive system when you sleep?

According to Live Love Sleep adult sleep coach Zeke Medina, Pharm.D., prepping your digestive system for the day ahead is a huge undertaking that involves breaking down all the food you consumed throughout the day and fortifying your microbiome.

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"Our body is undergoing the rest-and-digest phase when sleeping, a part of the autonomic nervous system that allows the fight-or-flight response to shut off," Medina tells mbg. It's a vital time when your body is digesting and absorbing nutrients, metabolizing food, and building up your immune system.

But digesting a day's worth of meals and snacks is only half the battle. At the same time your digestive system is breaking down food particles, it's also regenerating new cells to replace old ones. This is just as important of a process, Medina notes, as it helps keep the lining of your intestine strong and tight, therefore preventing larger proteins or bacterial substances from entering the bloodstream.

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Is sleeping on your stomach good for digestion?

At this time, there isn't enough evidence to definitively say whether or not sleeping on your stomach is good for your tummy, but most experts warn this sleeping position could cause more harm than good to your digestive tract. According to Medina, this is because sleeping on your stomach would likely put pressure on its organs, which could lead to acid juices possibly squeezing out of the stomach (i.e., the wrong direction, up into the esophagus), therefore making sleep uncomfortable.

What's more, according to The Sleep Foundation, sleeping on your stomach can cause a host of other issues. For example, sleeping belly-down increases pressure on the spine and causes your neck to twist out of alignment, which won't be comfortable.

How other sleep positions may affect digestion.

Sleeping on your left side:

Medina tells mbg that sleeping on your left side is believed to be a solid position for anyone looking to support healthy digestion. "This is mainly based on the fact that our stomachs have a backward 'C' shape," and it naturally falls to the left, Medina explains. "This allows food to rest better on this side."

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Sleeping on your right side:

Right-side sleepers who experience stomach discomfort might want to take a page from Ariana Grande and switch up their preferred nighttime position. According to Medina, there is some evidence that suggests sleeping on your right side can be better for your circulation, giving your heart more room to beat. However, the position's impact on digestion is thought to be predominantly negative as it could "cause acid to possibly spill out of the stomach when the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes."

Sleeping on your back (supine position):

Rather than choosing left or right, sleeping in a neutral position on your back might be the most beneficial for your digestive system. Medina chalks it up to the fact that, in this position, your weight is evenly distributed throughout the body, setting up an optimal environment for gut health and digestive flow. It's also a very relaxing position (see savasana in yoga) that Medina says his clients enjoy as they're drifting off to sleep.

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The takeaway.

More research needs to be done on the impact different sleep positions have on digestion before we can definitively say if sleeping on your stomach would be beneficial or not to your gut health. The best advice we can offer is to find the sleep position that best works for you, and if you notice a potential link between your sleep habits and digestive health, talk to a doctor for guidance.

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The deep and restorative sleep you've always dreamt about*

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