No matter your preferred sleeping position, it's crucial to recognise that the way we sleep can impact our digestion.
During sleep, our brain and body continue to digest the food and beverages consumed throughout the day, also facilitating the restoration of bodily functions overnight. Both the foods consumed before bedtime and the sleep position adopted can influence the efficiency of digestion and the quality of our sleep.
In this article, we will delve into the connection between sleep and digestion, exploring ways to optimise sleep for digestive health.
How Digestion Affects Sleep
We all desire a perfect night's sleep, but at times, achieving it can be elusive. Whether it's struggling to sleep, feeling restless throughout the night, or waking up without feeling refreshed, our digestion can play a significant role in these experiences.
Poor sleep can make us more susceptible to digestion problems, and conversely, poor digestion can impede our ability to achieve restful sleep. Sleep disruptions may impact immune health and trigger excess inflammation, adversely affecting digestive health4.
For optimal digestive well-being, it's advisable to consume substantial meals 2-3 hours before bedtime to avoid overloading the digestive system. Consuming a heavy meal close to sleep increases the risk of heartburn and indigestion1. Incorporating at least 30 minutes of daytime exercise can further enhance digestive health during sleep3.
How to Sleep for Proper Digestion
Ensuring optimal sleep for digestion contributes to increased energy, a refreshed feeling, and easier waking. Research indicates that sleeping on the left side is the most natural and beneficial position for overall health5.
The stomach's natural position is on the left side, aiding more effective food digestion. Gravity assists in the smoother movement of food waste from the small intestine to the large intestine, promoting a natural digestive process5. Individuals experiencing heartburn may find sleeping on their left side particularly beneficial.
Sleeping on the right side relaxes connecting muscles between the stomach and esophagus, potentially increasing the likelihood of acid reflux1. Elevating the head while sleeping on the left side may provide an additional advantage for improving nighttime digestion, helping ease heartburn by keeping the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) above the level of gastric acid.
What is the Best Sleeping Position for Digestion?
While various sleeping positions exist, if your current sleep is satisfactory, there may be no urgent need for a change. For optimum physical health benefits, sleeping on your back maintains the natural curve of your spine, reduces back pain, and facilitates easy breathing throughout the night2.
However, if the focus is on improving digestive health, sleeping on the left side appears to offer the most benefits for both gut and overall health1. The importance of our rest posture is often underestimated, influencing the way our systems manage and process waste, a crucial consideration for overall health improvement.
In conclusion, evidence suggests that sleeping on the left side is optimal for digestion and overall health. While we recommend prioritising the most comfortable position for the best night's sleep, trying the left-side position could be beneficial, especially for those dealing with heartburn, or indigestion, or aiming to enhance overall sleep hygiene.