What Side Should You Sleep on When Your Stomach Hurts?

Acid reflux and inflammatory bowel diseases can cause stomach pain while sleeping. Sleeping on specific sides can help alleviate discomfort, such as left-side sleeping for acid reflux and right-side sleeping for diarrhea. Medical consultation is recommended for persistent symptoms.

There are a lot of things that can disrupt an otherwise good night’s sleep, from cold symptoms to leg cramps to a pesky headache that just won’t go away. At times, a stomach ache can also make it difficult to achieve quality rest.

“Abdominal pain can keep a patient awake because the patient cannot properly relax and achieve deep sleep,” says J. Andy Tau, MD, partner at Austin Gastroenterology. “Visceral pain, which is what doctors call pain that generates from the bowels, can be particularly painful and can even awaken a patient from deep sleep.”

Luckily, there are certain things you can do to get better sleep, even if you’re dealing with a stomach ache. Ahead, we’ll explore the best sleep positions for when your stomach hurts.

What causes stomach pain?

Tau says some of the more common causes of abdominal pain include acid reflux/heartburn of the esophagus, gallstone disease, ulcers, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.

Other causes can include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and severe constipation.

What side to lie on when your stomach hurts

As you look for some relief, you might be wondering what side to lie on when your stomach hurts. As it turns out, each side has its benefits, depending on what condition you have.

In general, the greatest research regarding sleeping positions and abdominal discomfort pertains to acid reflux or heartburn, notes Tau.

Research in adults and children has shown that sleeping on the left side can reduce the degree of acid reflux exposure to the esophagus,” he says.

On the other hand, Tau says lying on your right side “can help move stool in the lower GI tract (colon) backward into the right colon” and “sleeping on the right side may be more beneficial to reduce the number of nocturnal bowel movements if you have diarrhea.”

Also, Tau says that “sleeping prone with one’s belly down compresses the stomach and can be worse if a patient has nausea,” which means that sleeping on your stomach when you have stomach pain is of course not a great idea.

In fact, experts generally agree that sleeping on your stomach isn’t ideal for your spine or to achieve your best-possible sleep.

Other sleep tips for stomach pain

In addition to choosing a side to sleep on based on what you’re specifically dealing with, Tau shares the following tip geared toward acid reflux:

“Elevating the head of the bed or the upper body with a specialized bed or wedge pillow reduces acid reflux,” he says. “This is because this position keeps the stomach contents below the level of the gastro-esophageal junction.”

Tau also cautions: “Do not try and cope with abdominal pain alone. Always contact your doctor or gastroenterologist if you have persistent abdominal pain, especially once it wakes you at night or prevents sleep.”


Is it better for your stomach to lie on your left side or right side?

Wondering what side of your stomach to lie on when it hurts? If you’re struggling with acid reflux or heartburn, then opt for sleeping on your left side, something that’s backed up by robust medical research. Dealing with diarrhea? Tau recommends sleeping on your right side for some relief and to possibly prevent having to go in the night.

What side should you lie on when you have gas?

“The best position to sleep in when you have gas is on your left side with your knees drawn up to your chest, as this position anatomically compresses the abdomen but straightens the pelvis to allow passage of gas,” says Tau.

How do you relieve stomach pain at night?

Tau says “durable relief of abdominal pain” always begins with making a proper diagnosis. “There is no single position or method that one can employ in the evening that is going to be universally applicable,” he explains. “If you have acid reflux, elevate the head of the bed and lie on your left side. If gas is painful, lie on your left side and draw your knees to your chest. If you want to limit diarrheal bowel movements, lie on your right side.”

Feeling gassy at night? Next, find out what causes farting during sleep and how to stop it.

Was This Article Helpful?
Yes No

Related Stories