Best Sleeping Positions for a Bloated Stomach

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When it comes to sleep, the more relaxed you are, the better your sleep. Trying to sleep with a bloated stomach can cause distress for even the best or heaviest sleepers. However, finding a comfortable sleeping position can make a big difference in alleviating some of the tightness and pressure associated with a bloated stomach. Read on to learn more. 

What Causes Bloating in the Stomach?

A bloated stomach is caused from intestinal gas, which is a natural byproduct of digestion. Too much intestinal gas can create digestive disturbance, pressure, tightness and a full feeling. Those with food sensitivities and gastrointestinal issues are more likely to experience bloating.

A bloated stomach can be noticeably distended, but it can also have no outwardly visible symptoms. Either way, it can be uncomfortable and if it occurs at night, it can inhibit sleep. Bloating is also quite common. One study found that 96% of IBS sufferers report bloating and gut distention, 20-30% of the general population suffer from bloating regularly, and 75% of women who menstruate report bloating before or during their period.

Causes of a bloated stomach include: 

• Hormonal fluctuations

• Digestive issues: SIBO, IBS, Functional dyspepsia

• Food intolerances

• Diet: eating too much food at one time, fizzy drinks, sugar, salt, not enough fiber, or eating too fast

• Constipation

• Weight gain

• Bowel obstructions

• Motility disorders like pelvic floor dysfunction

How to Get Rid of a Bloated Stomach

A bloated stomach can leave you feeling uncomfortable and unable to sleep. There are remedies that can help ease a gassy and bloated stomach, including prescription medication, over the counter (OTC) medication, and natural treatments. Some therapies are more effective when targeting the issue on the spot, while other treatments are more useful for long-term relief. Those who suffer from IBS and other chronic conditions will need long-term solutions. 

Examples of Quick Remedies for a Bloated Stomach

• In two controlled trials, peppermint oil noticeably reduced bloating and distention. Essential oils and herbs like peppermint are antispasmodics and can help your intestinal muscles relax so that you can pass gas more easily.

• Herbal teas such as peppermint, fennel, lemon balm, chamomile, and ginger have an antispasmodic affect. Drink them after a meal, or sip throughout the day, to help better digest your food and remedy gas and bloating after a meal.

• Dandelion tea has a wonderful bitter flavor like coffee, and it is a diuretic, so it will help to reduce water retention. It’s specifically good for women who suffer from cyclical bloating related to their periods.

• Magnesium oxide has been shown to help relieve constipation. Apart from having a natural laxative effect, magnesium also helps to relax the intestinal muscles and neutralize stomach acid.

• Baths can help reduce bloating. Add some Epsom salts to your bath for a double whammy. Both the warm water and the magnesium in the salts will help provide relief for a bloated abdomen, and the added temperature regulation will help you sleep.

• Activated charcoal can be helpful for those who are looking for some quick relief. When activated charcoal comes into contact with stomach gas, it traps the gas molecules into tiny gaps found on the charcoal’s surface. This essentially locks the gas away safely and allows it to be passed smoothly in a normal digestive process.

• Antacids, like Tums, are calcium carbonate, a substance that helps to neutralize stomach acid. It also encourages belching or flatulence. 

• Simethicone, like Alka-Seltzer, is an anti-foaming agent that decreases inflammation and discomfort from bloating caused by gas.

• A combination of activated charcoal, simethicone, and magnesium oxide were shown to be more effective together than each one singularly with patients who suffer from functional dyspepsia.

Long Term Remedies for Bloating

• Rule out a serious health issue

• Eat a low-FODMAP diet (a diet that is low in inflammatory sugars) or try an elimination diet for 30 days

• Prebiotics and probiotics will help balance your gut flora, which will help you digest and metabolize food more sufficiently. They also help regulate colon bacteria that can produce gas and cause bloating.

• Turmeric from the curcumin longa plant has been shown to have a significant positive effect on abdominal pain and discomfort with IBS patients.

• Increase dietary fiber gradually by getting a daily intake of fresh vegetables, fruits, and soluble and insoluble fibers.

• Castor oil can help control symptoms related to constipation and decrease bloating.

• Getting adequate exercise and gentle stretching before bed each night can help decrease stress and assist the digestive tract in processing the food.

Best Sleeping Positions for a Bloated Stomach

Side Sleeping

Side sleeping is a great position to choose if you are suffering from stomach distress and bloating. Although there is little research to support the benefits of sleeping on one side vs another, a study from the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology showed people with acid reflux issues had a higher incidence when they slept on the right side verses the left. However, people with congestive heart failure felt more comfortable when they slept on their right side because this position seems to reduce pressure on the heart muscles by creating more space in the chest cavity.

Left Side Sleeping

Left side sleeping is often regarded as better for digestion and a bloated stomach. Gravity and physiology are both at play in this position, since the stomach is positioned on the left side of the body. Gravity can help waste move with greater ease through the digestive tract from the small intestine to the large intestine. This can help to ease discomfort from gas and bloating and other digestive discomforts.

Side Sleeping with a Pillow Between the Legs

Using a pillow between your knees can be a life-changing addition to your sleep hygiene. It can make side sleeping much more comfortable by keeping the hips and lower spine in proper alignment. 

Back Sleeping

Back sleeping can be helpful to ease pain because it distributes the weight of the body evenly and helps keep the spine in a stable neutral position. But it is not ideal for folks who are overweight, pregnant, or suffer from back pain. 

Back Sleeping With a Pillow Under Your Knees

If you don’t have a supportive mattress, you could try to elevate your legs using a stable pillow under your knees. This will help take pressure off of your lower back and allow the stomach to spread, relax, and relieve some gas.

Back Sleeping with an Elevated Head and Torso

If your stomach bloating is caused from acid reflux or GERD, or you are a snorer, back sleeping could be detrimental for your sleep, unless you also elevate your head and chest. This will help keep the sinuses clear and reduce snoring. It will also make it more difficult for the acid to inch back toward your throat.

Worst Sleeping Position for a Bloated Stomach

Stomach sleeping is considered to be the worst sleeping position for many people, including those suffering from indigestion or a bloated stomach. This position exerts extra pressure on the stomach and create strain on the neck and shoulders. When you lie on your stomach, the weight of your body is naturally pressed deeper into the mattress and puts more strain on your lower back. Stomach sleeping can create even more stress on the bloated stomach. If you must sleep on your stomach, because of habit, be sure you have a low loft pillow so that your spine isn’t tossed out of alignment.

How Sleep Impacts Gut Health and Digestion

Research that looked at the quality of sleep over an extended period of one month showed that a diverse gut microbiome promoted healthier sleep through the gut brain microbiome axis (GBMA). The GBMA is bi-directional, so psychological state (including sleep) can alter gut health as much as gut bacteria can influence health and habits. This study also pointed to specific bacteria that are present in the gut, which are associated with healthier sleep and helping regulate circadian rhythm.

Sleep disturbances such as insomnia, shorter sleep times, and frequent sleep awakenings are common among people who suffer with IBS. Poor sleep quality and quantity has been associated with several illnesses, including cancer, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. These diseases can create an inadequate gut microbiome composition, which can lead to digestive issues such as bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea, and constipation.

There is a clear link between poor sleep and the gut microbiome. Lack of sleep can create a cascade of issues ranging from hormonal imbalances to a lack of diverse and robust gut flora. Gut health should be top of mind when trying to improve your sleep hygiene. Digestive issues including bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, constipation are all intimately related to our gut microbiome.

Is It Bad to Eat Before Bed?

Most experts recommend eating no fewer than three hours before bed so that your body has time to digest the food properly. However, you should not go to bed hungry either. A protein-rich micro-snack can be ideal to reduce nighttime waking and to feel better rested, and more satiated in the morning. Try a hard-boiled egg, some sliced turkey, or banana with peanut butter.

FAQs

Can a lack of sleep cause stomach bloating?

Sleep duration, sleep quality, and the gut microbiome work synergistically. Poor sleep leads to digestive issues like bloating, constipation, gas, IBS and distention.

Does eating sugar before bed affect sleep?

Studies show that eating sugar before bed wreaks havoc on your sleep by spiking the hormones insulin and cortisol, which both arouse you from your sleep or keep you from falling asleep.

What foods are easy to digest and promote sleep?

Protein rich foods such as oily fish, poultry, beef, eggs, seeds, nuts, milk and soy are plentiful in tryptophan, a hormone that helps promote sleep. Tryptophan needs carbohydrates to help carry it to the brain where it can create more serotonin. Eat foods that have tryptophan and carbohydrates together. Try a handful of mixed nuts and seeds with fresh fruit, a cup of warm spiced milk, or a small amount of turkey with a few tart cherries to help enhance your sleep. Tart cherries are a phytonutrient that are also rich in tryptophan and help to enhance melatonin production.

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Karri Jinkins

Karri Jinkins is a freelance health writer, podcaster and certified Ayurvedic Medicine Health Counselor. She teaches people about nutrition, herbs, yoga and mindfulness in order to help them improve their lives.