Pain Lying Down

You have just eaten a big meal, and you begin to feel drowsy. You decide to lie down and rest your eyes, feeling completely full…maybe a little too full. Your head hits the pillow, and all of a sudden you feel a sharp pain in your chest causing you to sit up and effectively ruin your chances of falling asleep. This pain in your chest could be a sign of heartburn or acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Heartburn and acid reflux/GERD occur when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) muscle weakens or relaxes abnormally allowing stomach acid to flow back into your esophagus. The LES is located at the bottom of your esophagus, connecting it to the stomach. This muscle works like a valve, opening to allow food and liquid in your stomach for digestion and closing to keep acid and food particles from refluxing back into your esophagus. Overeating, having excess weight, and lying down immediately after eating can put pressure on the LES causing it to open slightly and let acid flow into you esophagus. Having acid reflux can irritate the lining of your esophagus and cause a burning pain in the chest that can worsen when you lie down or bend over.

A good way to prevent the occasional pain of heartburn and acid reflux is to avoid lying down after eating. If you continue to experience pain in your chest after making this change, talk with a gastroenterologist. You might have a more serious condition such as GERD.