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Living Well with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

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Sleeping Positions for Crohn’s Disease: What to Know

Medically Reviewed By Kelsey Trull, PA-C

There are currently no recommended sleeping positions specifically for people with Crohn’s disease. However, certain positions may relieve some gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms or help manage associated conditions, such as sleep apnea. Crohn’s disease can negatively affect your ability to get enough high quality sleep. Talk with your doctor if your condition affects the duration or quality of your sleep.

This article discusses sleeping positions that may benefit people with Crohn’s disease.

Are certain sleeping positions recommended for people with Crohn’s disease?

An adult female sleeping on her left side
FreshSplash/Getty Images

There is currently no medical consensus on whether certain sleeping positions may be better for people with Crohn’s disease.

However, sleeping in certain positions may relieve certain GI symptoms, such as those associated with acid reflux, and improve the airflow through the airways for people with sleep apnea. This may help you get the sleep you need to manage Crohn’s disease.

With your upper body elevated

It may be beneficial to elevate your upper body when you sleep. According to some studies in a 2019 research review Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source , people with Crohn’s disease that affects the esophagus may experience symptoms similar to acid reflux, including:

  • heartburn
  • chest pain
  • regurgitation

A 2021 review Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source found evidence suggesting that elevating the head of the bed may relieve these symptoms. However, the authors also noted that more research is necessary to understand the potential benefits.

On your side

Lying on your side — specifically your left side — may also relieve acid reflux symptoms.

In addition, a small 2017 study Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source showed that side sleeping can reduce airway obstruction associated with sleep apnea. A 2022 study Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source found that people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn’s disease, had obstructive sleep apnea more often than people without IBD.

Sleeping positions to avoid

Sleeping on your back may contribute to sleep apnea and acid reflux symptoms. Therefore, avoiding sleeping on your back may be a good idea.

An infographic depicting sleeping positions for Crohn's disease
People with Crohn’s disease may benefit from sleeping on the left side or with the head of their bed elevated. Sleeping on the back may worsen symptoms. Infographic by Maya Chastain.

What’s the connection between sleep quality and Crohn’s disease?

Sleep quality and Crohn’s disease appear to affect each other in several ways.

The symptoms of Crohn’s disease — such as abdominal pain, cramping, or diarrhea — may interfere with sleep. In turn, some 2018 research Trusted Source American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Peer reviewed journal Go to source suggests that low quality sleep can influence immune system activity and promote inflammation associated with Crohn’s disease.

This increased disease activity may lead to a reduced outlook for people with the condition, with a 2019 study Trusted Source American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Peer reviewed journal Go to source suggesting that low quality sleep may increase the risk of hospitalization and surgery.

Read 14 self-care tips for people with Crohn’s disease.

What are some other ways to get better sleep with Crohn’s disease?

If you have Crohn’s Disease, it may help to:

  • keep a sleep diary to track your sleep trends and how your sleep quality affects your daily activities
  • note which symptoms negatively affect your sleep
  • take any prescribed medications as directed by your doctor to reduce symptoms
  • update your care team so they can adjust your treatment and recommend additional ways to improve sleep

Regular physical activity and consistent sleep schedules may also be beneficial.

A 2015 joint statement from the Sleep Research Society and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends no less than 7 hours Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source of sleep daily for a healthy adult. If you’re finding it difficult to get enough high quality sleep, talk with your doctor.

Read 10 tips to help you sleep.

Summary

Though experts still need to study sleeping positions that may benefit Crohn’s disease, sleeping on your side or elevating the head of your bed may relieve certain GI or sleep apnea symptoms.

Low sleep quality can increase Crohn’s disease activity. In turn, increased Crohn’s disease symptoms can make it harder to get enough high quality sleep.

Talk with your doctor about ways to improve your sleep.

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Medical Reviewer: Kelsey Trull, PA-C
Last Review Date: 2023 Aug 31
View All Living Well with Inflammatory Bowel Disease Articles
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