Objective: Body position has been shown to influence postprandial and fasting gastroesophageal reflux (GER) in patients and normal volunteers when they are assigned to lie in a prescribed position. No published studies have evaluated the effect of spontaneous sleeping positions on recumbent reflux in patients with GER.
Methods: Ten patients, three female and seven male (mean age 47.6 yr, range 30-67 yr) with abnormal recumbent esophageal pH <4 on 24-h pH-metry participated. A standardized high fat dinner (6 PM) and a bedtime snack (10 PM) were administered to all patients. GER during spontaneous sleep positions was assessed with a single channel pH probe placed 5 cm above the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and with a position sensor taped to the sternum. Data were recorded with a portable digital data logger (Microdigitrapper-S, Synectics Medical) and analyzed for recumbent percent time pH <4 and esophageal acid clearance time in each of four sleeping positions. Time elapsed between change in sleeping position and GER episodes was also calculated.
Results: Right lateral decubitus was associated with greater percent time pH <4 (p < 0.003) and longer esophageal acid clearance (p < 0.05) compared to the left, supine, and prone. GER episodes were more frequent in the supine position (p < 0.04) and occurred within 1 min after change in sleeping position 28% of the time.
Conclusions: The left lateral decubitus position is preferred in patients with nocturnal GER. Measures to aid patients in sleeping in this position should be developed.