If you have trouble breathing when lying on your right side only, don’t let that diffuse the situation: It’s cause for concern and you need to see a doctor.

“Any time you have trouble breathing when lying down, it is a cause for concern and should be evaluated by your healthcare provider,” says J. Mark Anderson, MD, DABFM, of Executive Medicine of Texas and who is board certified in family medicine.

Dr. Anderson explains, “Many causes for this can include: obesity, heart conditions, asthma and other serious medical conditions. If the trouble breathing only happens when lying on the right side, it may be related to the digestive tract.

“When a person lies down on their right side, it can relax the lower esophageal sphincter. This is the part of the esophagus that keeps the food from traveling back up.

“This muscle usually stays tight and contracted, holding the food down into the stomach.

“When it’s relaxed you can experience reflux. Reflux when lying down is often associated with shortness of breath or an uneasy feeling that forces your body to change positions.”

This is why people who suffer from overnight acid reflux are instructed to avoid lying on their right side.

But this doesn’t always mean there won’t be a sensation of difficulty breathing when lying on the left side – or on your back, even.

Since so many possible conditions can cause trouble breathing (and/or discomfort) when lying on one’s right side, it’s best to book an appointment with your physician to rule out serious causes.

Dr. Anderson is coauthor of the award-winning book, “Stay Young: 10 Proven Steps to Ultimate Health,” and host of the nationally syndicated Staying Young Show which goes to podcast as Staying Young Show 2.0.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.