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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : features : features October 04, 2015

7/21/2013 6:00:00 AM
Left-side sleepers instinctively avoid GERD
Courier Columnist

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

This is the question that I have had in mind for over 20 years. I am a side sleeper and I sleep on my left side. Whenever I try to sleep on my right side, I can never fall asleep. Why is this?

Answer: Most people like to sleep on their sides as opposed to their back or stomach. It cuts down on snoring and back pain. As for a propensity to sleep on your left side, several studies have shown that the incidence of GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease) is least in those sleeping on their left side. Others find pressure on their liver when sleeping on the right side to cause discomfort. Finally, even subtle changes in a person's spinal curvature can influence the position one sleeps in.

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

I have both sleep apnea and narcolepsy. I use a CPAP machine. How can I tell if it's working?

Answer: Have you noticed any improvement in your symptoms such as sleepiness or fatigue since you started wearing CPAP? Most machines come with a smart card that detects whether there are any apneas occurring. If your machine does not come with a smart card you should be able to get a loaner machine from your homecare company for a week or so that is capable of detecting this. I would assume with narcolepsy and sleep apnea you are seeing a sleep specialist. However, if you are not, I would recommend you establish with one. A board-certified sleep specialist should be able to guide you through this.

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

How can I stop waking up at least twice a night? I'll wake up from a dead sleep around 4:30 a.m.

Answer: That is a question with several possible answers. Are you aware of anything physical that might be waking you such as shortness of breath or pain in your legs? Other causes include nocturnal reflux and the need to urinate. Early-morning awakenings can also be a sign of depression. Lastly, it is not uncommon for people with sleep apnea to awaken in the early morning and be totally unaware that the struggle to breathe against a closed airway was the cause.

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

My wife and I are traveling to England this summer. We have had problems with jet lag before. How can we prevent this?

Answer: Since you are traveling east, you will be going to bed at a much earlier time as far as your biological clock is concerned, than at home. It will take several days for your internal clock to adjust. I would advise that you progressively go to bed one hour earlier each day at home for three days, until you are going to bed three hours earlier. Expose yourself to bright sunlight upon awakening at what should be about one hour earlier each day. This will help to reset your biological clock to an earlier sleep time at your destination. Remember, when it is 11 p.m. in London it is 3 p.m. in Prescott.

Dr. Robert Rosenberg, board-certified sleep medicine specialist, will answer readers' questions by incorporating them in future columns. Contact him through the form at or via mail at the Sleep Disorders Center of Prescott Valley, 3259 N. Windsong Drive, Prescott Valley, AZ 86314.

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