Sleeping angle following surgery - Oesophageal Patie...

Oesophageal Patients Association
5,031 members2,790 posts

Sleeping angle following surgery


After my surgery I was told to sleep on a upright position and have done so for some time now. I never get a proper night's sleep. I know it's a small price to pay but has any one any good experience of sleeping in a lower position ? personally when I tried a month or so after surgery I ended up with a hour long bout of bile reflux and have never tried again. I take 1 lansoprazol pill each night .

26 Replies


im 2 years on from ivor lewis operation and i have to sleep in an upright position , hard at fist but does get easier ,but like you it would be nice to sleep laying down but its a small price to pay ,i sleep in a recliner chair what about you ,stay in touch ,all the best

in reply to rasor

It does take some time after the operation to find a comfortable sleeping position. You can purchase a wedge pillow from the OPA and I find this very

helpful together with a further pillow

under my a head and one pillow under my back

. This way you are not in a upright position. Also refrain from eating 3 hours before sleeping if you can. It's also useful to take a spoonful of Gaviscon

liquid just in case you turn or slip down in your sleep. This works for me has it stops any bile from coming up in the first couple off hours of sleep. It's much more comfortable than sleeping in a upright position.


in reply to Heathwaite

Thanks Phil i will try your recommendations, stay safe

You could try raising the end of your bed 6 inches or so by putting it on some big books this should help

Not eating a few hours before bed helps too and taking gaviscon to coat the lining of your throat will protect you a bit .

Persevere you will get used to it

Best of luck

I'm one year on from surgery and have been sleeping with just two conventional pillows for at least the last six months. I do sleep in a slightly more raised than usual position, but nothing that anyone without knowledge of my situation would pick up on.

I don't take any Gaviscon, do take Lansoprazole, generally don't eat within 3 hours of bed time, and don't recall having any reflux issues since surgery.

I may just be one of the very lucky ones, or there may be hope for everyone of a decent night's sleep.

in reply to Danstable

Hi Perhaps i wll give the bed another go ,stay safe

Hi D4vie

It is certainly a problem for you and most other people who have undergone this operation. I have tried most of the various options available to achieve a good night’s sleep.

Initially, I piled up pillows which was ok but I found I slipped down the bed too much and ended up with reflux. I then tried a wedge, curtesy of the OPA, that too I found uncomfortable. I then discovered V pillows which, together with normal pillows under the V, and one further down the bed to stop me slipping down gave me a reasonable nights sleep.

However, the final, but unfortunately the most expensive option is an adjustable bed which gives me the best nights sleep I’ve had for sometime.

But don’t reject the V pillow all together as you can’t take an adjustable bed on holiday!

Best of luck.


in reply to MFH28

Hi I am going to try everyones recommendation ,stay safe

Its new normal for all of us, as mentioned by members above. Sooner we accept and come to terms the better quality sleep, than fighting against it. Each patient is unique, therefore you will have to work out your own solution with useful tips from the forum as above.

If you having bile reflux PPI is not a right management for it. With surgery acid production is already reduced.

I currently use OPA pillow with more pillows on top of it and a thick pillow under my bottom to stop me sliding down. I used to travel for work extensively so used whatever I could use at those places to sleep at an elevated angle. If I recall the hospital bed I was sliding down in that electric bed, hence not dared to try that.

If you think you have acid or bile flare up in the night try eating toasted bread or pop corn. Both works great for me as well some other members vouch by the same.

Accepting and adapting the change post oesophagectomy is a bit demanding and challenging process. Everyone eventually comes to term, anyways. Only you can make it happily or otherwise. :)

hi there I've been sleeping sitting bolt upright for a few months and prior to that fairly elevated with what ended up being 5 pillows... plus one half way through the night to sit on to make it more bearable and stop slipping. now I am 11 years post oesophagectomy, mine was surgery without tubulerisation so the bile is fairly prevalent most nights ..recently I changed to disabled friendly bed, which allows sitting bolt upright... the nights have been interrupted since the beginning but overall I reassure myself by deciding so long as the total meets or exceeds 4and a half hours then I can function normally - for me anyway...good luck and just play with all the options nos of pillows soft medium hard foamy etc ...wish you peaceful nights !

My husband, 85 and 8 and a half years post IL op, has slept at an angle ever since. Like many on this site, we bought an electric bed which has been marvellous (although giving up a normal double was like a little death). When we go away, we ask for extra pillows, not as good as the electric bed but okay.

Hi Davie

Welcome - I’m a fellow Scot

I’m nearly 5yrs since surgery and still sleep on the sofa, not ideal but the only place I get a nights sleep and I’ve tried everything, beds included !

I also noticed your post about stitch like pain - I’ve had the same since surgery and my surgeon did a scan but all was fine - it actually just seems to be trapped air which I get a lot of since surgery and it can be very painful. Maybe mention it to your specialist nurse.

All the best

Folks thanks for all the replies kind words and possible solutions I’ll give them ago

I start off in a high position and sleep well but I do slip down the bed to a low position in my sleep , but I do get the dreaded bile reflux only if I'v pushed my luck and eaten late,

Try and eat at least three hours before bedtime and you should be ok, in addition to my daily acid suppressants I use Gaviscon tablets before going to sleep ( I'm 7.5 years post op)

I was told to sleep about 45 degree angle. I could never get really comfortable till we invested in an adjustable bed. You are exempt from VAT as there is a medical need. We found the firms who come to the house kept plugging tempting extras and the cost is enough without that. In the end ours came from HSL where there are simple, limited choices and you can try out the mattresses. . I also have the Opa wedge which goes on holiday with us in the car. I also ask for extra pillows. If I am travelling by train I have a blow up wedge. Not as good but it does help. Hope you get sorted. Oh, and you need your feet raised as well to prevent slipping down.

Hi from Australia

I bought an electric bed when I left hospital which is the best money I have ever spent. You not only need to elevate the top but the bottom as this keeps you from moving in the night. Not eating for 3 hours before bed also useful. If you do buy a bed buy a proper health one and not one that the large bed manufacturers are now selling as they are different inclines. If you can treat yourself you will never regret it.

Hi Sophielewis,

I’m in Melbourne, Australia. My husband had IL surgery 9 days ago. Could you give me the contact details of the place you bought your electric bed?

Thank you,


Hi Kelly

Bed was purchased from Domayne, the base is a Health Rest by Beard and the mattress is a Sealy Posture Premier. The mattress is very light which makes easy changing ends around each month and is one sided. I purchased a Tempur base for my husband with a King Koil mattress which is totally unsuitable for us surgery patients the tilts are completely different. The only pillow I have is a child's pillow from Adairs just for the softness as the bed elevates you enough and with the bottom fully lifted you do not move downwards as with pillows alone. It also helps your legs from every aching. Good luck

Hi Sophielewis, thanks for the bed information. It is good to have this info base from people who have so freely shared their experiences. Thank you.

Hi , same thing happened to me.Had surgery August of 18 n I still have to sleep in elevated position or I get a mouthful of bile.I know it sucks, but I finally got use to it.My wife bought us a sleep member bed n it is 100 percent better than the wedge pillow I was using If u can get a elevated bed if really makes a difference . Good luck

Hi D4vie, I tried all sorts and ended up buying an adjustable bed. I have 2 now to make a double. 1 I bought new very expensive. And one second hand. I bought 2 foam mattresses off groupon and put a mattress topper on top works wonderfully, I sleep slightly raised and if I’ve eaten too late I can raise myself higher without my partner rolling into metal struts. Second hand ones can be found on market place, or charity shops for around £150 it’s well worth the investment.

Other wise raise your bed slightly at the head end and then put a sloping bank of pillows under the sheet ( helps to keep them in place and a. Couple on the top also one under the sheet around your knees helps to stop you sliding.

I have a gravity garden chair which I used to take away with me with a huge duvet. To put on it as a mattress It meant I could sleep upright any where if I needed to. Even camping I had the best bed.

Hi D4vie

I had my op in December last year, at first I was getting a lot of bile reflux at night and through the day, I was constantly coughing. I eventually figured out if I lean slightly to the left when I'm sitting down I don't get reflux, if I lean to the right I get it. The same at night, if I lay down slightly on my left no cough or reflux. I don't eat anything after 6 o'clock just the odd cup of tea. I sleep with 4 pillows but nearly always end up with just 1 under my head when I wake up. I don't know if I'm just lucky but I've been getting a full nights sleep for a while now.

I don't think it's a medical solution but could be worth a try.

All the best. Mick

Lots of good suggestions. Since my op., which dates back 15 years, I have used 4" wooden blocks at the end of my bed supplemented by a 7" wedge under the mattress and 2 pillows. This avoids too much bend in the back when lying down. I have very occasional bouts of bile and recently found that Lime and Soda (acidic) was very useful at calming the very unpleasant experience. Good luck.

My husband is still in hospital 3 months on and he is nill by mouth but gets reflux he tends to try sleeping on a tilt but on his side sometimes it works for him and don't know about you but a good sleep makes for a better day hope you can get a full night

I am 2 years post IL. I take omeprazole at 7 am and 5pm. I do not eat anything after 9pm and take 20ml of Gaviscon before bed. I still sleep with a wedge, two pillows and a travel neck pillow but I am not as upright as in the past. My sleep patterns are improving bit by bit but I rarely sleep for more than 4 hours straight. I walk the dog at 4.30 am then go back to bed for a nap after morning meds. It’s never easy but gradually a new normal is emerging. Good luck. Best wishes Tanktank

It is dangerous to lie flat after oesophagectomy surgery. Not sure if there is an option with this new sleeping position.

Are you sleeping on a mechanical bed, if not it may be worth it to invest in one. My husband’s a side sleeper and when he initially slept on a wedge pillow, he unconsciously moves down the pillow even with pillows probed under his knees.

You may also like...