The gallbladder is a small digestive organ that stores bile. Bile is what your body uses to digest fat, and it’s usually released from your gallbladder into your small intestine.

When the chemical balance of bile is off, bile can crystallize into small protein deposits called gallstones. Gallstones can block the bile duct and cause what’s sometimes called a gallbladder attack or biliary colic.

It’s estimated that over 20 million Americans have had or will develop gallstones. These attacks can cause symptoms of severe pain in your upper abdomen. Sometimes this pain lasts for hours.

Resting or sleeping in certain positions may help relieve your gallbladder pain. There are also at-home strategies you can try while you wait to see if the pain resolves. We’ll cover the best sleep positions during a gallbladder attack, what to avoid while you’re in pain, and how to know when to seek emergency help.

When you’re experiencing gallbladder pain, you should sleep on your left side.

Sleeping or resting on your left side allows your gallbladder to freely contract and expand until the blockage of your bile duct has cleared. The theory is that this can help resolve pain.

While this is conventional wisdom, keep in mind that most of the evidence for it is anecdotal. There is currently no research that compares the pain level of different reclining positions when you are having gallbladder pain.

If you’re experiencing any type of gallbladder pain, you may want to avoid sleeping on your right side. That’s because your liver and gallbladder are both located on the right side of your body. Sleeping on the right side can constrict your gallbladder and can make it harder for a gallbladder stone to pass. The added pressure of sleeping on your right side may even make gallbladder pain worse.

You may also want to avoid sleeping on your back or stomach. These positions may not feel comfortable until the pain of your blocked bile duct has passed.

There are other pain relief remedies you can try when you’re in pain from a blocked bile duct.

  • While lying on your left side, try a warm compress to reduce pressure and soothe pain. A hot water bottle or heating pad can work well for this purpose.
  • Drink soothing peppermint tea to alleviate pain and calm spasms in your gallbladder.
  • Consider taking a magnesium supplement or mixing magnesium powder with warm water. Magnesium may help empty your gallbladder and provide relief from gallbladder attacks.

Gallbladder pain can be a sign that you need medical help. Call a doctor or go to the emergency room if you notice any of the following symptoms occurring along with your gallbladder pain.

Gallbladder pain is relatively common and is usually caused by gallstones that block your bile duct. Resting or sleeping on your left side can help manage pain caused by gallstones if you have a clogged bile duct.

You may also want to try other home remedies for pain relief. Severe symptoms should not be ignored and could indicate a health emergency. Speak with a doctor if you are concerned about gallstones and gallbladder pain.