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chest pain when lying down

Why Do I Experience Chest Pain When I Lie Down?


If you experience chest pain when lying down, it does not necessarily mean that you are having a heart attack. Even though we widely associate chest pains with heart attacks, only 5.5 percent of the people who rush to the ER because of chest pain have a heart-related issue. There are several reasons you can have chest pain when lying down, and all of them are not life-threatening.

What Are The Causes Of Chest Pain When Lying Down?

As the name suggests chest pain is pain, discomfort or aching in the chest that can even spread to other body parts such as the arms, neck and jaw. Sometimes, it lasts for a minute while at other times, it can continue for hours. The many issues that cause chest pain when lying down could be related to the heart, respiration, or something else.

Causes Related to the Heart

Angina Pectoris

In angina pectoris, the arteries carrying blood to the heart become narrow because of atheroma. Hence, the heart muscles have to work harder to pump blood, and the heart does not receive an adequate amount of oxygen, resulting in cramp-like pain in the chest. Or it may feel like your chest squeezed.

Heart Attack

If you lie down and have chest pain for more than fifteen minutes, you might be experiencing a heart attack. Heart attacks also occur due to the blocking of a coronary artery. For example, if a blood clot occurs in an artery, the blood does not reach the heart and results in a heart attack.

Other heart attack symptoms include shortness of breath, light-headedness, and pain in the arms, shoulders, back, or jaw. It is best to get emergency help if you have chest pain or experience these symptoms. 


Myocarditis is heart muscle or myocardium inflammation and has symptoms similar to a heart attack. Due to insufficient amount of oxygen reaching the heart, the heart cells start to die. It leads to arrhythmia with fast and irregular heartbeats and results in pain in the chest when lying down. 


Two layers called the pericardium surround the heart and protect it. In the condition known as pericarditis, this layer becomes inflamed due to an injury, medicine, an infection, or a heart condition. When inflamed, the two layers rub against each other and lead to a sharp pain in the chest. Some people may describe it as dull and achy instead of sharpened. 

Heart Failure 

Sometimes, you may experience chest pain due to heart failure. Your heart muscle becomes weakened and cannot pump blood at the good pace. It leads to chest pain when lying down as the heart finds it even more challenging to pump blood. 

Respiratory Issues That Cause Chest Pain  


The pleura is a lining around the lungs that separates them from the chest wall. Inflammation of the pleura due to acid buildup is known as pleuritis or pleurisy. People experiencing pleuritis report pain on the left or right side of the chest. When lying down, the pain worsens due to the inflammation. Lie down on one side, and keep a pillow close to your chest so it helps you when you cough or wheeze. 

Injury of the chest wall or rib cage 

If you have had an injury or an accident to the chest wall or the rib cage, movement of the torso causes pain. As the chest strains, you will experience chest pain when lying down to sleep, especially if you change your sleeping position or sleep on your chest. 


Pneumonia is a lung infection in which the air sacs in one or both of the lungs get inflamed and can also get filled up with fluid. It can cause coughing up phlegm, fever, shortness of breath, and chest pain when lying down. Pneumonia can be life-threatening so if you experience any symptoms, seek medical help immediately. 

It gets difficult to sleep with pneumonia, so try to sleep on your side and keep your back straight. Also, ensure that your head stays elevated by keeping it on a pillow.  

Pulmonary Embolus 

In this condition, a blood clot in an artery carrying blood to the lungs does not allow blood to enter the lungs and leads to chest pain. 


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a chronic lung disease that also increases the chances of lung cancer or heart disease. The air passages to the lungs become obstructed so badly that breathing becomes challenging. The chest becomes tightened, and you experience pain and discomfort. What is worse is that COPD is not even fully curable. However, with medication and proper treatment, your condition can be improved. 

Other Causes of Chest Pain 

Acid Reflux

Acid reflux is also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and occurs when stomach fluids go backward into the esophagus or gut. That leads to a burning sensation in the chest which worsens when lying down as the acids accumulate in one place and doesn’t move. 

Panic Attacks

Everyone panics or experiences anxiety at some point of their lives. Common symptoms of panic include shaking or trembling, tightness in the throat, cramps, nausea or sweaty palms. However, some people are more anxious than others and may suffer from panic disorder. Such people have panic attacks that do not only leave the person with immense chest pain but can make a person incapable of doing anything else. Around 1 in 75 people have panic disorders, and such people should receive help. Counseling, support groups, and therapy sessions can help people overcome this disorder. 


A body mass index (BMI) of over 25 indicates that a person is overweight and a BMI of over 30 means that the person is obese.

When an obese person lies down, the extra weight puts pressure on the lungs and diaphragm and causes the chest to hurt. If you are obese and have chest pain when lying down refer to a medical practitioner who will help you cut down weight. Furthermore, sleeping on the side lessens the weight on the chest, allowing you to sleep peacefully. 

Sleep Apnea

In this condition, the tongue falls back, obstructing the air pathway and leading to snoring and chest pains. A mouthguard or a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine can help you sleep better. Lying down with your head in an elevated position can help you sleep better too. 

Treating Chest Pain

For chest pain related to the heart, medicine, surgery, or cardiac rehabilitation via lifestyle modification and therapy may work. However, if you are experiencing heart attack symptoms, get emergency help immediately. 

Respiratory-related heart issues may be solved through medication or modifying your lifestyle. For example, losing weight can help and cutting down on tobacco can safeguard the lungs. Surgery can help remove blood clots or fluid accumulated in the air sacs or pleura. 


One of the leading reasons why people visit emergency rooms in the United States is chest pains. In fact, over 8 million frequent the ER because of chest pain annually. At HG Analytics, we offer screening services, so if your chest pains are due to pleuritis, our screening tests will help you figure that out. If you experience chest pain when lying down to sleep, do not wait too long to get yourself checked since good and pain-free sleep will ensure you stay happy and healthy.

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