Change Your Sleep Position
I mentioned above how nighttime GERD symptoms can be exacerbated by how we sleep. However, you can reduce or even potentially eliminate those symptoms by changing your sleep position.
Laying flat while you sleep can worsen your symptoms. Laying flat on your back makes it easier for reflux to occur, which can even cause you to wake up coughing or choking on your reflux.
Instead, I recommend sleeping on your left side. This position is most beneficial to alleviating GERD symptoms because gravity will position your stomach below your esophagus, making it harder for reflux to rise into your throat. Even if reflux occurs, gravity can return the reflux to your stomach faster than if you were sleeping on your back or right side.
Similarly, its also the most beneficial sleeping position for pregnant women, whether or not they are experiencing nocturnal symptoms of acid reflux.
Sleeping on your right side does not offer the same benefits though. Sleeping on your right side often produces liquid reflux, while sleeping on your left side may produce more gas if youre still experiencing symptoms. While potentially annoying, however, the latter is much easier to tolerate than the former. So remember this if youre planning on adjusting your sleep position: Right is wrong.
Get Gravity To Work For You
Tossing and turning is a familiar feeling for people that struggle with nocturnal heartburn. Additionally, as we sleep, we stop swallowing. This means that we lose the primary esophageal contraction that keeps acid from rising out of the stomach during the day. Dr Panah suggested, Keep the head of your bed elevated by at least 6 inches: either with an adjustable bed frame or a wedge pillow . Multiple studies show that sleeping on your left side helps with digestion and helps to minimize reflux symptoms.
How Not To Sleep
Many studies show that sleeping on your right side can lead to heartburn. Though we arent exactly sure why, some have hypothesized that sleeping on the right side can relax the lower esophageal sphincter , which is the muscular valve that keeps stomach acid from entering the esophagus. Researchers have found significant increases in overall acid clearance and reflux time in studies of right-side sleeping. Stomach sleeping may also have similar effects.
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Other Ways To Manage Acid Reflux At Night
In addition to adjusting your sleeping posture, there are several other steps you can take to mitigate your acid reflux at night and throughout the day.
Here are some additional strategies for managing your acid reflux and heartburn symptoms:
- Home remedies for heartburn relief: Drinking milk, chewing gum, and using herbal remedies can provide short-term reflux relief when symptoms arise.
- Acid reflux medications: Antacids, PPIs, and H-2 blockers can offer short- and long-term relief from symptoms. .
- Avoid trigger foods: Spicy, fatty, and acidic foods can trigger heartburn and should be avoided, especially right before lying down. Try to give yourself at least three hours to fully digest your dinner before bedtime.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Added pressure on the abdomen can cause acid reflux to flare up.
How To Sleep With Acid Reflux And Heartburn
Many people dont realize that the position you sleep in can directly affect your acid reflux symptoms at night. Anatomy and gravity play a significant role in heartburn symptom frequency, length, and severity, so learning how to sleep with acid reflux can offer up substantial relief.
In this post, well discuss the relationship between sleep and reflux symptoms, show you how to sleep with acid reflux, and share some tips for optimal sleeping with heartburn, acid reflux, and GERD. To navigate throughout the article, click on one of the links below, or read through for a comprehensive overview.
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Sleep Disorders And Sleep Positions
The National Sleep Foundation has carried out polls since 1991 to identify peoples sleeping habits in the United States. In 2020, they highlighted that significant numbers of people in the U.S. feel sleepy about 3 days per week, which often impacts their daily lives.
With such high numbers, it is no surprise that people are interested in which sleeping positions work best. A 2017 cross-sectional study investigating sleep positions and movement has shown that the predominant sleeping position is on the side.
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Avoid Big Meals Before Sleep
Like all functional areas of the body, the digestive system needs plenty of time to rest and recover from daily life. It is not a good idea to eat a big meal before bedtime, as it forces the digestive system to keep working. A light snack, such as an apple or some avocado toast, is a better idea.
Complex carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, or a small dose of protein can deal with hunger pangs.
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Live A Friendly Food Lifestyle
Food is at the center of our lives. Our calendars live and die by mealtimes and we look forward to our nightly dessert like its Christmas morning. So, it can be hard to cut our favorite foods from the menu. Still, if it means sleeping soundly, youll gladly leave a few items on the grocery store shelves. Dr. Panah recommended avoiding heavily acidic foods such as tomato, coffee and citrus. She also instructed to stay away from midnight snacks, having your last bite 2-3 hours before bed. Lastly, she warned against the famous after-dinner mint, which only serves to relax your esophageal sphincter following a heavy meal. Dont worry, theres still plenty left to eat.
What To Do If You Have Chest Pain
If youre having chest pain that you think could be a heart attack, dont drive yourself to the emergency room. Always call 911 or local emergency services so you can get medical attention as quickly as possible.
The more time the heart goes without proper blood flow, the more damage the heart muscle may undergo. This is why its not a good idea to wait or hesitate if you think you may be experiencing a heart attack.
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Cons Of Sleeping On The Back
One major issue with back sleeping is acid reflux, as this position allows acid to travel back up the throat.
Sleeping on the back can make snoring or sinus conditions worse. This happens because the back of the tongue collapses into the airway, obstructing breathing. People who snore should try sleeping on their side.
A person could help alleviate these symptoms by adding pillows to elevate their head. This can also help with headaches.
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Position Your Bed For Comfort
If those concerns dont apply to you, you can let comfort be your guide, Salas says. But sleep position isnt the only thing to consider when going for a comfortable nights sleep. Salas recommends replacing old mattresses and pillows. Choosing soft-versus-hard is just a matter of preference, but aim for something supportive, she says. If you have neck or shoulder pain, a supportive pillow designed to cradle the neck could be helpful. A bolster or pillow supporting the legs could ease pain in the lower back. Dont underestimate the importance of optimizing your bedroom to help you get a good nights sleep. Salas adds:
- Clean sheets: Wash sheets frequently and vacuum the mattress to rid it of dust and dander that can cause allergies and impair your sleep.
- Close the blinds: Use curtains or blinds to keep the room dim at night. But open the curtains in the morning to reset your internal clock.
- Location matters: Position your bed so you arent facing distractions such as a desk stacked with work or a blinking light.
The sleep environment is something that can easily be fixed, Salas says. By giving a little thought to positioning your body and bed, you might find your slumber is even sweeter.
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Get The Best Sleep Of Your Life
Tired of not getting enough sleep? Living with GERD doesnt have to be a nightmare. At Gastro Center NJ, we do everything we can to help make GERD a manageable part of your life.
Whether its sleeping on a foam memory pillow or prescribing a specific diet, were here to give you solutions that will improve your nighttime reflux, facilitating better sleep.
Get in touch with us today to learn more about nighttime reflux and how the gastroenterologists of Gastro Center NJ can get you the best sleep of your life.
59 Main Street, Suite 1 West Orange, NJ 07052
Natural Remedies For Heartburn At Night
The only two clinically validated natural remedies for GERD are weight loss and sleep positioning. Though weight loss can be effective, it is often a longer-term solution that, depending on how much weight you need to lose, can take months before relief is felt. Sleep positioning, on the other hand, can make a huge difference for those suffering from nighttime GERD and relief can be often experienced almost immediately.
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Know Your Medication Side Effects
Certain medications may contribute to GERD. Some common ones include:
- anticholinergics, which treat, among other conditions, overactive bladder and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder
- tricyclic antidepressants
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , such as ibuprofen
If these or other medications are causing acid reflux or other symptoms, tell your doctor. Alternative treatments may be available.
Elevate Your Upper Body
Lying down can make heartburn worse. When it comes time for bed, adjust your sleeping surface to raise your upper body.
Lifting your head with extra pillows may not be enough. To get relief, try elevating your body from the waist up.
You can change the angle of your sleeping surface by using a wedge pillow. Or, if you have an adjustable bed, you can set it at a suitable angle.
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Sleep Positions To Avoid If You Have A Heart Condition
Its still not clear what the best and worst sleeping positions are for people with heart conditions. Theres some evidence that sleeping on your left side may shift your heart and disrupt your hearts electrical current. Also, many people with heart failure report having trouble breathing in this position.
Sleeping on your back can worsen sleep apnea and snoring. You should speak with your doctor before sleeping on your back if youre dealing with any breathing issues.
How Are Gerd And Sleep Related
GERD is often cited as a cause of sleeping problems, including in the National Sleep Foundations 2001 Sleep in America Poll. In a more recent survey of people with frequent heartburn, nearly 60% said it affected their sleep, and more than 30% said it hurt their daytime functioning.
Flare ups of GERD symptoms after lying down can make it hard to fall asleep and can cause nighttime interruptions from heartburn, chest pain, and coughing. Studies in sleep clinics of people with GERD have found that these symptoms are correlated with lower sleep quality.
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Sleep Position 2 To Avoid For Preventing Acid Reflux At Night
Position #2 to avoid at night issleeping flat on your right side.
Though reflux episodes may be less frequent on your right when compared to flat on your back, the episodes are more liquidy in nature because your LES is often submerged in the acidic stomach content.4
This position potentially creates a leaky faucet spouting stomach acid into the delicate lining of your esophagus.
While liquid reflux can be very distressing, it can also be dangerous as when flat on your right side, the amount of time acid lingers in your esophagus is much longer.3 Gravity is fighting an uphill battle as it is unable to effectively return refluxed content to your stomach.
If you suffer from nighttime heartburn, avoid lying flat on your right side.
Figure 3: Representation of stomach when youre layingflat on your right side.
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Dont Lay Down Right After A Meal
Your stomach contains the most acid right after you eat. By sitting upright or standing, gravity works in your favor to keep acid out of your esophagus. While it is tempting to take a nap or go to bed right after a late-night meal, doing so will often lead to heartburn. When you are lying down, there is more pressure on your LES combined with additional acid in the stomach.
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Stomach Acid Coming Out Of Nose While Sleeping
When lying down, stomach acids can travel back up the esophagus and reach the sinuses. This can result in sinus infections, respiratory problems, and bad breath.
Some patients also report stomach content coming out of their nose or mouth while sleeping. This symptom is observed in more severe cases of GERD and requires immediate medical intervention. When left untreated, this could expose your sinuses to the acid and bacteria in the regurgitated contents, leading to sinusitis.
Taking antacids before falling asleep is a common remedy for GERD patients. If you dont feel any relief after taking medication, your doctor might put you on PPIs in order to reduce your stomachs acid production.
Stomach acids coming out of the nose is a severe type of symptom and would require more drastic measures in order to be alleviated. You might be asked to lose weight and change your eating habits for long-term relief.
Benefits Of Sleeping At An Incline
According to an article published in the journal Missouri medicine, head of bed elevation is proven to manage GERD. It limits how often stomach acid escapes to the esophagus, allows your body to get stomach acid back to your stomach quicker, and reduces the symptoms of GERD. Likewise, a 2012 study suggests that elevating the head while lying down may reduce nighttime acid reflux and help manage heartburn and poor sleep from nocturnal gastroesophageal reflux.
As long as your entire torso is raised , sleeping at an incline gives gravity a power boost to return stomach acid to your stomach and keep it there.
Speak with your doctor if you think you have GERD or any other sleep disorder so they can prescribe interventions appropriate for your case.
Waking Up With Heartburn In The Middle Of The Night
Falling asleep soundly can be a feat for reflux patients. Nighttime heartburn is a common occurrence for reflux patients, so much so that 75% of reflux patients report experiencing heartburn at night at least once a week.
Patients often report waking up choking, coughing, or feeling a strong acid sensation at the back of their throat. This is also accompanied by a sharp chest pain that could easily be mistaken for a heart attack.
Although doctors have yet to understand what separates daytime and nighttime heartburn, a study revealed the possible indicators of nighttime heartburn, which include:
- High BMI
Patients with nighttime heartburn tend to be treated differently than those who only experience symptoms in the daytime. This is because nighttime reflux sufferers often have more complex and aggressive symptoms compared to daytime patients.
At night, patients with heartburn symptoms arent just experiencing empty symptoms theyre also experiencing acid reflux. Nighttime reflux tends to have a longer clearance time, which means the acid stays longer in the esophagus before receding again. Because of this, doctors suggest more intensive therapy methods in order to protect the esophagus from prolonged acid contact.
Chronic esophageal exposure to acid may eventually lead to esophagitis and respiratory complications. Part of the GERD diagnosis involves distinguishing between nighttime and daytime symptoms in order to provide the right treatment plan.
How To Relieve Heartburn At Night
Waking up with heartburn in the middle of the night? Youre not alone. Studies show about 20 percent of adults in the U.S. suffer from heartburn at least once a week, and among those, 75 percent experience heartburn at night. The discomfort of having heartburn at night often results in problems falling or staying asleep. Learn about the possible causes and treatment options for heartburn.
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Mix Baking Soda With Water
You might have a heartburn remedy at hand in your kitchen without even knowing it. Baking soda can calm some episodes of heartburn by neutralizing your stomach acid. To do this, dissolve 1 teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water and drink it slowly.
To be safe, only use this baking soda remedy every once in a while, not frequently. Talk with your doctor about how to use baking soda safely. According to a
How Can You Prevent Heartburn
To prevent heartburn or stop it from starting, there are several methods you can try.
- Avoid eating right before bedtime. A bedtime snack may be tempting. But the ACG suggests that if you leave yourself at least 2 to 3 hours to digest before lying down, youll lower your risk of heartburn.
- Limit alcohol consumption. If you drink, reducing the amount you drink or eliminating alcoholic drinks from your routine can lower your heartburn risk.
- Watch out for trigger foods. Did you know that you can help stop acid reflux and heartburn by changing your diet? Foods to avoid include:
- spicy foods
- tomatoes, including products like tomato sauce
- acidic foods, like oranges, lemons, and limes
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