Symptoms And Causes Of Acid Reflux
What causes acid reflux and what does it feel like? Lets start with a short anatomy lesson.
What you eat travels down your esophagus through your lower esophageal sphincter and into your stomach where digestion begins. Your LES is a ring of muscles that act as a valve to control the flow of contents between your esophagus and your stomach. If your LES functions correctly, what you eat will stay in your stomach with the occasional release of gas, also known as a burp.
Problems arise when your LES doesnt function properly, allowing your stomach contents to escape back up into your esophagus. These problems can appear as uncomfortable physiological symptoms, such as:
More severe problems, like GERD 8, come when reflux goes untreated. Prolonged acid exposure potentially leads to serious health complications, such as erosive esophagitis, peptic strictures, esophageal ulcerations, Barretts esophagus, and in rare cases, esophageal cancer1.
Get A Pillow Designed For Side Sleepers
The best pillow for side sleepers is one that supports proper alignment between your neck and the rest of your spine. Your neck should stay aligned with your upper back to avoid creating any pressure or neck pain upon waking up. If you sleep on your side and are prone to neck pain, you might want to avoid a feather pillow and opt for a supportive latex pillow instead.
Measure the space between your neck and the edge of your shoulder. When you go shopping for pillows, that measurement should be close to the pillows loft, which describes the height of a pillow.
You can use additional pillows to make side sleeping more comfortable. Place a pillow between your knees to keep your hips aligned, reduce pressure on your knee joints, and prevent straining your lower back.
What Is The Best Side To Sleep On And Why
Believe it or not, knowing the best side to sleep on may reduce your acid reflux symptoms. Sleeping on your right side can cause more acid to leak through your esophagus. Sleeping on your stomach or back makes GERD Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease A chronic digestive disease where the liquid content of the stomach refluxes into the esophagus. symptoms worse, too. To lower the risk of GERD problems, patients usually sleep best on their left sides .
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Eat 3 Hours Before Bedtime
Some people believe the ideal time to eat an evening meal is 3 hours before going to bed. This gives the stomach time to digest the food properly. It moves into the small intestine and can prevent problems, such as heartburn.
Once a person lies down, the stomach contents can reflux into the esophagus, which can lead to heartburn or chest discomfort. Food intake prompts the body to release insulin, affecting a persons internal body clock and increasing wakefulness.
Best Sleeping Positions For Heartburn
LEFT OR RIGHT?
Its advisable to sleep on your left side. Sleeping on the right has been found to relax the connecting muscles between the stomach and the oesophagus. When these muscles are contracting they help to control the process of acid reflux.
FRONT OR BACK?
Try to avoid sleeping on your front. This can put pressure on your stomach which pushes acid upwards to cause heartburn. This is more likely to happen if you are overweight or obese, but you should try other positions to see whats best for you, regardless of your weight.
UP OR DOWN?
When lying in bed, raising your head and shoulders a few inches can stop acid rising towards your chest and causing heartburn. A wedge shaped pillow or a few blocks that elevate the whole upper body can work wonders when youre trying to sleep with acid reflux.
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Tips For Nighttime Heartburn Relief
1. Sleep on your left side.This position seems to help reduce nighttime heartburn symptoms, says David A. Johnson, MD, internal medicine division chief at Eastern Virginia School of Medicine, Norfolk, Va. To remember which side to sleep on, Johnson offers this memory trick: Right is wrong.
2. Lose weight, even a little. Heartburn often just gets worse as you gain weight, but losing as little as two and a half pounds can help reduce heartburn symptoms, Johnson says.
3. Sleep with your upper body elevated. When you lay flat in bed, your throat and stomach are basically at the same level, making it easy for stomach acids to flow up your esophagus, causing heartburn. You can elevate your body in two ways:
- Put the head of your bed on 4- to 6-inch blocks.
- Sleep on a wedge-shaped pillow that’s at least 6 to 10 inches thick on one end. Don’t substitute regular pillows they just raise your head, and not your entire upper body.
4. Wear loose-fitting clothes. Tight clothes, especially near your waist, can put pressure on your stomach, leading to heartburn symptoms.
6. Steer clear of late-night meals or big meals. Avoid eating meals two to three hours before bedtime to reduce stomach acid and allow the stomach to partially empty its contents before you sleep, suggests the American Gastroenterological Association. Because large meals put pressure on your stomach, try eating a smaller meal in the evening to help prevent nighttime heartburn symptoms.
Why Do I Have Acid Reflux At Night
Acid reflux is strongest at night because lying on a flat surface makes it easier for stomach acid to spill into the esophagus. Also, we tend to eat our biggest meal in the evening, which may aggravate acid reflux symptoms since it may take longer to digest more food. Sleeping in an upright position reduces acid reflux because gravity is able to keep acid in the stomach.
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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.
The Reason Your Heartburn Is Worse At Night
Whether after eating food with tomato sauce or wearing tight pants, you dread that unpleasant burning sensation in your chest. If youâre suffering from heartburn, youâre not alone. According to the American College of Gastroenterology, more than 60 million Americans have heartburn at least once a month, and 15 million experience it every day. Elderly people and pregnant women are more likely to experience symptoms of heartburn.
Heartburn, or acid reflux , occurs when liquids in the stomach flow back into the esophagus. This happens when the lower esophageal sphincter , the muscle between the esophagus and the stomach, relaxes. During eating, the LES relaxes to let food into the stomach and contracts to prevent backflow into the esophagus. Even in people who donât experience acid reflux, stomach acid may travel into the esophagus for brief periods without symptoms.
What Can You Use To Get Rid Of Heartburn
How to Get Rid of Heartburn
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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Side Sleeping: What Side To Sleep On With Acid Reflux
A good nights rest can be the difference between a day of inspiring productivity and a day of extra coffee and feeling sluggish. Many Americans, however, are suffering from sleep deprivation for reasons they may not expect. Acid Reflux and GERD affect more people than you might expect, and many sufferers of nighttime heartburn and stomach discomfort find themselves researching best sleeping position and side sleeping to reduce acid reflux symptoms. In this guide, we will explore how acid reflux and GERD sufferers can get a better nights sleep by sleeping on their side and which side will provide the most relief.
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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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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.
Benefits Of Sleeping On Your Side
Left or right, sleeping on your side is better for your body. First, it can help you avoid issues with heartburn or acid reflux. It can improve your digestion, since studies show that side sleeping helps food move seamlessly from your small to large intestine. And from there to your colon. Now, if you sleep on your left side, you get an added boost. This position keeps your stomach and pancreases in an ideal for producing the enzymes that encourage your best digestion.
Guess what else? Side sleeping can improve your night time breathing patterns. Which means you can say goodbye to snoring And, if you suffer from chronic back pain, side sleeping can help. Its a good way to relieve pressure on your spine. Which can translate to reduced aches and pains the next morning.
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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.
Digestion Benefits And Left
Many people believe that sleeping on the left side is the best option for digestion. However, whether a person chooses to sleep on their front, side, or back, it is imperative that they get themselves in the correct position, have supportive pillows, and a firm mattress.
- Gut health: There is no medical evidence to support that sleeping on one side is more beneficial than the other. However, the location of the stomach is a clue. The stomachs natural position is on the left side, where it can digest food more effectively. Gravity helps the waste travel from the small intestine to the large intestine.
- Help with heartburn: People who experience heartburn should sleep on their left side, as right-side sleeping relaxes connecting muscles between the stomach and the esophagus. When these muscles contract, they help control the acid reflux process. Research from the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology has shown a higher likelihood of acid reflux from sleeping on the right side.
The National Sleep Foundation have carried out polls since 1991 to identify peoples sleeping habits in the United States. In 2020, they highlighted that significant numbers of people in America feel sleepy about 3 days per week, which often impacts on their daily lives.
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Best Flat Sleep Position For Preventing Acid Reflux At Night
You may have heard that sleeping flat on your left side provides heartburn relief, which is true!
In this position, your LES typically stays above sea level or above the level of gastric contents making refluxing more difficult.
Should reflux escape, gravity is able to return it to your stomach quicker than when on your right side. Also, reflux on your left side tends to be more gaseous in nature,4 which decreases potential damage from acid exposure.
Studies have shown that symptoms are less frequent and less severe when on your left side as compared to on your right side or on your back3 making it the most desirable flat sleep position.
Figure 4: Representation of stomach when youre laying flat on your left side.
What Are The Symptoms Of Gerd
Heartburn, which involves a painful burning sensation in the chest, is the most common symptom of GERD, but not all cases of GERD involve heartburn.
Another common symptom of GERD is regurgitation, which means a small amount of stomach acid and sometimes bits of food come up into the mouth or back of the throat.
When leaks of stomach acid rise to the mouth and throat, it can cause coughing and a feeling of choking. It may cause a sore throat, including a hoarse voice. Some patients experience difficulty swallowing, known as dysphagia, or the feeling of something blocking their throat.
On top of the discomfort from heartburn, GERD can cause radiating chest pain that can affect the neck, back, jaw, or arms and last for minutes to hours. This symptom is frequently associated with nighttime awakenings for people with GERD.
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Do Certain Foods Cause Heartburn
Certain foods and drinks, such as fried foods, high-fat foods, soft drinks, and tea , increase your likelihood of experiencing heartburn. Eating meals late at night, no matter what theyre composed of, can also increase heartburn and negatively impact sleep as a result.
Drinks that tend to stimulate stomach acid production, such as coffee and alcohol, contribute to the onset of heartburn . Coffee itself may also affect sleep quality. Although it might feel like alcohol helps you fall asleep, alcohol can cause frequent night wakings which disrupt sleep.
Why Is Gerd Worse After Going To Bed
There are several explanations for why GERD is commonly worse at night after going to bed:
- When lying down, gravity no longer helps keep stomach acid down, making it easier for reflux to occur.
- Saliva can help neutralize stomach acid, but production of saliva is reduced during deeper stages of sleep.
A combination of these effects can facilitate the leakage of stomach acid into the esophagus and allow the acid to remain in place for longer, potentially causing more severe GERD symptoms, including those that can disturb sleep. The problem may be even greater if a person goes to bed soon after eating and/or eats foods that trigger GERD.
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Back To Basics For Pain Relief
There are plenty of positives from sleeping on your back, Fish says. First off, it is easier to keep your spine aligned.
Sleeping on your back may also reduce discomfort by lessening compression and pain from old injuries or other chronic conditions.
Finding a comfortable position with any chronic pain condition can be a struggle. But starting out on your back with strategic, trial-and-error pillow support might help.
Pro tip for back sleeping
Sleep on a wedge pillow or elevate the head of your bed 6 inches. Lie with legs spread hip-width distance apart and your arms spread in a goalpost formation. Elevate your knees with a pillow.
Side sleeping is the safest choice if you snore or have sleep apnea. But an elevation method could help with these conditions if you prefer sleeping on your back. Talk to your doctor about whats best for you.