- Understanding Acid Reflux: Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid or bile flows backward into the digestive gut or esophagus, causing symptoms like heartburn, regurgitation, and chest pain. Chronic acid reflux can lead to severe health complications, emphasizing the need for effective management.
- Nighttime Aggravation: Acid reflux symptoms often intensify at night due to factors like gravity’s reduced impact, relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), continued digestion, delayed stomach emptying, and sleep position. Addressing these factors is crucial for achieving better sleep quality.
- Strategies for Better Sleep: Elevating the head with a wedge pillow, sleeping on the left side, avoiding trigger foods before bedtime, consuming light and smaller meals, limiting liquids, and reviewing medications are effective strategies to minimize acid reflux and enhance sleep quality. Implementing these adjustments can significantly contribute to better sleep despite the challenges posed by acid reflux.
Acid reflux is a common inconvenience, and many people suffer from it. It occurs due to the backward movement of stomach acid into the digestive gut or esophagus.
While there are many factors and triggers that exacerbate this condition, the most overlooked potential contributing factor is your sleep position.
Let’s dive into the details of sleeping position for acid reflux and how you can minimize its symptoms.
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What Is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is awhen stomach acid or bile flows backward into the gut.
Stomach acid is awith a pH between 1.5 to 2.0, which is very close to carrion-eating animals, such as falcons and vultures. Naturally, stomach acid is designed to do its work in the stomach.
The backward flow of this acid greatly affects the internal lining and causes symptoms likechest pain, regurgitation of food or sour liquid, and a burning sensation in the throat or chest.
Though it is a common condition but frequent or chronic acid reflux can lead to severe health complications like ulcers or Barrett’s esophagus, where the lining of the esophagus
What Are the Symptoms of Acid Reflux?
There are a range of symptoms associated with the condition. The common acid reflux symptoms are:
Heartburn: It is adiscomfort that may move from the stomach to the abdomen or chest, or sometimes, even up into the throat.
Regurgitation: It is the backward movement of bitter-tasting acid backing up into the throat or mouth, to befrom nausea or vomiting.
Dyspepsia: A general stomach discomfort andthat includes bloating, nausea, and burping.
Dysphagia: A sensation of a lump in the throat or
Sore Throat or Hoarseness: A slight discomfort or pain in the throat, noticeable in the mornings due to acid reflux occurring overnight.
What Are the Causes of Acid Reflux?
Multiple different mechanisms lead to nighttime acid reflux. However, the primary cause of acid reflux is the disruption of the sphincter muscles at the entrance and the bottom of the esophagus to block its contents.
- Dietary choices: Consuming certain foods — spicy, citrus, tomato-based, chocolate, mint, garlic and onions, and caffeinated drinks — can weaken the sphincter muscles and worsen the condition.
- Obesity: Excess belly fat can put excess pressure on the stomach, pushing acid backward into the gut.
- Pregnancy: Excess pressure on the stomach and elevated hormones can weaken the sphincter muscles.
- Using certain medications: Certain medications like aspirin and pain relievers, muscle relaxants, and blood pressure medications can cause acid reflux.
- Hiatal hernia: is a condition where the upper part of the stomach bulges through the diaphragm, and weakens the sphincter muscles.
Why Acid Reflux Gets Worse After Going to Bed?
Sleeping position intensifies the symptoms of acid reflux that’s why many people feel that the symptoms get worse after going to bed.
Simply put, gravity helps us maintain our body balance while standing. Lying down removes this gravitational advantage, making it easier for the stomach acid to flow into the esophagus.
There’s also the way the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes at night in bed. Now, the lower esophageal sphincter is a muscular ring present at the junction of the esophagus and the stomach that prevents acid from flowing back into the esophagus. When you lie down, especially instantly after having a meal, these sphincter muscles can relax and allow stomach acid to seep into the esophagus.
And that’s not taking into account a couple of different complications you might experience:
- Continued Digestion: If you eat close to bedtime, your stomach will be actively working when you lie down to sleep. The stomach produces more acid to digest the food, and lying down in this state can push stomach contents into the esophagus.
- Delayed Stomach Emptying: In certain conditions, like gastroparesis, the stomach takes longer to empty its contents, which increases the risk of acid reflux at night.
What Are the Health Consequences of Acid Refluxes?
Acid reflux is normal and usually not a cause for concern. However, frequent acid reflux for a long period of time can cause severe damage to gut health and lead to various health concerns.
- Esophagitis: A condition of that occurs due to constant exposure to stomach acid and irritates the esophageal lining.
- Esophageal Strictures: The inflammation caused by frequent acid refluxes can lead to scarring of the esophagus. This results in the of the esophagus and causes difficulty in swallowing.
- Barrett’s Esophagus: It is a condition associated with to the stomach mucosal lining.
- Esophageal Cancer: Though it is rare, Barrett’s Esophagus can of stomach cancers.
- Respiratory Problems: In worse cases, stomach acid can be into the lungs. Being a strong acid, this can damage the internal lining of the lungs and cause conditions like asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis, or chronic coughing.
- Dental Erosion: The acid from the stomach, though it rarely reaches the mouth, and when it does, tooth enamel. This erosion causes cavities and other dental issues.
- Ulcers: Due to severe damage caused by frequent acid refluxes, several open sores can develop. These sores or can bleed, cause pain, and make swallowing difficult.
- Sleep Disturbances: Nighttime acid reflux can interrupt your sleep and lead to poor quality sleep, insomnia, and daytime fatigue.
How Can People with Acid Reflux Get Better Sleep?
Acid reflux at night can affect the quality of your sleep. Though it can be very challenging, with a few adjustments and precautions, it is possible to achieve better sleep.
Here are some strategies to help you achieve better sleep.
Elevate the Head
By using a wedge pillow to elevate your head by 6-8 inches, you can take gravity’s advantage to prevent the stomach acid from flowing into the esophagus.
“Scientific understanding, as presented in‘The Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility,’ underscores the importance of body positioning in addressing acid reflux,” says Dr. Jordan Burns.
“Elevating the upper body slightly through an adjustable bed or wedge pillow has shown efficacy in reducing nighttime reflux symptoms. This highlights the role of sleep environment modifications for individuals dealing with acid reflux.”
Sleeping Left Side
It has been reported that side sleeping on the left side can reduce the frequency and severity of reflux episodes.
“The choice of sleeping position can significantly impact acid reflux symptoms,” says Dr. Burns. “Emerging studies, such as‘The American Journal of Gastroenterology,’ suggest that sleeping on your left side can help mitigate acid reflux.”
“This position helps to reduce the likelihood of stomach acid flowing back into the esophagus, offering a practical and natural approach to managing acid reflux during sleep.”
Avoid Trigger Foods Before Bed
Foods like spices dishes, citrus fruits, tomatoes, chocolate, mint, garlic, onions, and caffeinated drinks can intensify the GERD symptoms. These foods should be avoided at least 3-4 hours before bedtime, and instead, have a light and healthy bedtime snack if you get a distracting hunger craving.
Eat Light and Smaller Meals
Overeating and eating heavy meals before bedtime can make reflux more likely. Avoid these foods and don’t eat late before bed to minimize the occurrence of acid refluxes.
“Beyond sleep position, adopting specific bedtime practices can be transformative for those with acid reflux,” says Dr. Burns. “Recommendations from gastrointestinal associations emphasize avoiding heavy meals close to bedtime and incorporating a pre-sleep routine that includes relaxation techniques.”
“This comprehensive approach aligns with the latest guidelines and provides individuals with actionable steps for improving sleep quality amidst acid reflux concerns.”
Drinking an excess amount of any liquid before bedtime can increase stomach volume and the risk of reflux. However, you may wish to have some water before bed to avoid thirst and dehydration, so make sure you understand your body’s needs without overindulging.
If you are taking medications that exacerbate acid refluxes, you should consider consulting with your healthcare professional.
How do I stop acid reflux while sleeping?
Use a pillow under your head to create an elevated position and avoid lying after 2-3 hours of having a meal. It helps reduce reflux episodes. Plus, you should also eat small meals and avoid heavy meals before bed.
Does lack of sleep cause acidity?
Lack of sleep affects your overall body functions. It can exacerbate nighttime GERD symptoms. Sleep deprivation can increase stress levels which affects the acid production in your stomach. Lack of sleep also affects efficient food processing in the body, which leads to increased acidity and reflux episodes.
Can sleep cure acidity?
Sleep is not an immediate cure for acidity. However, quality rest can improve the body’s overall digestive processes and stress management. Proper sleep can help in the effective repair process, potentially reducing the frequency and severity of acid reflux episodes.
Does drinking water help acid reflux?
Yes, drinking water can help alleviate acid reflux symptoms. Water dilutes stomach acid and washes away refluxed stomach contents, providing relief. You can also try ginger tea, which is one of the best teas for sleep because it soothes digestion.
However, avoid large amounts of water during meals, as it may expand the stomach and worsen reflux. Sip water throughout the day for optimal hydration for good sleep and digestive support.
How do you get immediate relief from acid reflux?
There are many quick remedies for immediate acid reflux relief. One effective method is chewing gum, which stimulates saliva production. Saliva helps neutralize stomach acid and aids in the swallowing of excess acid back into the stomach. It’s a simple yet efficient way to provide rapid relief from discomfort.
Another accessible remedy is baking soda. Mixing 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water creates a makeshift antacid. This mixture can help neutralize stomach acid, providing a swift and temporary solution to alleviate acid reflux symptoms. You can also take an over-the-counter antacid if you have one. However, it’s essential to use antacids sparingly and consult with a healthcare professional if acid reflux is persistent or severe.
Acid reflux is a common condition that can disrupt sleep and quality of life. While there are medications and lifestyle changes that can help manage symptoms, optimizing sleep position is a simple yet effective way to find relief.
Sleeping with the head elevated 6-8 inches reduces the backward flow of stomach contents into the esophagus. Additionally, sleeping on the left side has been shown to decrease the frequency and severity of acid reflux episodes at night.
Avoiding trigger foods for 3-4 hours before bedtime, eating smaller meals, and limiting fluid intake in the evening are also beneficial strategies. Although acid reflux may not be completely curable, small adjustments to your nighttime routine can go a long way towards preventing disruptive symptoms. Implementing healthy sleep habits provides the added bonus of improving sleep quality.
If acid reflux persists despite these lifestyle changes, see your doctor to explore whether other treatment options may be warranted. Though infrequent acid reflux is normal, frequent or severe symptoms can damage the esophagus over time and even increase the risk of Barrett’s esophagus or esophageal cancer. Managing acid reflux is important for gut health, sleep quality, and overall well-being.