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How To Sleep With Heartburn

Sleeping Positions For Natural Heartburn Relief

How to Sleep with Acid Reflux

Many people dont realize that how you sleep directly affects how you reflux at the night as anatomy and gravity play a big role in heartburn symptom frequency, length and severity.

First, a quick anatomy lesson. What you eat travels down your esophagus through your lower esophageal sphincter and into your stomach where digestion begins.

Your LES is essentially a ring of muscles that act as a valve to control the flow of contents between your esophagus and your stomach and vice versa. 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. Commonly referred to as acid reflux, the acidic nature of what comes back up can cause damage to the delicate lining of your esophagus leading to serious health complications, such as erosive esophagitis, peptic stricture, esophageal ulcerations, Barretts esophagus, and adenocarcinoma of the esophagus.1

If reflux occurs when you are standing up, gravity and saliva quickly return the acidic content to your stomach. This quick return typically makes your symptoms shorter, as well as minimizes the potential acid damage to the delicate lining of your esophagus from acid exposure.

Figure 1: Representation of stomach when upright.

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It May Improve Digestion

When it comes to digestion, sleeping on the left side may be preferable to the right due to the simple matter of gravity. Specifically, lying on the left side allows food waste to easily move from the large intestine into the descending colon . Sleeping on the left side also allows the stomach and pancreas to hang naturally , which can keep the development of pancreatic enzymes and other digestive processes humming. .

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How Do You Get Rid Of Heartburn

Studies show that reducing overall body weight has a positive impact on reducing heartburn symptoms. Eating a diet full of fiber, protein, healthy fats, and vegetables can help lower your overall body mass. Exercising regularly, even just taking a walk around your neighborhood, can also help you lower body weight, and help you sleep . Cutting back on smoking, caffeine intake, and alcohol consumption significantly reduces heartburn attacks and also promotes better sleep.

Antacids, an over-the-counter medication, can manage mild heartburn symptoms by neutralizing the acid in your stomach. They are effective in reducing symptoms but require frequent administering and should not be taken longer than a few days.

Check with your doctor before starting any medication. If over-the-counter medication does not help, your doctor may be able to prescribe additional medication.

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Tips For Sleeping Better With Gerd

Many people with GERD have trouble sleeping well at night because of the pain that they experience. The constant heartburn and other symptoms can be very distracting, making it hard to sleep soundly. Luckily, there are some simple steps you may take to improve the quality of your sleep.

In this article, we have laid out four tips to get a better night’s sleep if you have GERD.

How Reflux Influences Sleep Quality

What Is the Best Sleeping Position If I Have Acid Reflux?

During sleep, a case of reflux may actually allow stomach contents to rise as far as the back of the mouth. This is due to the horizontal position of sleeping.

While upright and awake during the day, gravity can help limit the impact of reflux to the stomach and mid-chest. However, in a reclining position, gravity can no longer push down stomach acid. If the LES is faulty, it may easily fail at its task.

For those who experience reflux during sleep, this means rude awakenings with a sour, burning sensation in the back of the throat. Falling back asleep may require reintroducing gravity at night, either by:

  • sitting partially upright in a reclining chair
  • using a wedge pillow to elevate the upper body, or
  • raising the head of the bed by 3 inches .

Other tactics include:

  • use of over-the-counter acid neutralizing medications
  • sleeping on the left side, as a right-, back-, or stomach sleeping position typically encourages more reflux

GERD and sleep apnea

Research shows that a relationship exists between obstructive sleep apnea and GERD. One report suggests that around 60 percent of patients with OSA also experience GERD. Sometimes, obesity plays a third role in this relationship.

Its beneficial to know that treatment of OSA by positive airway pressure therapy has been consistently shown to result in an improvement to the symptoms of GERD.

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Try Sleeping On Your Left Side

Gastroesophageal reflux disease occurs when the upper portion of the digestive tract is not functioning properly, causing stomach contents to flow back into the esophagus. The esophagus is a muscular tube linking the mouth to the stomach. In normal digestion, a specialized ring of muscle at the bottom of the esophagus called the lower esophageal sphincter opens to allow food to pass into the stomach and then quickly closes to prevent backflow into the esophagus. The LES can malfunction, allowing contents from the stomach, including food and digestive juices, such as hydrochloric acid, to push up into the esophagus. In GERD, this backflow is ongoing.

When you are standing, or sitting upright, gravity helps prevent stomach contents from rising up into the esophagus. However, reflux can become much worse while you are sleeping or lying in bed without the aid of gravity, it is much easier for stomach contents to spill through the malfunctioning LES and flow into the esophagus. This leads to an increase in symptoms, such as a burning in the chest, the feeling of food or liquid rising into the mouth, a sour or bitter taste, a sore throat, and coughing, which can make getting a good nights sleep a difficult task.

First published in the Inside Tract® newsletter issue 201 2017

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Other Tips To Relieve Painful Symptoms

The Cleveland Clinic says to finish your last meal of the day a good three to four hours before heading off to sleep. Harvard Medical School expands on that by suggesting a walk in the neighborhood or some other type of easy movement, even vacuuming or doing the laundry.

Interestingly, smokers have more problems with acid reflux and heartburn than non-smokers. Cigarette smoke acts as an irritant on the gastrointestinal tract and also over-relaxes the esophageal muscles, which keep stomach acids in their proper place. Smokers might try chewing gum instead that encourages saliva production which in turn washes stomach acids out of the GI tract.

If youre an acid reflux and heartburn sufferer, come see the Sleep Specialists at Mattress World the largest mattress retailer in Oregon and discuss what sleep solutions make the most sense for you.

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Tips To Cool Down Nocturnal Heartburn

Theres no feeling more relaxing than when you finally lay down and crawl under your warm blankets. The only thing cozier on a winter evening is a crackle and heated glow of a fireplace flickering on the other side of the bedroom. Its another story when your nighttime heat source is a bad case of nocturnal heartburn.

We spoke with Veronika Panah, MD, a gastroenterologist at Banner Health in northern Colorado to get a few tips for dousing the flames in your chest.

Additional Tips To Control Acid Reflux At Night

The Best Position for Sleeping for Heartburn, Gastritis, Acid Reflux & Lymphatic System – Dr Mandell

You can also make some lifestyle changes that may help you manage the occurrence of acid reflux at night and promote a well-rested night.

Some of these lifestyle recommendations include:

  • Limiting alcohol intake, heavy meals, fatty meals, and nighttime snacks
  • Eating in the early hours of evening time
  • Managing bodyweight if youre overweight or obese
  • Quitting smoking
  • Avoiding drugs that may limit the functioning of the esophagus like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • A doctor may also prescribe medications or recommend surgery to treat GERD when appropriate. Talk with your doctor about your symptoms so they can prescribe treatment or lifestyle recommendations to manage your condition and improve your sleep health.

    If you have GERD, youre not sentenced to a lifetime of sleepless nights from acid reflux at night. By making simple tweaks to your sleeping positionchoosing the Incline + Left-Side sleepingyou can take control of your symptoms and get the recovery sleep everyone deserves.

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    I What Is Acid Reflux And Gerd

    Acid reflux, GERD and heartburn are often used interchangeably, but its important to understand the differences.

    Acid reflux refers to when stomach acid backs up into your esophagus, lungs, throat or sinusesplaces where it definitely doesnt belong. Acid reflux can cause many different symptoms, one of which is heartburn, a burning sensation in the upper abdomen or chest. An estimated 60 million Americans experience heartburn at least once per month. Other symptoms include a sour or bitter taste in the mouth or back of the throat, sore throat, cough, chest pressure and difficulty swallowing.

    You might be diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease when acid reflux becomes more frequent, such as more than two times per week. GERD is a chronic condition that affects 15-30% of the US population.

    Benefits Of Sleeping At An Incline

    Sleeping at an incline means sleeping with your head elevated 6 to 8 inches off your body by putting extra pillows under your head and upper back.

    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.

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    Best Sleeping Positions For Heartburn


    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.


    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.


    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.

    How Long Does Gerd Take To Heal

    Worst 3 Sleeping Positions for Acid Reflux, Heartburn ...

    If allowed to continue unabated, symptoms can cause considerable physical damage. One manifestation, reflux esophagitis , creates visible breaks in the distal esophageal mucosa. To heal RO, potent acid suppression for 2 to 8 weeks is needed, and in fact, healing rates improve as acid suppression increases.

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    Big Meals And Eating Certain Foods

    The occasional episode of acid reflux may also just be the result of a little more acid production than usual perhaps brought on by a particularly large meal or your sensitivity to certain foods.

    And if you lie down before all your food is digested, you run the risk of having some of that excess acid leak through the sphincter.

    Regardless of the cause of your acid reflux, lying down whether its at night or during the day is bound to worsen symptoms and prolong the time it will take your body to digest your food completely.

    What Is The Best Sleeping Position For Restful Sleep


    The best sleeping position is generally the one that promotes the best slumber. This varies from person-to-person based on personal preference and physical and medical factors. While some studies suggest that sleeping on ones side is preferred, as well see below, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Read on to learn more about the benefits and risks associated with various sleeping positions.

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    What Are The Symptoms Of Night Time Reflux Causing Insomnia

    • Difficulty falling asleep at night for fear youll have severe heartburn.
    • Waking up few hours after going to bed by the pain of heartburn. For some, this may cause nausea and for others, a burning sensation in the chest.
    • Regurgitation, in which a small amount of stomach acid and food comes back up the esophagus and into your mouth.
    • Waking up with in the middle of the night with a nasty taste in your mouth. The result fitful, uneven sleep.
    • Blocked nose and sore throat keeping you up at night. Often mistaken for allergies, undiagnosed night-time reflux can cause chronic sinusitis, laryngitis, headaches and even dental erosions.
    • A backsplash of stomach acid can sometimes get into the lungs, causing asthma-like symptoms.
    • Not feeling well-rested after a nights sleep because you were up several times, thanks to heartburn.
    • Sleep apnea is also linked to GERD and causes sleep disturbances.

    If your insomnia is caused by acid reflux, you may suffer from daytime tiredness or sleepiness. You could also have difficulty paying attention, focusing on tasks or remembering things. All this can add extra stress to your life, resulting in irritability, depression or anxiety.

    Symptoms And Causes Of Acid Reflux

    Can’t sleep due to acid reflux? Discover MedCline.

    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:

    • Heartburn
    • Choking
    • Coughing

    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.

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    Symptoms Of Acid Reflux

    The most common symptom of acid reflux is heartburn. Classic heartburn feels like a burning pain in the chest which starts behind the sternum and radiates in the direction of the neck and throat. Heartburn is most troublesome soon after eating and while lying down, and can last for several hours per episode. The pain comes from the sting of stomach acids on the inner esophagus wall, which, unlike the stomach lining, does not have a natural protective coating.

    The acid reflux sufferer may also experience a bitter or sour taste in the mouth or a burning sensation in the throat caused by a backwash of stomach acid. Another disturbing symptom of acid reflux is regurgitation or the sensation of food or liquid moving up in your throat rather than down.

    Many people with acid reflux have mistakenly gone to the emergency room thinking the burning and discomfort they were feeling in the upper part of their abdomen was a heart attack when it was actually dyspepsia, also known as common indigestion.

    Tip #: Stay Away From Trigger Foods

    For people suffering with acid reflux and heartburn, many of them have trigger foods that will either cause symptoms to occur or make symptoms worse. Some common trigger foods include spicy foods, acidic foods, coffee, high-fat foods, and red wine. So as tempting as it may be to end the night with a bowl of ice cream or a relaxing glass of wine, take a moment to decide whether or not its worth the heartache youll experience later!

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    How Acid Reflux Affects Your Sleep

    So whats the connection between acid reflux and sleep? As I can attest, heartburn is usually worse at night, and that can make falling asleep more difficult. Most people are prone to acid reflux when they lie down, says Scott Huber, MD, gastroenterologist at the Institute for Digestive Health and Liver Disease at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. When youre lying down, you dont have gravity to pull acid back down into your stomach the way you do when youre sitting or standing up, Huber explains.

    According to an American Journal of Gastroenterology survey of 1,000 people with heartburn at least once a week, 79% of respondents said they experience heartburn at night. Three-quarters of nighttime heartburn sufferers said heartburn affected their sleep, while 63% said they believed heartburn negatively impacted their ability to sleep well, and 40% said they believed it made it harder to function the next day. Per the National Sleep Foundation, if you have acid reflux, you could very well wake up in the middle of the night with heartburnand you might even experience middle-of-the-night choking or coughing, depending on how far up your esophagus the acid travels.


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