Alaska Sleep Education Center

Sleep Better Despite Your Acid Reflux

Posted by Hannah Edmonds on May 14, 2020 5:30:00 AM

Three Arrows Hit in Red Target

Acid Reflux is a nasty disorder that affects millions of people worldwide.


Some people have chronic acid reflux, meaning that they experience heartburn symptoms on a regular basis. Others only get acid reflux when they eat or drink certain items. Either way, it is highly uncomfortable and sometimes painful to deal with this condition. 


Reflux during the day is bad enough, but if you’ve ever experienced it at night you know that it can wreak havoc on your ability to sleep. You might experience pain in your chest, throat, or mouth that simply won’t go away. These pains can often lead to anxiety, making it even more difficult to fall asleep. Even if you do finally doze off, you can be woken up in the middle of the night by symptoms of acid reflux. 


This vicious cycle can continue into the next day, making it a challenge to perform even your most basic functions because of how tired you are. Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to minimize the effects of acid reflux and ensure a better night of sleep. Whether you have chronic reflux or only get it on occasion, consider some of these tips to help you sleep more soundly. 


Sleep on your side or stomach


Sleeping on your back is the worst position for heartburn. Although it may be a difficult habit to break, it is better to sleep on your side or stomach if you want to avoid reflux symptoms at night. Sleeping on your left slide is the optimal position because this places your stomach below your esophagus which will minimize the amount of acid that is flowing up to your throat. Old habits die hard, but you can always get a specially designed acid reflux pillow to train yourself to sleep on your left side.


Lose Weight


Even if you are in pretty good shape, you could benefit from losing a couple of pounds if you are suffering from nighttime reflux. This will help you to breathe better at night and the dietary changes may even help to reduce excess acid in your body. 


Avoid Trigger Foods


While every person is different, there are certain foods that are more likely to cause reflux. These include caffeinated drinks, fatty meats, spicy foods, fried foods, and alcohol. If you must consume these items, try to do it earlier in the day. The closer you are to bedtime, the worse the symptoms will be. You might even consider keeping a food diary to help you know which foods aggravate your digestive system. 


Alcohol can cause a lot of reflux because it is not only abrasive to the digestive system but also relaxes your esophageal muscles, making it easier for acid to come back upward overnight. If you must drink alcohol, keep to 3 or fewer drinks a night, and try to cut yourself off at least 2 hours before you go to sleep. 


Eat smaller meals


Rather than having 2 or 3 large meals in a day, consider eating several smaller meals throughout the day. Eating a large meal puts a lot of pressure on your stomach and can lead to reflux, especially if you are eating closer to bedtime. If you prefer the 3-meal system, eat a larger lunch and a smaller dinner, and be sure not to eat within 3 hours of the time that you go to sleep. 


Get a Wedge Pillow


This goes along with sleeping in a more upright position. A wedge pillow is designed to be a comfortable way to elevate your upper body without having to stack a bunch of standard pillows. Due to the shape, it will also encourage you to sleep in the correct positions to get rid of heartburn. 


Wedge pillows come in many different sizes and can be made out of a variety of materials, although many have a foam-like feeling. Most bedding stores should have the option to purchase a wedge pillow, but if they don’t, you can check maternity stores or order one online. 


By sleeping on a wedge pillow, you are ensuring that your esophagus will remain above your stomach throughout the duration of the night. This means that even if acid starts to come up, it is more likely to flow back downward thanks to the natural position of your body. People who sleep on wedge pillows have reported fewer acid reflux attacks during the night and have been able to stay asleep for longer periods of time. 


Chew Gum


The saliva that is produced by chewing gum can help send stomach acid back to where it came from.


Quit smoking


There are many reasons to quit smoking but reducing reflux may be among the top for you. Cigarette smoke can aggravate your digestive symptom, and it also relaxes the muscles in your esophagus. This can allow acid to flow upward more freely than if you didn’t smoke. 


Wear Loose Clothing


If you are wearing tight clothes or pajamas to bed, you may be putting additional pressure on your stomach which will lead to acid being forced back up. It is better to find loose pajamas that allow extra room for your stomach to move as you breathe. The added benefit is that you will likely be more comfortable in general and this will help you to fall asleep more easily. 


Drink Tea


There are certain teas that are good for your digestion and may even provide a calming sensation that will help you fall asleep more easily. These include chamomile, slippery elm, ginger, and licorice. Avoid any sort of mint teas or anything with caffeine as these can exacerbate the symptoms of GERD. 


Take Medication


There are certain medications that can help control the amount of acid that your body produces. While you should talk to your doctor to find out what’s right for you, many of these can be purchased over the counter and are easy to take. From chewable calcium tablets to proton pump inhibitors, there are a variety of options that can help relieve the discomfort associated with heartburn and acid reflux. 


Partake in low-impact exercise


Exercise can help you lose weight which is a major help for getting rid of acid reflux. However, you want to avoid high-impact exercises as these can put pressure on your body and lead to more heartburn. Focus on exercises like swimming, biking, ellipticals, and light weightlifting. 


Sleep in a more upright position


When you lay flat, your stomach and esophagus are at the same level, allowing acid to flow upwards. If you sleep in an upright position, acid will naturally flow downward, relieving the pain and pressure in your esophagus. 


No matter what the cause of your sleepless nights is, Alaska Sleep Clinic's board-certified sleep specialists are ready to help you be healthy and feel good every day.
Improve Your Sleep. Improve Your Life.

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Topics: African Sleeping Sickness, acid reflux, heartburn

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