managing your night-time reflux with your sleeping position

Night time reflux and heartburn are incredibly painful for those that suffer from it.  They can lead to many sleepless nights filled with frustrating symptoms that feel like they’ll never go away. Patients often wake up with heartburn, a sour taste in the throat, nausea, and sometimes even vomiting. It’s a pretty miserable way to spend the evening, and most people find themselves desperately trying any number of complicated home-remedies in an attempt to help keep their night-time reflux at bay.

One very simple solution that most patients don’t even consider? Switching up your sleeping position. Many people don't realize that your sleeping position can actually play a huge role in whether you experience (and how severely you experience) night-time reflux. Lying flat on your back, for example, often worsens the condition.  Luckily, there are a number of different things you can do to make sleeping with your night-time reflux much easier, from altering your eating habits to optimizing your sleeping ones.

SLEEP ON YOUR LEFT SIDE

This position has a pretty great track record for reducing reflux, mostly because studies have shown that by sleeping on your left side you help relieve the pressure on your lower esophageal sphincter. When sleeping on your left side, use a thick pillow for your head to keep it from tilting down. If your heartburn is very severe, consider using a small pillow under your waist to protect the stomach and a third between the legs.  This places the stomach below the esophagus, reducing stomach acid from rising into it.

SLEEP WITH YOUR UPPER BODY ELEVATED

When you lay flat on your back, it makes it easier for stomach acid to flow up through your stomach to the esophagus to your throat. One of the easiest ways to elevate your head and neck is to use a wedge pillow that is 6 to 8 inches thick at one end. These pillows prevent you from reclining into a bent position. A bent position can put pressure on the stomach and produce reflux. Look for wedge pillows in maternity sections of stores, medical supply stores, and some drug stores.

AVOID SLEEPING ON YOUR RIGHT SIDE

The right side is a popular sleeping position, but it’s one of the worst for people with heartburn. This is because this particular position places the esophagus above the stomach and relaxes the lower sphincter muscle. This allows acid to flow into the esophagus from the stomach, causing night-time reflux symptoms. Waking up with heartburn and a burning in your throat is not pleasant, and can cause loss of sleep many nights.

DON’T EAT MEALS LATE AT NIGHT

If you regularly suffer from night-time reflux, make an attempt to eat smaller meals in the evening, since large meals tend to put pressure on the stomach.  Eating several hours before bedtime also allows the stomach to digest the food and empty out, which can help to reduce and prevent the symptoms of reflux at night.

DON’T LAY DOWN UNTIL THREE TO FOUR HOURS AFTER MEALS

 Don’t go to sleep after you eat or lay down for at least three to four hours. This is another way to prevent night-time reflux. As tempting as it can be, avoid the urge to snack late at night before bed.  It is recommended to keep moving about 30 minutes after every meal.  Walk the dog or walk through the neighborhood after dinner.  Wash dishes, or clean the house for ½ hours.  Sit down and watch TV later but don’t recline on the sofa. You need to give your body plenty of time to digest your food properly before you decide to hit the hay.

When changes in diet and sleeping for reflux aren’t helping to reduce your heartburn symptoms, it might be time to contact a reflux specialist. It’s possible that you may suffer from a more serious condition called GERD, which is easily treatable in most cases through lifestyle changes or surgery. Don’t let your night-time reflux take away your sleep. Schedule and appointment today and get on your way to a full night of sleep, reflux free! 

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