Best Sleeping Position for Acid Reflux (GERD), Heartburn, and Better Health |
Sleep Health

Best Sleeping Position for Acid Reflux (GERD), Heartburn, and Better Health


    Best sleeping position for acid reflux

    A burning sensation in your chest due to acid reflux, even if it is mild, is one of the most uncomfortable feelings. And when it happens at night, your wish for a restful night’s sleep becomes a distant dream.

    Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common condition affecting numerous people. It occurs when acid from the stomach regurgitates into the esophagus, causing heartburn. GERD symptoms developing at night make it challenging for the sufferers to fall asleep. And if they manage to sleep somehow, the symptoms frequently disrupt the sleep.

    There’s a mutual relationship between sleep disturbance and gastroesophageal reflux symptoms (GERS or GERD). However, an NIH research interestingly reveals that sleep disturbances could be a more significant factor contributing to GERD rather than GERD being a cause of sleep disturbances.

    Read on to learn about GERD symptoms and what can be done to keep them from ruining your sleep at night.

    Key Takeaways

    • Sleeping on the left side and elevating the upper body are effective positions to minimize acid reflux symptoms at night.
    • Avoid eating within three hours before bedtime and identify personal dietary triggers to prevent exacerbating GERD symptoms.
    • Incorporating stress management techniques, such as yoga and meditation, and optimizing the sleep environment can significantly reduce acid reflux.
    • Persistent or severe acid reflux symptoms warrant consultation with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.


    Acid Reflux and Heartburn Symptoms Explained

    The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) joining the stomach and esophagus helps transfer food to the stomach and closes to keep the stomach acids from flowing back into the esophagus. When it relaxes improperly, the stomach acid ascends into the esophagus, resulting in heartburn. With GERD, matters get even worse, as the acid flow is recurrent and the esophageal lining remains irritated.

    GERD intensifies at night when you are in a reclined position, frequently disrupting sleep. GERD patients complain of nighttime worsening of symptoms that hinder the onset of sleep. Many factors contribute to nighttime heartburn, including specific foods, late-night eating, being overweight, smoking, and tight sleepwear.

    Continued symptoms of GERD, including nighttime heartburn, expose the esophageal lining to acid for a prolonged duration. This may damage the esophagus and increase the severity of discomfort, impacting overall health.

    5 Key Adjustments and Best Sleeping Position to Tame Acid Reflux

    Making certain adjustments to your sleep habits helps alleviate the symptoms of acid reflux during sleep. These are a few targeted changes aimed at improving your sleep quality.

    One of the habits worth adopting is to stay upright for a few hours after eating. An article published by Harvard Health suggests avoiding lying down after eating to reduce acid reflux as it increases the pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).

    This, along with the practical steps outlined below, will help reduce the impact of heartburn and GERD-related symptoms.

    Tip 1: Sleeping on Your Left Side: Best Sleeping Position for Acid Reflux

    An effective strategy to combat acid reflux and enhance your sleep quality is to sleep on the left side. It is a suitable position for acid reflux. Sleeping on your left side positions the esophagus away from the right side of the stomach. As a result, the stomach acid is prevented from reaching the LES, minimizing reflux. Several studies prove that lying on the left side significantly reduces esophageal acid reflux, as compared to sleeping on the right side.

    To transition to the left sleeping position, you can adopt a few adjustments. n try a few strategies. Set the pillows to elevate your head and body while lying on your left side. Elevate the head of your bed by at least 6 inches to reduce reflux symptoms.

    Using a pillow that supports and maintains a proper head and neck alignment would further help. Changing sleep habits takes time, so patience is key to adapting to the left-side sleep position.

    Tip 2: Correct Your Sleep Position by Elevating Your Upper Body

    Sleeping in an incline is one of the best sleeping position, known to provide several health benefits, including better sleep quality and relief from diverse health issues. When you lie down at a slight incline, it eases the transition into a deeper sleep position, reducing headaches, improving brain functioning, and promoting mental agility. Above all, the elevated and left side sleep positions relieve the symptoms of acid reflux.

    Inclined position sleeping also alleviates snoring and sleep apnea. A study published on BioMed Central examines the effect of different bed incline angles on snoring. It concluded that a higher inclination proved to put a stop to snoring in the majority of participants.

    To achieve and maintain an incline while sleeping, try adjustable bed frames, wedge shaped pillows, or bed risers. All of these keep your upper body elevated, giving the associated health benefits.

    Tip 3: Timing Your Last Meal Before Sleep

    The timing of your last meal before going to bed plays a vital role in the prevention of acid reflux. If you have a large meal just before bedtime, your digestive tract is still at work trying to break down and digest the food when you lie down. This heightens the risk of gastrointestinal discomfort and, consequently, sleep disturbance.

    A PubMed research advises avoiding eating within three hours before going to bed to stop nighttime reflux. Other studies further prove the correlation between late meals and an increased risk for GERD. Therefore, you should have your last meal at least three to four hours before bed to prevent the risk.

    Bedtime hunger can be another major disruptor of sleep. You can satiate yourself with a light, nutrient-dense snack after dinner, such as edamame, string cheese, or almonds. These curb hunger without impacting digestion or sleep.

    Tip 4: Choosing the Right Sleepwear

    If you have ever slept with tight clothes on, you must have experienced discomfort, especially if it constricts your abdomen. Tight and inflexible clothing exerts pressure around the abdomen, worsening acid reflux for GERD patients. To reduce the discomfort, opt for loose, comfortable, and stretchy sleepwear. Breathable fabrics like linen and cotton promote ease and comfort.

    Sleepwear made of breathable, soft, and stretchy material permits movement, helps the digestive system stay relaxed and doesn’t constrict the blood flow to the abdomen and waistline. You can go for relaxed styles, such as a comfortable set of pajamas that allow you to change sides and move easily without disrupting sleep.

    Tip 5: Using Mouthpieces to Improve Sleep

    Healthcare providers often recommend the use of good quality mouthpieces to optimize your sleep quality and reduce acid reflux symptoms. To understand how these devices can be useful, consider how the sleeping position plays a vital role in combating acid reflux. The best sleeping position for acid reflux is on the left side so that the stomach contents are stabilized, preventing backflow.

    Wearing a mouthpiece allows you to sustain the left-side sleeping position, preventing you from rolling on your back or to the right side (as both positions can make acid reflux even worse). These specialized devices fit inside the mouth, ensuring the mouth closure and advancing the jaw a bit forward to keep the airways open. Mouthpieces come in adjustable designs and are usually customizable. They are suitable for men and women with unique dental impressions.

    Mouthpieces help combat obstructive sleep apnea or snoring but can be quite helpful in maintaining good sleep quality. They assist sleeping on the left side comfortably through the night, which helps reduce GERD symptoms or acid reflux.

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    3 Good Lifestyle Tweaks for Heartburn (GERD) Relief at Night

    Small changes can have a big impact when it comes to alleviating nighttime heartburn. By adopting diet changes (avoiding trigger foods) , setting proper meal timings, and sleep positions, we can remarkably reduce GERD symptoms during sleep. Combined with other preventive measures, these adjustments can lead us to a comfortable, undisturbed sleep at night.

    1. Identifying and Avoiding Triggers

    Certain foods can set off a really bad acid reflux, such as acidic foods like tomatoes, citrus fruits, caffeine, spicy and fatty foods. Fried food and chocolate can also trigger heartburn. If you are able to keep tabs on everything you eat, managing heartburn can be easier.

    We strongly suggest you keep a food diary to jot down everything you eat from day to night. When heartburn and other GERD symptoms occur, simply write it down. Having the meals and their effects written down will help you identify the pattern between recurring acid reflux and certain foods.

    After monitoring the intake and reactions for a few weeks, you can create personalized strategies to avoid any sort of trigger and successfully reduce acid reflux.

    2. Stress Management Techniques

    Stress reducing practices, such as yoga, gentle exercises, and meditation before bedtime, can indirectly reduce the likelihood of heartburn. These techniques promote relaxation and ease the tension inside your body. Meditation is known to make you calm, while gentle exercises and yoga aid in digestion and lower stress levels.

    One of the techniques involving tongue posture adjustment is ‘Mewing’.  The technique is not very common, but highly effective in aiding relaxation and preventing sleep apnea. You need to rest your tongue against the roof of the mouth and breathe through the nose. You can consider starting mewing for better relaxation before sleep.

    Engaging in stress relieving activities can establish a good pre sleep routine, ensuring better sleep quality that consequently eases GERD symptoms.

    3. Optimizing Your Sleep Environment to Help with Acid Reflux

    You can also help avoid exacerbating GERD symptoms by creating a heartburn-friendly sleep environment. We suggest keeping the room temperature between 60-67°F to ensure comfortable, uninterrupted sleep.

    A mattress that is too soft would sink your body in instead of elevating it comfortably. You should opt for a supportive mattress that doesn’t cause unnecessary pressure on the abdomen. An adjustable bed with an incline feature keeps your upper body comfortably elevated, reducing heartburn.

    Apart from the bed and mattress, you can use pillows that help maintain a neutral spine position, preventing acid reflux.

    An optimized sleep environment as suggested can significantly help in managing the discomfort of acid reflux and constant sleep disruptions caused by it.

    Managing Acid Reflux During Pregnancy

    Heartburn and acid reflux is very common during pregnancy. Pregnant women feel a burning sensation in the chest and throat, accompanied by fullness and bloating. All the raging hormones and body changes are responsible for the increased abdominal pressure, leading to heartburn.

    The condition aggravates as the pregnancy enters the second and third trimester, while other sleep related discomfort such as snoring are also causing trouble. You can read our anti-snoring guide for pregnant women to learn how to manage the issue effectively.

    Incorporating some changes in the diet, like having small, frequent meals, and refraining from spicy and fatty foods can help manage these issues. Avoid lying down right after having meals, and limit your fluid intake. A quick walk after each meal may alleviate the feeling of fullness and bloating. Pregnant women should keep their upper body slightly elevated while sleeping to prevent acid reflux.

    If the symptoms persist, seek help from your healthcare provider for safe medical advice. Treatment of heartburn and reflux during pregnancy is crucial, as the severity of symptoms increases pregnancy related nausea and vomiting. Your healthcare provider will suggest safe antacids and guide you professionally to manage symptoms without harming the baby.

    Seek Health Professional’s Help if Changing Sleeping Positions Don’t Help

    For those experiencing chronic acid reflux and heartburn along with other alarming signs such as difficulty swallowing, persistent vomiting, and chest pain, seeking medical attention is necessary.

    These symptoms often point towards a more severe condition of nighttime GERD, esophagitis, or Barrett’s esophagus.

    Treating these conditions is crucial to improve sleep quality. Health professionals would accurately diagnose the condition and advise medications or surgical intervention, if needed, to get rid of chronic symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn.

    Embracing a Night of Better Sleep

    We have described a number of strategies aimed at easing GERD and heartburn during sleep. These include adopting appropriate sleeping positions, including sleeping on your left side and at an incline. Timing your meals well before bedtime and choosing comfortable sleepwear is also recommended to ease heartburn. Stress reducing techniques such as yoga, meditation, and mewing are also worth a trial in this regard.

    If you have a snoring partner and want to know how to sleep when someone is snoring, creating a heartburn-friendly environment further helps. You can also maintain a comfortable room temperature to alleviate both snoring and heartburn.

    Trying to adopt these strategies can lead to better sleep quality, paving the way for a restful and uninterrupted night’s sleep.

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