- Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD is a condition often experienced at nighttime when stomach acid flows up to the throat and esophagus causing sleep disruption.
- While GERD symptoms can largely impact your sleep, long-term changes in your lifestyle such as using wedged pillows, tilting your bed, and weight loss can provide relief from those symptoms.
- GERD is listed as one of the top causes of sleep disorders among Americans between ages 45 to 64.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a long-term condition in which the stomach gets irritated due to acid flowing up your esophagus. You may have GERD if you experience acid reflux symptoms more than twice a week. If untreated, GERD can progress to more serious health issues such as sleep disorders.
GERD is among the leading causes of disturbed sleep among adults between the ages of 45 and 64, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). Based on a poll conducted, adults in the United States who experience heartburn at night tend to report sleep-related symptoms such as insomnia, daytime sleepiness, restless leg syndromes and sleep apnea.
People with sleep apnea are more prone to GERD. Sleep apnea is when you experience either shallow breathing or one or more pauses in breathing that lasts for a few seconds to a few minutes during sleep. These pauses can also occur 30 times or more an hour after which normal breathing typically resumes, but often comes with a snort or choking sound.
Sleep apnea, a chronic condition, interrupts sleep making you feel lethargic during the day. As a result, it is difficult to concentrate on daily activities. Those with nighttime GERD symptoms are thus recommended by the NSF to get tested for sleep apnea.
GERD symptoms are more likely to worsen when you are lying down. This is because the acid flow from the stomach into the esophagus can reach your throat and larynx, making you cough or choke and causing you disrupted sleep.
Although these symptoms can be worrying, measures including lifestyle and behavior changes can improve your sleep even when you have GERD.
How to Improve Your Sleep When You Have GERD
1. Lie on a sleep wedge
One way of managing GERD-related sleep problems is sleeping on a wedge-shaped pillow. These specially designed pillows can keep you partially upright producing more resistance to acid flow and limit sleeping positions that may create pressure on the abdomen and trigger heartburn symptoms.
Check out the maternity shops if none are available at regular bed stores because GERD normally occurs during pregnancy. You can also find them at medical supply stores, drugstores and sleep stores.
2. Tilt your bed
Inclining the headboard part of your bed by 6 inches will ensure that your head is higher than your feet. Doing so will lower the chance that stomach acid will flow up to your throat at night. The Cleveland Clinic suggests using bed risers, column-like platforms placed beneath the legs of the bed that are often used for storage. These can be found at home depots.
3. Wait before lying down
Sleeping right after eating can cause GERD symptoms to flare up. Wait for three to four hours after eating before lying down, recommends the Cleveland Clinic. This is to give your digestive system enough time to process your meal. Skip those bedtime snacks as well.
4. Exercise regularly
Studies discovered that engaging in regular exercise can help regulate sleep and also aids in weight loss which can reduce GERD symptoms. However, exercising before bedtime might make it harder to fall asleep.
5. Lose weight
Shedding off weight is also an effective way of lessening reflux episodes because it decreases intra-abdominal pressure. Smaller and frequent meals are recommended as well as avoiding foods that trigger symptoms. Foods and beverages listed by the Mayo Clinic to avoid include fried and greasy foods, tomatoes, alcohol, coffee, chocolates, and garlic.
Overall, while modifying your lifestyle can significantly improve sleep quality, some people still require medical treatment. Consult with your doctor so he can help suggest a treatment that is suitable for you.