This article is a guest post from David Gray of wipeoutreflux.com.
Anyone who has acid reflux knows that it usually gets worse when you go to sleep. The main reason for this is the law of gravity. When you’re lying down, you don’t have gravity keeping the food and acid down in the stomach.
What this means is more pressure on the valve above the stomach called the lower esophageal sphincter, or “LES” for short. When there is more pressure on the LES it’s more likely that the acid refluxes up and gives you the unpleasant effects, including heartburn.
What can you do to fight one of the laws of nature? Here are 5 important tips on what to do as you’re going to sleep to ease acid reflux and get better sleep:
Lie on your Left Side
Researchers aren’t positive why this works, but they think it is because of the anatomy of the stomach. The left side positions your stomach below your esophagus, so gravity starts working for you again. It also keeps the LES from relaxing and opening up to acid and gas.
If you can’t get comfortable on your left side, the next best option is sleeping on your back.
Don’t Eat or Drink Right Before Bedtime
You might have heard this before. If you eat right before bed and then lie down, you don’t have the added advantage of gravity keeping the contents inside the stomach and digesting them. The food puts more pressure on the LES, making it more likely to open and giving you acid reflux symptoms like heartburn, etc.
How soon should you stop eating before bedtime? If you only have minor or occasional acid reflux, three hours should be more than enough time to digest. For someone with more severe acid reflux like GERD or LPR it would be better to wait a minimum of four hours.
Just like food, if you drink a lot of liquid, even water, this can put more pressure on the stomach and the LES and makes it much more likely for acid reflux to happen. Lower your liquid intake as you’re approaching bedtime. Try to stop half an hour before you get in bed. Food seems to have more of an impact on acid reflux than liquid, but keeping your stomach from getting too full of anything can help.
Prop Up Your Head
When you are sleeping it could be particularly helpful if you prop up your head and upper body. Again, the logic behind this is basically gravity. Gravity will help keep the acid down and inside the stomach if you are sleeping on a slight incline. This means less pressure on the valve above the stomach and much less likelihood of acid reflux occurring. You can do this with pillows, but for a more convenient option, try an adjustable bed, which allows you to get to just the right angle and won’t move while you sleep like a pillow will.
There are lots of medicines out there to help with acid reflux. If you’re trying to use more natural remedies, try taking some baking soda mixed with water just before you sleep. When baking soda is mixed with water it creates an alkaline mixture which should naturally lower the acidity of the stomach and esophagus etc.
Make sure you’re wearing pajamas that don’t put pressure on the abdomen. If you sleep with a weighted blanket, or anything else that might end up on your stomach, the added weight can bother the LES. This means losing weight can help, too.
If you’re not able to find relief from your acid reflux symptoms, make sure to see your doctor.