How to Avoid Acid Reflux When You Go to Bed
Did you know that nearly a third of American adults suffer from acid reflux each week? Acid reflux, which is also known as GERD or Gastroesophageal reflux disease, can be quite painful and uncomfortable as the acid from the stomach flows back up (the wrong way) to the persons' windpipe or esophagus. It causes a burning sensation in the throat and chest and damages tissues.
If you suffer from heartburn (another common name for acid reflux), there are certain things you can do before falling asleep to prevent nighttime heartburn. This way you can fall asleep easily and wake up refreshed. Keep reading to find out more.
Think About Your Sleeping Positions
"Right is wrong." That's the phrase to remember when thinking about what side to sleep on to avoid acid reflux. Sleeping on your left side alleviates heartburn greatly. It can also help to sleep with your head elevated slightly, so the gastric acid from the stomach doesn't have a chance to flow back up to your throat.
You can elevate your body in two ways:
- Sleep on a wedge-shaped pillow that's 6-10 inches thick on one end
- Put the head of your bed on 4-6 inch blocks
This way your entire upper body is raised and not just your head, which is what happens when you use regular pillows.
Be Careful of What You Eat For Dinner (and When)
You might already have noticed that certain eating habits of yours cause your heartburn to worsen. That's why you need to be careful of what you eat before falling asleep.
Of course, try to eat at least 3-4 hours before your bedtime, so your body has a chance to completely digest everything and there's no stomach acid leftover to creep back up to your throat.
You should also try to eat a smaller meal for dinner, so your stomach doesn't have so much food to process so late at night. It's also good for your weight as if you don't work off that nighttime meal (and you probably won't), it will all get stored as fat in the body.
Also, ensure that you avoid certain hard-to-digest foods that take your stomach forever to process. The following foods and drinks are terrible for heartburn and should be avoided at dinnertime:
- Caffeinated drinks
- Chocolate and cocoa
- Fatty, spicy, greasy, fatty foods
- Citrus or tomato products
Of course, each person is going to vary in the kinds of food that trigger heartburn for them. That's why you could try keeping a food diary for a month to see what foods worsen or alleviate your heartburn.
Stay Upright after Eating
If you tend to slouch on your couch while watching your favorite TV show after dinnertime, avoid that habit. Or at least stay upright for at least 30 minutes after eating. This way you avoid acid creeping back up your esophagus. You should also avoid lifting heavy objects, bending over, exercising too soon after eating, and wearing tight clothes (especially near your waist).
All these little tweaks will ensure that your stomach acid is used for digesting your food and not for digesting the soft tissues of your esophagus. In general, avoid putting pressure on your stomach after eating allowing it to do its job properly.
If you notice that your throat or chest is starting to burn due to acid reflux, you could keep some chewing gum around for such occasions. Chewing gum (make sure it is sugar-free) can increase the production of saliva, which will soothe your esophagus, and wash acid back down to your stomach.
Of course, this might not work for everyone and it should only be used as a fail-safe mechanism. Avoiding heartburn is more about having general lifestyle changes, rather than taking such one-off measures.
Make Healthy Lifestyle Changes
There are definitely certain sweeping lifestyle changes you can make that will help you avoid the wrath of heartburn consistently. You are probably aware of a lot of these changes already, as your doctor harps on about it whenever you go visit him/her.
Quit Smoking: Smoking is terrible for acid reflux in two ways. First of all, it irritates your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. And secondly, it can also relax the esophageal muscles that keep your stomach acid down. If you are already thinking of quitting smoking, consider it a boon not only for your heart and lung health but also for your acid reflux.
Lose Weight: Are you carrying extra weight around your middle? You should definitely try not to exercise late at night (especially after dinnertime) as it aggravates acid reflux. But GERD can definitely be reduced quite a bit, even if you lose a bit of weight. Even 2.5 pounds can make a huge difference. And you will notice that the heavier you get, the worse your acid reflux gets.
Reduce Stress: Do you always feel rushed through your day and your meals? Do you not notice when you sit down to eat where your mealtime went and how much food you consumed?
A high-stress environment and lifestyle aren't good for many reasons. And if you wish to reduce your nighttime heartburn, reducing the stress in your life is a great necessity. Eat slowly and mindfully so that you are not putting too much pressure on your stomach. You could even start the practice of meditation or mindfulness to relax and breathe through your meals.
Acid Reflux Can Be Reduced or Even Alleviated
Don't feel hopeless if you suffer from acid reflux which causes you to lose sleep at night. GERD can definitely be reduced in intensity or even alleviated completely if you follow the lifestyle and sleep positions changes above.
You could also consider getting a high-quality mattress (especially if you haven't replaced yours in a while) to get a great night of sleep to heal and rejuvenate your body and GI tract. Check out the collection of Nest Bedding mattresses to start your search.