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Health and Wellbeing

How to Sleep With Acid Reflux

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Oak Tree Team

15th November, 2023

Woman touching chest due to heartburn

What is acid reflux?

Do you find yourself tossing and turning in the middle of the night, unable to escape the discomfort of indigestion or acid reflux? Around 1 in 5 people are known to suffer from the effects of this condition. But what is acid reflux exactly? Acid reflux is a common digestive disorder that many people have experienced at some point in their lives. It occurs when stomach acid and sometimes partially digested food flows backwards from the stomach and into the oesophagus. This backward flow of acid can lead to a range of uncomfortable and often painful symptoms. If this keeps happening, it’s called gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD).

In this article, we share our most practical tips on how to sleep with acid reflux. Whether this is a new condition for you or if you’re a long-term sufferer, here are a few straightforward solutions that can make a world of difference.

Woman experiencing acid reflux

Which side should you sleep on with acid reflux?

If you’re wondering ‘which side should you sleep on with acid reflux’, it’s recommended for an individual who struggles with this occurrence to sleep on their left side. Sleeping on your left side can improve digestion and allow the stomach to sit in a more favourable position for efficient digestion and emptying. This can reduce the likelihood of food and stomach acid regurgitating into the oesophagus during the night. In addition to sleeping on your left side, it is also recommended you consider propping yourself up to the top of the bed as this can cut down on reflux symptoms when lying down.

It's also important to note, that while left-side sleeping is often recommended, individuals may also have different experiences with this. Some people may find relief by sleeping on their right side, on an incline, or as mentioned previously, in a more upright position. Therefore, It may be beneficial for you to experiment with different sleeping positions to see which one works best for you.

Another solution is an adjustable bed, where you can elevate the backrest to lift your head up, allowing gravity to prevent acid from flowing back up. This makes adjustable beds a more practical solution for those who suffer from acid reflux.

Can you sleep with acid reflux?

As you wind down and prepare your body for sleep, there are many factors that can contribute to the quality of sleep you’ll receive. Sleeping with acid reflux can cause pain, discomfort and fatigue. So how can you sleep with acid reflux comfortably? 

Here are a list of important lifestyle changes you can make to ease the symptoms of acid reflux and contribute to you falling asleep with greater ease:

Avoid eating before bed

Consuming a large meal so close to sleeping can affect digestion and sleep quality. Try to wait at least three hours before settling down.

Eat small meals regularly

A full stomach can cause the valve between your stomach and oesophagus to relax, pushing stomach acids back up into the oesophagus. Try eating several small meals throughout the day instead to avoid your digestive system being overwhelmed.

Avoid trigger foods

Identify and avoid the food and drinks that you notice trigger your acid reflux. Common triggers usually include spicy foods, citrus, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol and fatty or fried foods. There are some clever nutritional choices that can improve your symptoms on how to sleep with acid reflux. You can read more about this on our blog page from our very own Sleep Expert, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan.

Image showing different nutritional food

Lose weight

Losing weight can help reduce pressure on your abdomen and lessen the likelihood of acid reflux

Stay hydrated

Drink plenty of water. Water can help to dilute stomach acid and make it less irritating to the oesophagus. This can reduce the burning sensation in the chest that is characteristic of heartburn. In addition, drinking water can help to flush stomach acid back down into the stomach, where it belongs.

Person pouring water

Limit nicotine and caffeine intake

Caffeinated food and beverages can increase the acidity of gastric secretions. Nicotine can also increase stomach acid production and cause bile to back up into your stomach - slowing down digestion and complicating everything further.

Manage stress

Stress can aggravate acid reflux symptoms. Try stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga in your daily routine.

Wear loose clothing

Tight clothing, especially around the waist, can put pressure on the stomach and contribute to acid reflux. Opt for loose-fitting sleepwear.

Identify and treat underlying conditions

If you have persistent acid reflux, consult with a healthcare professional to identify and address any underlying conditions. They may recommend medications or other treatments to manage your symptoms.

Keep a food diary

Track your diet and note when you experience symptoms. This can help you identify specific triggers and make necessary adjustments.

Overall, to achieve the restful sleep you deserve, while also dealing with acid reflux is a journey that involves both lifestyle changes and practical choices. By incorporating the right habits into your routine, you can create an environment to improve your sleep and reduce the impact of acid reflux symptoms.

From managing your eating habits to choosing the right foods and elevating your sleeping position - these small changes can make a significant difference and improve how to sleep with acid reflux. Try to listen to your body, understand what triggers you and then tailor your approach accordingly.

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