Acid reflux is an uncomfortable condition that happens when stomach acid moves back into the esophagus. While occasional acid reflux is common, chronic reflux could indicate gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.
GERD symptoms can happen at any time, but they tend to be more common at bedtime or any time you’re trying to rest. The key to relief is knowing how to prevent pain so you can relax in comfort.
Board-certified gastroenterologist Ilyas Memon MD, helps patients at Texas Digestive Disease Consultants in The Woodlands, Magnolia, and Willis, Texas, manage acid reflux to finally get a good night’s sleep. If acid reflux is keeping you awake, these tips could help.
Most of us will experience a little “heartburn” at some point in our lives — maybe after an especially spicy meal. In most cases, these bouts of discomfort are temporary, brief, and isolated. But for people with GERD, that discomfort can happen regularly. In fact, data show that as many as 40% of Americans suffer from GERD during their lifetimes, and roughly 10% deal with its symptoms on a daily basis.
Typically acids are kept in the stomach by a valve at the end of the esophagus called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). If something happens to weaken the sphincter, those acids can move backward (or reflux) into the esophagus, causing pain and burning sensations known as GERD.
While occasional bouts of acid reflux may not be anything to worry about, they can still disrupt sleep. And if you have chronic GERD, you can wind up with esophageal damage and an increased risk of esophageal cancer unless the problem is treated promptly.
Acid reflux and its symptoms can happen at any time, but they do tend to be more common at night. That’s because when you recline, it’s easier for acids to move backward. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to help prevent nighttime symptoms so you can get the rest you need.
Over-the-counter (OTC) remedies like antacids or proton pump inhibitors work by neutralizing stomach acids or reducing their production. Several products are available at your local store, but Dr. Memon can prescribe a stronger variation if they’re not doing their job.
Use some pillows to gently elevate your shoulders, head, and chest. Even a little elevation can help prevent acid from moving backward, so you experience fewer symptoms.
Data show that people who sleep on their left side experience fewer GERD symptoms than those who sleep in other positions.
Time your last daily meal at least three hours before going to bed. That gives your stomach time to digest food so it can move along in your digestive tract.
Garlic, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods are all common GERD triggers. Keep track of what causes your symptoms, then limit or avoid those substances, at least for several hours before bed.
Pajamas (and daytime clothing) that feature tight waistbands or are otherwise snug around the middle are more likely to cause acids to move upward. Invest in pajamas that are loose around your belly, and avoid tight-fitting clothes during the day, too.
Taking a walk after meals helps digestion by stimulating your digestive tract, helping food move out of your stomach more quickly. When food moves into other areas of your digestive tract, your stomach produces less acid.
Smoking reduces the production of acid-neutralizing saliva while also increasing stomach acid production. Over time, smoking can also damage the LES, making reflux more likely.
Acid reflux isn’t just uncomfortable and annoying. Without prompt treatment, it can lead to more serious problems, including esophageal cancer. To learn more about GERD treatment and how it can help you, call 281-764-9500 or request an appointment online with Dr. Memon and the team at Texas Digestive Disease Consultants today.