GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is a disorder that affects the lower esophageal sphincter commonly known as LES. In a normal occurrence, the LES muscles between the esophagus and the stomach are taut. They open when swallowing something and close after that. This keeps the food contents from coming back to the mouth or throat.
However, when a person has GERD, the LES muscles open and close irregularly causing food to come up to the mouth causing acid reflux or heartburn. It can be aggravated by obesity, pregnancy or eating huge amounts of food or spiced food.
To some, it is an occurrence that they have to live with as this happens regularly. According to a recent report by the The Washington Post a staggering 15 million Americans are in need of raising the head of their bed due to suffering from heartburn (GERD) daily.
One of the real challenges of GERD is sleeplessness as this condition is worse at night. For most patients, they end up tossing up and down on the bed but still end up not sleeping well.
Sleeplessness has serious health effects and can even make your condition worse. To ease the discomfort of this digestive disorder, you should consider sleeping upright.
How Does GERD Contribute to Sleeplessness?
- If the acid reflux gets high enough to your throat, it prompts coughing as you may feel like you are choking.
- GERD is a contributing factor to sleep apnea, where people struggle to breathe as they sleep.
- The acid reflux eats up the esophageal lining and also causes heartburn. Of course, you cannot sleep well with such discomfort.
Why and How to Sleep Upright when you have GERD?
- Sleep upright and not on your back especially if you are overweight or obese. If you do, your stomach weight will exert pressure and push the acid through the esophagus
- Rise the head of the bed about 6 to 8 inches to help the gravity keep your throat and mouth from acid reflux.
- As you sleep, your upper body will lie down at an angle of 35 to 40 degrees. This will keep the stomach content in the stomach.
- As you sleep upright, strive to sleep on the left side. It has been seen to assist in reducing acid reflux.
- Sleeping on the right side should be minimal. It prompts the lower esophageal muscle to relax, thus open. This allows acid back to mouth, leading to heartburn.
Side Effects or Risks?
- Similar to adopting healthier diet to reduce heartburn, there are absolutely no risks associated with treating it with head-of-bed elevation using wedge pillows. Unlike medications (that could potentially even be harmful) raising the head of your bed is a natural and effective way to reduce the symptoms of acid reflux.
Extra Tips to Enjoying Sleep while suffering from GERD
- Do not go to sleep immediately after eating. Wait for about 3 to 4 hours as this allows food to move to the digestive system. Little to no food in the stomach reduces the chances of acid reflux.
- Limit the amount of food you eat. Small portions of the food do not exert much pressure on the stomach and less likely to cause heartburn.
- Reduce on highly acidic and spicy foods. They have been seen to make the heartburn worse.
We cannot emphasize enough how important it is to sleep upright and maintain about 35 to 40 degrees as you sleep.
And with the above tips, you can enjoy quality sleep as you manage GERD.