Few things are worse than having a reflux episode interrupt your restful sleep. So, what causes heartburn at night? Why do stomach problems cause sleep disturbance? Does your sleeping position matter?
Let’s take a look at some of the possible causes of nighttime heartburn.
Throat Burning? What You Should Know About Gastroesophageal Reflux
Gastroesophageal reflux is a frustrating problem that leads to a lot of discomfort. It happens when stomach acid backs up from the stomach to the esophagus, leading to a lot of different problems. If you have asthma, your flare-ups could happen more often.1
The reason this type of reflux occurs is due to a part of the esophageal tube known as the esophageal sphincter. When the sphincter weakens, acid from the stomach can back up into the chest and throat.
Also known as acid indigestion, gastroesophageal reflux can lead to some very uncomfortable symptoms. These include:
- Sore throat
- Excess saliva
- Trouble swallowing
- Bad breath
- Chest Pain2
If you’re struggling with heartburn ONLY at night, consider a carefully formulated heartburn relief product — and a change in sleeping positions. Elevating the head of your bed might reduce symptoms. Other changes that may help include quitting smoking, reducing how much alcohol you drink, and weight loss.3
It may also be worth talking with your doctor. They will be able to help you come up with a plan of action targeted to your unique needs
What Are Some Of The Potential Causes Of Gastroesophageal Reflux?
There are a lot of reasons why issues with the stomach and digestive tract can cause gastroesophageal reflux. These are in addition to the esophageal sphincter weakness mentioned earlier.
Many women, for example, encounter heartburn during pregnancy. This is due to the increased weight gain that pregnant women experience.
The sphincter can also become weakened due to medications or age. Reflux can also occur due to certain foods and the way you eat. For example, many tomato-based foods can lead to reflux. And if you eat too quickly (or too much), you could find yourself battling heartburn at night.
Some people have a hiatal hernia, which can also lead to gastroesophageal reflux symptoms. This is a hernia that results from a protrusion of the stomach into the chest. Hiatal hernias often affect the elderly as well as obese people.4
Stomach Acid Reflux At Night: Could Your Sleep Position Lead To More Discomfort?
There appears to be a link between your sleep position and symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux. People with heartburn at night who responded to a poll reported experiencing several sleep-related issues.5
But why is this the case? Why does sleep have an effect on reflux symptoms? One of the potential explanations is the position of your body when you’re in bed. During the day, gravity keeps acid in your stomach.
But when you lie down, gravity can no longer help keep acid where it belongs.
If your esophageal sphincter is weak, that makes it easier for acid to move out of the stomach, leading to acid reflux. This often leads to a burning sensation in the stomach and a burning feeling in the throat.
In order to enjoy a night of good sleep without having to deal with discomfort caused by stomach acid, changing your position in bed might help. You could try using a pillow (or two) to keep your upper body slightly elevated. Or, you could try sleeping on your left side instead of your right side. Sleeping on your right side can sometimes stimulate reflux.6
When It’s Time To Talk With Your Doctor About Heartburn
If acid reflux is not only ruining your sleep but also interfering with your quality of life, it’s time to talk to your doctor. A gastroenterologist specializes in disorders of the digestive tract.
Many people have reflux problems affecting the esophagus and stomach. They often find that it helps to prepare before their doctor’s appointment. They take notes so they can share important information.
For instance, they tell their doctor when their discomfort occurs, and how severe their flare-ups can get. People also inform their doctor about how their symptoms of heartburn affect their sleep as well as their daily activities.
People often ask several questions during their appointment. For example, they want to know what kinds of medications are available to relieve their symptoms, and what they need to do if their symptoms worsen.7
Don’t Suffer Needlessly
Are you suffering from intra-abdominal pressure or other issues linked to reflux? It’s important that you speak to a medical professional. This is especially true if you’re experiencing shortness of breath or you’re pregnant. If you’re having severe chest pain, get medical help immediately to make sure you’re not having a heart attack.
Your doctor will identify the risk factors of reflux and other stomach issues, and help you come up with the best possible plan to help you find relief.
Don’t let reflux continue to ruin your sleep. A good night’s sleep is important for your overall health. Talk to a professional to see if you can finally get rid of your nighttime acid reflux for good.
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