Gastroesophageal reflux or GERD often causes bothersome symptoms, regardless of the time of day. But at night, heartburn and acid reflux can make it difficult, if not impossible, to sleep. To help combat this problem, we’ve rounded up four ways to sleep better at night with acid reflux.

Change the position in which you sleep

Acid reflux occurs when the contents of your stomach flow back into your esophagus. It’s normal to have some acid reflux from time to time, but when it happens frequently, more than twice a week, it’s called GERD.

Although GERD symptoms can occur at any time, nighttime often makes them worse. When you lie down, gravity no longer helps keep stomach acid from backing up into your stomach. You also produce less saliva while you sleep, which normally neutralizes stomach acid. Plus, you swallow less, which should normally help push the acid down.

Studies show that the best position to sleep if you have GERD is on your left side. Because it decreases the likelihood of your esophagus being exposed to acid from your stomach. Sleeping on your back and sleeping on your right side can increase the likelihood of acid reflux.

If you’re not used to sleeping on your left side, try switching to a side pillow to see if that helps.

Sleep on an incline

If you’ve tried changing positions to wake up on the side you were trying to avoid, sleeping on an incline might provide relief. Experts recommend raising the head of your bed 8-12 inches for best results.

Keeping your head up will prevent stomach acid from backing up into your esophagus and throat. This causes people with GERD to cough and choke while they sleep. If you can sleep in a different position, research published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology shows that sleeping on your left side with your head elevated is best.

Try not to drink alcohol in the evening

Researchers are still trying to determine the link between GERD and alcohol. But many studies have shown that alcohol, especially heavy drinking, can make symptoms worse. Alcohol has been shown to reduce lower esophageal sphincter pressure, which can increase the likelihood of reflux.

Since alcohol causes the esophageal sphincter to relax, avoid drinking a few hours before lying down to prevent nighttime acid reflux. Drinking in moderation (no more than one alcoholic drink per day) can also help manage symptoms.

Avoid foods that cause heartburn

If you have GERD, one of the first things your doctor might recommend to help you manage the symptoms is to change your diet. Foods that are spicy, acidic, and high in fat or salt cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax. This delays the digestive process and allows food to stay longer in the stomach.

Because these foods stay in your stomach longer, they should be avoided three to four hours before bedtime. You should also avoid large meals in the evening. This is because digestion creates more acid in the stomach, and lying down decreases the ability of your lower esophageal sphincter to keep this acid from flowing back.

Changing your way of doing things can be difficult at first. So if you’re feeling stressed about adjusting your lifestyle, take a deep breath and start slow. Take a small step, like buying a pillow that helps you sleep better on your left side, and try it for a week to see if it helps. Listen to your body, you can always add more changes or go back on your restrictions if needed.

* criptom strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the opinion of a health professional.