Tips to Sleep Better with GERD

GERD is also another name for acid reflux. Acid reflux can affect everyday activities. Not everyone’s reflux is triggered by the same foods or drinks.  If the items listed above don’t seem to get your acid churning, keep a food journal and note the meals that brought on reflux symptoms.  Once you have identified the food that is bringing on acid reflux, you can try to avoid it. If you frequently suffer from acid reflux at night, you may find relief is as simple as avoiding big meals before bed and raising the head of your bed.  More prone to reflux when laying down or bending over. When we are standing, gravity lends a helping hand in keeping food down in the stomach.  When we lay down, we lose the effect of gravity and will often experience worse acid reflux.

If you have acid reflux, simple lifestyle changes, like losing excess weight, eating smaller meals, and avoiding foods that seem to trigger heartburn can help.

Foods to avoid:

  • Spicy foods
  • Tomatoes and tomato sauce
  • Garlic
  • Citrus fruit
  • Onion
  • Peppermint
  • Chocolate
  • Fried foods
  • Fatty/greasy foods
  • Salt

Drinks to avoid:

  • Coffee (including decaf)
  • Alcohol
  • Soda
  • Citrus fruit juices

Many people have felt the sensation of heartburn, but what exactly is acid reflux? Acid reflux is the backward flow of stomach acid into the esophagus – the tube that connects the throat to the stomach.  This backward flow becomes possible when the sphincter muscle at the lower end of your esophagus is weak or relaxes at the wrong time.  If the valve or sphincter is open, this allows stomach acid to back up into your esophagus. This reflux can, in turn, cause heartburn – the burning sensation in your chest – along with other symptoms. When acid reflux and heart burn occurs at least twice a week, and the backwash of acid irritates the lining of your esophagus, doctors will classify this as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).

Here are some common symptoms of acid reflux:

  • Chest pain:  occurs because stomach acid is splashing into the esophagus, people often mistake it for a heart attack
  • Regurgitation:  a sour or bitter-tasting acid backing up into your throat or mouth
  • Pain after mealsif the stomach is overloaded with a big fatty meal, this can trigger acid production and reflux. 
  • Choking:  sometimes acid from the stomach makes its way up to the throat and can cause choking.  If you wake up choking, this may be a sign of acid reflux
  • Hoarseness:  often mistaken for an early cold symptom – this can actually be the result of stomach acid seeping into esophagus and irritating the vocal cords
  • Sore throat: usually mistaken for seasonal allergies or cold symptom, a sore throat develops from the continuous irritation of acid on throat. An easy way to know to know it’s not a cold, is if you don’t develop other flu or cold- like symptoms
  • Cough:  If you are experiencing a chronic cough and wheezing, this may not be a respiratory issue but rather stomach acid from reflux getting into your lungs
  • Trouble swallowing:  Over time, the continuous cycle of damage and healing after acid reflux can cause scarring.  This, in turn, causes swelling in the esophageal tissue, and a narrowing of the esophagus, resulting in difficulty swallowing

Tips to improve sleep if you suffer from GERD:

  • Consider an adjustable bed
  • Invest in the correct pillow
  • Wear loose fitting clothes to bed
  • Skip the nighttime snack
  • Check your meds for related side effects