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January 22, 2020

Acid Reflux & Protecting Your Best Sleep

Acid reflux, also known as heartburn, is when the flow of acid from your stomach washes up (refluxing) into your esophagus, causing throat and chest discomfort; and, since it most commonly occurs at night time when you are laying down, it can interfere with getting much needed rest. Not only is it unpleasant, but it can lead to sleep deprivation.

Anything that interferes with your sleep can cause a host of bigger problems since your sleep is the most fundamental stabilizer for all of your bodily functions. So, not only can your day be ruined by feeling unrested, but your overall health suffers too.

It’s worthwhile to keep tabs on your acid reflux symptoms, their frequency and severity, and how it’s hurting your sleep.

Acid Reflux/Heartburn Symptoms:

  • Burning, sore, or painful pressure sensations in the throat and/or chest
  • Flares of sour, acidic taste in the throat’s swallowing tube
  • The discomfort prevents falling asleep or staying asleep (degrees of sleep deprivation)
  • In more severe cases: difficulty with swallowing, regurgitating acid or food particles, dry cough, or hoarse voice are more alarming symptoms
NOTE: If you suffer from any of these symptoms 2 or more days a week, then you should talk to your doctor about it. More severe symptoms can indicate a digestive disease called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and can be dangerous if not addressed and treated medically.

woman describing symptoms inher chest to her doctor

Manage Acid Reflux/Heartburn for Better Sleep:

While over-the-counter antacid drugs can often alleviate mild acid reflux symptoms as they arise–don’t be fooled–it’s only temporary relief. Prevention is always the better, most effective method: lifestyle changes, a medical opinion, and a proper sleep surface play a much bigger role in managing symptoms.

For some people, it is actually unknown what causes their heartburn symptoms, and 4 out of 5 people will experience acid reflux occasionally. However, some lifestyle factors are known to significantly contribute to troublesome acid reflux/heartburn episodes, which predominantly occur when laying down in the horizontal position, and making a few changes can really help.

Yet, it’s not an option to give up the horizontal position–for this is how we sleep!

Doctors recommend that by avoiding certain foods and beverages–especially 3 hours before bedtime–and by making a few other adjustments, you can better control acid reflux/heartburn symptoms and their robbing you of sleep.

10 Preventative TIPS:

  • Make lunch your largest meal of the day since large food portions put pressure on your stomach–a heavy meal in the evening will more likely lead to night-time acid reflux and heartburn when you go to lay down at bedtime.
  • Have a light dinner, ideally 2-3 hours before bedtime, since stomach acid is higher during digestion. This gives your stomach time to digest and at least partially empty its contents before you go into a horizontal position.
  • Most common foods that trigger heartburn, although it can differ from person to person, include rich, fried, fatty, or spicy dishes; foods that contain acidic properties such as tomatoes or citrus fruits; dishes containing onions, peppers, garlic or heavy starches like bread or pasta; and even chocolate or cocoa. Monitoring or avoiding consuming these foods dramatically reduce the risk of acid reflux any time of day.

woman eating spicy food that's literally on fire

  • Certain beverages can also trigger acid reflux. Alcohol or caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea and colas, cause the sphincter muscle between the stomach and the esophagus to relax, leaving a dead opening for acid to wash up into your swallowing tube (esophagus). Caffeine and alcohol will also worsen your sleep quality regardless of whether or not you have heartburn symptoms.
  • Try to relax and minimize stress during the time surrounding mealtimes since stress creates unwanted and excessive stomach acid. Plain yogurt and almond milk (add organic honey to sweeten) are both healthy and helpful in cutting down stomach acid.
  • Wear comfortable clothing that isn’t tight around your waist since this can crowd your organs, add pressure to your stomach, and induce heartburn symptoms. Getting out of restrictive work clothes before dinner not only relieves pressure on the abdomen, this also sets the tone for winding down before bedtime.
  • Remain upright while the body is digesting. Don’t bend over, do heavy lifting, or exercise after consuming a meal since the strain can push up stomach acid into your esophagus.
  • Try chewing gum after you eat since this increases saliva which helps the esophagus to wash down stomach acid. But, NEVER go to bed chewing gum since this is a choking hazard.
  • Anatomically speaking, sleeping on your left side helps with digestion since gravity pushes the stomach contents altogether where they should be–in the stomach’s larger cavity. This allows for optimal “burning” to break down foods. The right side of the stomach is shaped differently with separate smaller cavities that can divide stomach contents into smaller, slower “burning fires”.
  • Sleep with your upper body slightly elevated so that your throat and stomach aren’t on the same plane where it will be easier for stomach acid to creep up into your swallowing tube. Either raise the head of your bed frame by setting it on top of 4-6 inch blocks; or, use a wedge pillow that is 6-10 inches thick on one end to elevate your upper body (not just your head).
  • Natural ginger, such as caffeine-free ginger tea, is an excellent source for reducing stomach acid. This is not to be confused with ginger ale since it doesn’t contain enough ginger to be effective and carbonated drinks likely contain some aggravating caffeine.

raw all natural ginger

Acid Reflux and Your Mattress

If you are living with acid reflux, then you are probably searching for both quick relief and long-term solutions. Since the symptoms are most commonly known to go into full force when we get into our horizontal sleeping position, it makes perfect sense to consider how your plan of attack needs to include your mattress strategy.

As we have learned, certain lifestyle changes can help to set the stage for the final act of your day: sleeping. This also ought to include the role of your mattress. It’s condition and custom fit to your needs is critical to managing acid reflux.

The most recommended sleep position for acid reflux is to sleep on your side- preferably on your left side.

Furthermore, the side sleeping position for acid reflux demands from your mattress more complex conformity to keep pressure points set up for both spine alignment and elevating your upper body.

Whether you are adamant about keeping any other preferred sleep position, or, you wish to change your preference, you will want to be well informed about how to make your sleep surface work with you in your fight against acid reflux…and your lost sleep.

At Mattress Express,, we can assist you in finding a mattress that will allow you to sleep in a position that helps to manage your acid reflux while insuring a good night’s rest. for instance, check out our Smart Bed collection at:

This is a wonderful solution for adjusting your mattress and elevating your upper body, which will help prevent stomach acid from creeping up into your esophagus. The added feature of a Split Head® design allows both sleepers to choose their comfort and individual needs.

Come and see us at one of our many store locations. We can help you find relief and better sleep!