It’s GERD Awareness Week from November 18th to November 24th, an advocacy spearheaded by the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders, Inc. (IFFGD). This 19th annual awareness day continues the effort to encourage people who suspect that they might be suffering from this very common disorder to seek medical advice. Only through identifying GERD-related symptoms can people get the relief they need through treatment, information and support.
This year, we want to share with you some tips about easing GERD symptoms with proper sleep position.
Sleep Position and GERD
Acid reflux can be difficult to control, and the pain of that persistent burning sensation often disrupts sleep. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is connected to one in four people who report sleep disturbances due to heartburn at night. For those who have already been diagnosed, three out of four can’t get proper sleep because of GERD symptoms. They are also at higher risk for sleep apnea when the voice box spasms as a result of acid reflux, in addition to the other ill-effects of insomnia. Nighttime acid reflux also puts GERD sufferers at greater risk for horrible complications such as including erosive dyspepsia, esophagitis, and esophageal cancer.
Apart from the pain, a poor sleep position can increase the backflow of acid to the throat or larynx, and the irritation can cause chocking or coughing that keeps people awake. Regurgitation from acid in the esophagus can result in the same. Simply lying down can increase acid reflux, so proper sleep position is essential to reducing backflow from the stomach, and also to encourage more normal esophageal contractions that keep stomach acids down.
Proper Sleep Alleviates GERD
Here are a few doctor-recommended sleep position tips that you can follow to prevent acid reflux and sleep better:
Sleep on your left side, and not on your right side or back. Sleeping on your right side will encourage the lower esophageal sphincter to relax, which can let acid leak out. Sleeping on your back, particularly if you are of above average weight, can increase pressure on the stomach and push acid up to the esophagus.
Sleep with your head and shoulders in an elevated position to allow gravity to help keep stomach acid where it belongs. About 15 to 20 centimetres at a good angle for comfort is adequate in most cases to prevent reflux without causing discomfort. Remember that if you are not comfortable with your head up, you won’t be able to sleep anyway. You can use an ergonomic 3D pillow to support your head, neck and shoulders in this position to prevent stiffness.
Do not eat for about 4 hours before getting into your sleep position, and eat smaller portions at night. This allows enough time for your stomach to complete its processing cycle so that acid levels will decrease as the food moves lower down in the digestive system. Less acid and less stomach content means less chance of reflux.
How Can You Get Involved
As we work together more and more to raise awareness for GERD, we can impact more positive outcomes. We can encourage more research, educational opportunities, and better patient care. Here are some things you can do to raise awareness for GERD in your community:
- Answer commonly asked questions about GERD.
- Use this free copy of the comprehensive GERD brochure to spread information about the condition.
- Get the free introductory packet.
- Use the resources in the Library.
- Add your voice to IFFGD to make a difference.
- Engage with the discussions on IFFGD’s Facebook and Twitter.
- Prominently post a GERD Awareness Week poster