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Acid Refulx Causes Loss of Sleep
Written By : Mark Rosenberg, MD 
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In people who suffer from acid reflux, nighttime symptoms are a common problem. Although it occurs during the day as well, acid reflux is especially damaging at night. Burning in the chest, coughing and pain may easily keep you awake, robbing your body of the time required to rest and renew itself. If this sounds like you, or if you occasionally experience reflux during the night, it's time to learn about the solutions to this nighttime problem.

How Acid Reflux Impairs Sleep

Gastroesophageal reflux disease is commonly known as GERD or acid reflux. It is a chronic condition in which the stomach contents backs up into the esophagus. The liquid from the stomach contains acid, which inflames and damages the lining of the esophagus. This stimulates the nerve fibers causing burning pain in the chest. For some, the pain feels like strong pressure, much like a heart attack. Some people experience coughing or stomach acid in the mouth.

In a survey presented by the American College of Gastroenterology, results showed that acid reflux severely impairs sleep. In the survey, 42% of people with GERD reported sleeping poorly versus just 19% of people who did not have GERD. Those who had sleep impairment reported poor sleep quality, increased wakefulness and waking up repeatedly during the night as their biggest problems.

Sleep Better Despite Acid Reflux

GERD is a lifelong condition, so managing the symptoms is the key to improving sleep quality. If you regularly suffer from acid reflux, see your doctor. Together you can create a treatment plan for your personal needs. If you have already been diagnosed with GERD, there are several lifestyle modifications that can help you sleep easier as early as tonight.

The most important tip that has helped many patients is to avoid eating three hours before bed. This buffer of time allows your body to properly digest your food before you lie down for the night. When you are sitting or standing up, any stomach acid that refluxes is generally returned to the stomach with the help of gravity. When you are in bed, you do not have this advantage.

The size of your evening meal matters too. The more food you eat, the more stomach acid is needed for digestion. Consider altering your dining habits so that you eat your largest meal at midday, rather than close to bedtime. Many people also find that this helps cut down on afternoon snacking, and maintaining a healthy weight also helps control acid reflux. To be on the safe side, avoid any foods that trigger your acid reflux symptoms. Common culprits are chocolate, alcohol, caffeinated drinks, orange juice and peppermint.

Some patients find success with acid-reducing medications. If you prefer natural remedies, however, gingerroot, aloe vera, fennel and chamomile have been cited as acid fighters. All these solutions can help, but if you smoke, your acid reflux is unlikely to improve. Kick the habit so you can reduce your symptoms and improve your sleep.

Elevating the head of your bed can help nighttime reflux as well. Many people use a stack of pillows to prop themselves up, but this compresses the stomach, which exacerbates the problem. Risers or bricks that can elevate the head of the bed are a do-it-yourself solution for some patients. If you suffer from chronic nighttime GERD and have tried everything else, a bed that you can angle mechanically may be worth considering.

As you see, people with GERD have a lot of options that may help improve their symptoms. The result will be more high quality sleep. If you start sleeping better, you will have the energy to stay healthy and avoid your trigger foods. Try some lifestyle changes today and wake up well rested tomorrow.

Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Institute For Healthy Aging

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