Is GERD Keeping You Up at Night?

You've attempted to get some shut-eye but have been unsuccessful. Heartburn makes it difficult for you to sleep and keeps it from waking you up. What's going on, anyway? Could it have been anything you ate? What do you do when you go to sleep?

Having trouble sleeping is a common symptom of GERD and heartburn. One survey found that up to 25% of persons who have trouble sleeping also suffer from heartburn at night.

Even higher, nighttime GERD symptoms are reported by 3 out of 4 patients diagnosed with GERD. Nighttime heartburn increases the likelihood of these people having sleep issues such as insomnia, sleep apnea, and excessive daytime drowsiness.

Insomnia is dangerous to one's health and should be treated as such. Those who suffer from nocturnal GERD are at a higher risk for some of the worst consequences, such as erosive esophagitis, dyspepsia, and esophageal cancer, in addition to the physical and emotional repercussions of lack of sleep.

Just what are GERD and Acid Reflux?

As acid from the stomach runs back up into the oesophagus, a condition known as acid reflux occurs. Many factors, such as −

  • Having a BMI of 30 or higher

  • Pregnancy

  • Hernias of the hiatus, or hiatus hernias,

  • Medicines like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (nsaids) and benzodiazepines

  • Poor Nutrition

The lower oesophagal sphincter is a muscle that separates the stomach from the oesophagus. When the oesophagal sphincter works correctly, it opens to let food into the stomach for digestion. When it isn't working properly, however, reflux symptoms develop. If the oesophagus and the stomach aren't working properly, stomach acid or contents might back up into the oesophagus. When this happens, you can regurgitate stomach acid or feel other heartburn or acid indigestion symptoms, including a sour aftertaste or pain in your chest or neck.

Acid reflux or heartburn occurs often enough to be considered normal. Although occasional heartburn is normal, chronic heartburn is a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease. If acid reflux disease (GERD) is not treated, it may lead to significant complications, such as oesophagal erosion, Barrett's oesophagus, and even oesophagal cancer.

How Do GERD and Acid Reflux Impact Sleep?

Nighttime is when most persons with acid reflux feel the effects. The discomfort of heartburn at night may make sleeping difficult, but how we sleep might worsen the problem.

A number of factors contribute to nighttime acid reflux, including −

  • Lying in bed makes reflux worse since gravity is no longer helping to keep stomach contents down.

  • Saliva production, which may counteract stomach acid, decreases during deep sleep. Because of this, all advantages from salivation are rendered null and void if you suffer from acid reflux.

  • The slower swallowing rate during sleep also contributes to reflux by not creating enough pressure to keep stomach acid where it belongs.

The two conditions are linked in some way. Almost two-thirds of people with OSA also suffer from GERD. There is no direct link between OSA and GERD; rather, the two disorders might worsen one another. The severity of GERD symptoms is frequently increased in those with obstructive sleep apnea.

If you've ever had an apneic episode, you know that the vacuum effect formed around your stomach and neck may cause acid to be sucked up your oesophagus and into your throat. As a result of the apnea, the air is sucked into the lungs through the negative pressure in the chest. Because of the increased stomach pressure, acid or other stomach contents may splash back up your esophagus and into your throat (a condition known as "reflux").

The same methods may effectively treat obstructive sleep apnea and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It has been demonstrated that CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, is useful in treating obstructive sleep apnea and overnight heartburn.

According to research, patients with OSA who also had GERD at night saw a 62% improvement in their heartburn ratings while using CPAP treatment regularly. Results showed that long-term CPAP treatment resulted in even smaller reductions in heartburn ratings.

One of the most common and successful therapies for OSA is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. If sleep apnea isn't to blame for your acid reflux problems at night, alternative options are available.

What You Should and Should Not Do When You Have GERD

Changing your posture may improve your sleep quality if you suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). What the doctors want you to do −

  • Remember to raise the head of your bed 6 to 8 inches to let gravity do its job and prevent acid reflux.

  • Sleeping on your back increases the risk of acid reflux, especially if you are overweight, because of the added pressure on your stomach.

  • Don't sleep on your right side. The lower oesophagal sphincter, a ring of muscle between the stomach and the oesophagus that typically prevents reflux, seems to relax in response.

  • Try to sleep on your left side. This is the most effective posture for alleviating heartburn.

Waiting three to four hours after eating may also increase the likelihood of a restful night's sleep. That will allow your stomach time to break down the food and move it to the rest of your digestive system. If you don't eat before bed, lying down won't worsen your stomach acid reflux. Likewise, slicing down the size and weight of your evening meal is recommended.

Modifying your daily routine might alleviate GERD symptoms and help you get a better night's sleep, relieving a great deal of suffering.


Little adjustments can help or even avoid sleep disruptions. If the modifications you've made to your lifestyle don't alleviate your nighttime symptoms, you must see a doctor. Medication and possibly specialized surgery are alternatives for patients with severe acid reflux.

Beyond the acid reflux symptoms, you likely have an undetected sleep condition keeping you up at night. Talk to your doctor or a sleep specialist if you suspect a sleep condition, such as obstructive sleep apnea or insomnia, impacts your sleep quality. They can give you a proper diagnosis and advise you on the best course of therapy.

Updated on: 03-Apr-2023


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