After reflux surgery, you might experience such an improvement in your sleep that you’ll start thinking of your GERD surgeon as the sandman!
Is heartburn keeping you up all night? If so, you aren’t alone. Estimates show as many as one quarter of American adults experience acid reflux at night. For those who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), the percentage is even higher.
The pain associated with heartburn makes it difficult to sleep, and acid reflux at night can force you out of bed to cope with regurgitation. This type of nighttime nuisance can leave you drowsy the next day, causing concentration difficulties, irritability and a weakened immune system.
Nighttime heartburn can interfere with your health, personal and professional life, but reflux surgery can put an end to such sleep disturbances by correcting the problem with the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) that causes chronic heartburn.
While you are waiting for reflux surgery, your GERD surgeon might recommend several changes you can make to your sleeping and eating habits that might help alleviate nighttime heartburn:
- The three hour rule: Don’t eat three hours before going to bed. They best way to enforce this rule is to create a bed time, and make sure that you are eating dinner at least three hours prior to lying down. This will give your stomach a chance to start digesting food before you lay down, and reduce the amount of food and stomach acids that are present to backwash into the esophagus as you recline.
- Sleep on a slant: Try raising the head of your bed by about five inches. If you can’t physically incline your bed and mattress, try sleeping with an extra pillow or using a foam sleeping device made for the purpose of reducing heartburn. When your head is above your feet your stomach will naturally push the digestive juices down, preventing them from flowing into your esophagus.
- Sleep on your left side: When you sleep on your left you are putting less pressure on your organs, including your stomach. This can alleviate compression on the LES, helping it to function more efficiently and keep digestive juices out of your esophagus.
Other healthy lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, avoiding trigger foods and losing weight can also help alleviate nighttime heartburn.
If you are struggling with nighttime heartburn, it is especially important that you talk with your GERD surgeon about treatment options for you. If you go too long letting heartburn interfere with your sleep, health problems will start to pile up. You might even find yourself eating more to stay awake, which will ultimately lead to weight gain and more heartburn. Stop the cycle by using these useful tips and talking with your GERD surgeon for more precise medical advice.