Managing Acid Reflux

Acid reflux keeps many people awake at night. According to WebMD, “60 million Americans experience acid reflux symptoms at least once a month.” These symptoms can cause burning sensations in the chest, or just an uncomfortable feeling in the stomach. Aside from over the counter drugs, there are a few ways you can prevent acid reflux and sleep better.

What Causes Acid Reflux

Acid reflux is caused by stomach acids entering the esophagus. There is a muscle that acts as a barrier that normally prevents this from happening. However, at night this muscle can relax. Also, because the body is laying flat, gravity is no longer working to keeping stomach acids down. These two factors can cause people to experience more acid reflux at night than other times of the day.  The discomfort that occurs can often get in the way of sleeping well.


There are wedge pillows available for purchase. These pillows elevate the esophagus above the stomach preventing reflux. However, there is no research on the long term effects the pillows have on the spine. And, according to Health Guidance, some doctors think the pillows may even cause the symptoms to be more severe. A cheaper and more effective alternative to the wedge pillow is simply elevating the head of the bed. Lifting the legs of your bed frame just a few inches with some bricks or boards should elevate your body enough to keep stomach acids down.


You can also adjust what you eat. Because a full stomach can cause acid reflux, avoid eating large meals close to bed time. If you experience reflux throughout the day, try eating several small meals instead of a few large ones. WebMD suggests avoiding chocolate, citrus fruits, caffeinated drinks, alcohol, spicy foods, fatty foods, garlic, onions, peppermint and tomatoes.


Smoking can also cause acid reflux and more seriously esophageal cancer. Health Guidance states that nicotine relaxes the muscle that prevents acid from entering the esophagus and dries out saliva, which helps neutralizes stomach acids.

If acid reflux keeps you from sleeping every night, you should consult a doctor. Untreated severe acid reflux can cause more long term problems in the esophagus.

Even if you don’t experience acid reflux regularly, just about everyone has discomfort every now and then. Knowing what causes acid reflux and how to avoid it can help you get a better night’s sleep.


Photo “do you think there is something wrong with the american diet?”  courtesy of Shawn Campbell

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