Proper sleep hygiene can not only help with back pain, but has been shown to reduce nighttime heartburn.
If you suffer from frequent nighttime heartburn, you understand the difficulties it can cause with getting comfortable and falling asleep. And, if not properly addressed, can lead to countless sleepless nights, frustration, and possible damage to your esophagus.
As a chiropractor, I get asked a lot of questions about proper sleep posture. The questions usually come from patients who either have difficulty falling asleep due to discomfort or patients who wake up with back pain. But, on occasion, there can be another reason; patients who experience heartburn when trying to fall asleep. Issues with heartburn/acid reflux can be painful, frustrating, and a potentially serious health concern. Although it is not as commonly addressed (in my practice) as back pain, there are some recommendations I can make when trying to sleep.
From a spinal hygiene perspective, the best sleep position is either on your side or on your back. If you sleep on your back use a thin supportive pillow. If you sleep on your side use a pillow the thickness of your shoulder (such that your head and neck remain straight). The addition of a pillow between your knees (when lying on your side) or under your knees (when lying on your back) can also help to maintain proper spinal alignment and alleviate back pain.
For people who experience heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux, two sleep strategies have been shown to help. First is raising the head of the bed. This has been a common practice recommendation for some time and theoretically helps to keep whatever is in your stomach (i.e. stomach acid) from going up into your esophagus. This strategy can be achieved by placing small lifts under the footings at the head of the bed or using an adjustable bed. Studies have also shown that sleeping on your left side can help to relieve some of the symptoms associated with acid reflux. The reason is not clearly understood, but the research indicates that this position seems to reduce the symptoms of heartburn when trying to sleep.
For occasional heartburn or acid reflux, these two strategies may be a quick and easy solution to addressing this issue. For more recurrent problems, dietary considerations must be addressed. Working with a healthcare provider who specializes in nutrition can make a big difference. If the problem continues to persist or worsen a trip to the gastroenterologist may be necessary.
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Wishing you good health.