“My bed is elevated and I STILL get acid reflux overnight! Help!”
Does that describe you?
Overnight acid reflux can cause upper abdominal and/or chest discomfort, a bad taste in the mouth and coughing.
A person may even cough in their sleep — keeping their partner from a good night’s sleep.
“Acid reflux is when the normal stomach acid regurgitates up into the esophagus,” notes Jay Desai, MD, who specializes in colon cancer screening, upper endoscopy and consultative gastroenterology at the New York Gastroenterology Associates.
“The muscles at the bottom of the esophagus are meant to act as a valve to hold down acid, but in many people,” continues Dr. Desai, “this valve does not function properly.
“When people lie down at night, gravity is no longer helping keep the acid down in the stomach, so there is often worsening symptoms in this position.
“Frequently patients have just eaten dinner, and the food creates pressure which forces acid into the esophagus.
“Raising your head in bed is a good way to help gravity minimize this process.”
When Raising the “Bed” Won’t Help Acid Reflux
“One reason this doesn’t work in some patients is because they just elevate their neck and head (with pillows),” says Dr. Desai.
“For this technique to work, the whole chest needs to be elevated, usually with the help of a bed wedge device.”
So forget the pillows. The esophageal sphincter is in your stomach, not your neck.
The bed wedge devices create an elevation of six to eight inches, and unlike regular pillows or cushions, will not lose their shape or form over time.
Below is a common type of wedge pillow which elevates the torso and will help keep the acid contents in the stomach from refluxing. And below that is a type that’s designed for side sleepers.
Board certified in internal medicine and gastroenterology, Dr. Desai is available for same-day appointments and provides a wide range of GI services including for bacterial overgrowth, constipation, acid reflux and GERD, IBS, incontinence, small bowel disease. Twitter handle: @NYGADocs
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.