Spices may create some of the most tasteful dishes, but spicy food may sometimes irritate your stomach. Once you’ve gone to bed expecting a good night’s sleep, your rest may be cut short when stomach acid makes its way up to your oesophagus, causing a burning sensation in your chest.
You may already know nighttime heartburn and sleep disturbance if the scenario above seems familiar. At Ecosa, we understand how much chest pain and lack of sleep may impact the quality of life. Occasional acid backflow will rarely cause concern, but a prevalence of reflux events may worry you. You can find guidance below for cases of recurring instances of acid reflux.
When Acid Flows Out of the Stomach
First things first, heartburn or acid reflux occurs when stomach contents back out of your stomach and up your oesophagus. This kind of regurgitation becomes possible when the lower oesophageal sphincter, the gate that allows food and drinks to pass from your throat to your stomach, does not shut entirely. As a result, space opens up for gastric juices, and sometimes digested food, to flow back up from the stomach. These juices become the reason for the heartburn symptoms you may experience, such as an acidic taste in the mouth and a severe burning sensation in the chest area.
When Heartburn Comes from GERD (Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease)
Now, anyone can have an incident or two of heartburn in their lives. Heartburn is quite a shared experience of all people. However, heartburn may already become part of GERD symptoms when you experience them at least twice a week. Mainly, you may spend several nights awake with nocturnal gastro-oesophageal reflux.
GERD at Night Worse than During the Day
Nocturnal GERD increases the severity of symptoms experienced during heartburn. You may feel more chest pain than usual. You may even wake up coughing and choking because your stomach contents have reached your throat.
GERD: A Gateway to More Problems
In time, GERD may even develop into further complications. You may suffer from a chronic cough. Gastric juices may inflame the oesophagus, leading to oesophagitis. Worse, the fluids may even damage it, causing Barrett’s oesophagus. Both esophagitis and Barrett’s oesophagus may then lead to oesophageal cancer.
When GERD Originates from Your Lifestyle
Of course, you may already take action before your simple recurring acid refluxes become worse. In the first place, you may have experienced GERD symptoms based on several risk factors. Obesity ranks high as a variable that may lead to GERD. Others include smoking, drinking, and eating food or drinking beverages known to trigger acid refluxes. Trigger foods and drinks, thankfully, do not lead to GERD by themselves. They always accompany a more serious cause. Medication may also be a factor, such as those for blood pressure, depression, and asthma.
When Sleep Quality Is Affected
Sleep deserves its own section in this article as it may be the most pressing concern. Sleep deprivation may affect you more than sudden pains at night. Pains may pass, yet you likely will not easily recover needed sleep. With poor sleep, your quality of life may be impacted deeply regardless of your age.
GERD as a Symptom of Sleep Disorder
GERD, however, may itself be a sign of underlying sleep problems or sleep disorders. For example, obstructive sleep apnoea causes muscles in the throat to relax, temporarily cutting off airflow during sleep. Studies have shown that OSA then creates the perfect conditions for heartburn to occur. In reverse, GERD has also been seen to cause more apnoea during sleep. Since GERD exposes the oesophagus to acidic juices, scientists suspect that airflow and ability to breathe are compromised as well.
How to Have Nights with Less or No Reflux Events
Consult! Consult! Consult!
As with any other medical condition, see a physician first. Even better, consult with a gastroenterology expert, physicians who specially study the human body’s gastrointestinal tract. GERD falls perfectly within their area of knowledge.
Medication for Gastric Acids
Once you’ve had your consultation, treatment will be prescribed to you, which may include over-the-counter medications. Antacids target stomach acid and neutralise it, while proton pump inhibitors decrease stomach acid production itself. You may follow whatever your physician prescribes rather than purchasing the medications without guidance. Medication mentioned, such as PPIs require the supervision of a doctor.
Say Goodbye to Trigger Food
Besides medication, you may be advised to eat other food and drink other beverages to those that may trigger your acid refluxes. Common triggers include spicy food, citruses, alcohol, chocolate, fatty foods, caffeinated beverages and more. Your triggers may not have been mentioned, but you can easily pinpoint what triggers your GERD, and make the necessary adjustments to your diet.
Adjusting Life for Health
You may have to make lifestyle changes as well, for example, stopping drinking or smoking. Weight may have to be dealt with given that obesity may lead to GERD, as well as a host of other medical complications. You may also have to consult your doctor if existing medication is the cause of your GERD. Your doctor may be able to prescribe you an alternative or lower the strength of your current medicine.
Adjusting Sleep Position
Lastly, as a small adjustment, you may consider your sleeping position. GERD flares up during sleep, specifically when you lie down on your back. Several studies have shown, however, that you may sleep on your left side to counteract refluxes. In this position, you also protect your oesophagus from acid exposure.
Get Your Sleep Back from Acid Reflux
It is problematic that you have to lose sleep from acid refluxes. Even if you do find rest again, you may also suffer from low sleep quality after being woken up violently. However, symptoms of GERD may be remedied. Immediately consult your doctor for help, as mentioned above, and you will have a good night’s sleep again.