Why do I Get Acid Reflux While Sleeping? (Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment)

Every night might be difficult if you have to deal with acid reflux while sleeping. Not only does the burning and discomfort make it more difficult to fall asleep. But, it also almost ensures that you will wake up at some point during the night, which makes it impossible to have a restful night’s sleep.

Acid reflux and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) are common in adults in the United States. It affects an estimated 20 percent of the population. Many people suffer from acid reflux at night, either while they are sleeping or while they are trying to fall asleep.

In case you’re prone to heartburn or acid reflux, you’ve discovered the hard way that symptoms can be exacerbated when trying to sleep.

As gravity cannot help the esophagus and digestive tract when lying flat, stomach acid is permitted to collect in one area and cause discomfort.

Fortunately, you may use several methods to minimize the intensity and frequency of acid reflux and the issues that go along with it.

Two of the most important benefits of taking these steps are:

  • Avoiding acid reflux-related damage to the esophagus
  • Improving your sleep

If the acid from the stomach has travelled all the way up to their throat and larynx while they are sleeping, people may wake up with severe chest discomfort, coughing, and choking, in addition to heartburn.

Besides causing bothersome symptoms right away, GERD can inflict severe damage to the esophagus over time. It can also increase the likelihood that a person will develop esophageal cancer.

People who suffer from GERD may find that a better understanding of the ailment enables them to manage it better. This includes its symptoms, causes, and therapies. GERD symptoms tend to worsen in the evening for many people. It is important that you pay attention to how to sleep with GERD. This may help minimize symptoms and improve sleep.

What is Acid Reflux?

What is Acid Reflux

When stomach acid runs back up into the esophagus, a condition known as acid reflux can occur. Acid reflux is also referred to as heartburn.

A muscle known as the lower esophageal sphincter is responsible for creating a passageway between the stomach and the esophagus in humans. This muscle only relaxes to let food through the digestive tract so that it may be digested when it is working properly. Nevertheless, reflux symptoms can develop whenever this sphincter isn’t working.

As a result of this abnormality, stomach acid or other stomach contents are able to travel up and back into the throat. When this occurs, you may have symptoms of heartburn or acid indigestion. These include a taste of acid in your mouth, discomfort in your stomach and throat, and possible regurgitation of the contents of your stomach.

It’s completely normal to experience acid reflux or heartburn every once in a while. As long as it doesn’t happen too often, it’s not a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Esophageal erosion, disorders like Barrett’s Esophagus, and even esophageal cancer can result from untreated GERD.

Acid Reflux Symptoms

Acid Reflux Symptoms

Frequent heartburn, characterized by a sharp, burning feeling in the centre of your chest, is the most typical symptom of GERD. Typically, mild GERD is defined as mild heartburn, which occurs less frequently than twice per week. It is termed moderate or severe GERD when symptoms occur more than twice a week, and there is concern about esophageal inflammation.

Other typical signs of GERD include:

  • Chest pain
  • Regurgitation
  • Having trouble swallowing
  • Poor breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Throat infection or esophageal irritation

Uncommon Symptoms

Uncommon Symptoms

It is important to be aware of the following symptoms, even though they are not nearly as common as those listed above. This will allow you to bring them to the attention of your healthcare professional should you experience them. You might not immediately think of these in connection with GERD.

  • A persistent case of sore throat: If the contents of the stomach come back up into the neck, it can irritate the throat and produce a sore throat.
  • Complications to the respiratory system such as wheezing, asthma, bronchitis, or pneumonia: Multiple studies point to a strong connection between gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and asthma, persistent cough, and other lung illnesses.
  • Hoarse voice: In adults, chronic hoarseness (laryngitis) is frequently brought on by irritation caused by the backflow of stomach acid into the throat.

Acid Reflux Causes

A variety of different things can bring on GERD. Thus, it’s important to rule out those possibilities. Your GERD may have a complicated root cause that stems from many different things.

1. The Lower Esophageal Sphincter Does Not Function Properly

Acid reflux is caused by a relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). It is liable for closing and opening the lower part of the esophagus and functions as a pressure shield against the contents of the stomach. Acid reflux affects the majority of those who suffer from it.

After food enters your stomach, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) should seal entirely, but if it is weak or lacks tone, it won’t. Your esophagus may get exposed to stomach acid as a result of this.

This dysfunction can sometimes be attributed to structural issues. But there are specific meals and beverages, medications, and other variables that can impair the LES and affect its function.

2. Obesity


You may experience more severe symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease if you are overweight. In addition, being overweight is associated with an increased chance of developing GERD. But researchers are still exploring the exact cause and effect relationship between obesity and GERD.

3. Medication


Many drugs, such as those used to treat asthma, high blood pressure, depression, sleep disorders, and some sedatives, have been linked to an increased risk of acid reflux.

Also Read: What Are The Best Sleeping Positions to Lower Your Blood Pressure?

4. Smoking


Another risk factor for getting GERD is smoking or inhaling second hand smoke. Stomach acid production, decreased salivation, and other factors all contribute to heartburn. This is why smoking has been linked to the condition. However, stopping smoking is one of the best ways to alleviate your symptoms or prevent reflux in the first place.

5. Hiatal Hernia

Hiatal Hernia

A hiatal hernia arises when the diaphragm, the muscular wall that divides the stomach from the chest, is breached by the upper portion of the stomach. There is an elevated risk of reflux because of this. A hiatal hernia can occur at any age, and many people over the age of 50 have a minor one, although being otherwise healthy.

6. Impairment of The Digestive System

Impairment of the Digestive System

Many sufferers of gastric reflux disease have faulty nerve or muscle activity within the digestive tract. This results in delayed digestion of food and stomach acid. When the stomach does not empty its contents on time, the pressure inside it rises, and the danger of acid reflux increases.

7. Motility Disorders

Motility Disorders

Normal digestion is aided by a process known as peristalsis, which consists of periodic contractions that transport food along the digestive tract. However, you should not feel these contractions if you experience digestive motility disorder. Both a problem with the muscle and the nerves and hormones that drive muscular contraction are possible causes of this anomaly.

In GERD, peristalsis problems in the esophagus are widespread. But it’s not apparent if these occurrences are a product of long symptoms of GERD or a cause of the problem.

8. Pregnancy


During pregnancy, due to increased estrogen and progesterone levels, your developing belly puts additional pressure on your abdomen. This results in more LES relaxation. Thus, pregnancy-related heartburn, which can eventually evolve into GERD, is not uncommon for many women.

9. Asthma


An estimated seventy-five percent of those who have asthma also suffer from GERD. We don’t know for sure whether asthma causes gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or vice versa. There could be a variety of reasons why the two conditions are linked. In the first place, asthmatic coughing can alter chest pressure, which can in turn cause reflux.

Asthma medicine can also widen the airways, causing the LES to relax and thereby causing acid reflux. Although both disorders increase the other’s symptoms, treatment of GERD usually improves asthma symptoms.

10. Food Choices

Food Choices

Whether particular foods trigger heartburn is still up for discussion. Certain foods may or may not be responsible for the occurrence of heartburn in rare circumstances. However, if you have it on a regular basis, you may discover that certain meals or simply eating too much of anything might cause it. Some choices increase acid production, while others relax the LES.

Acid Reflux Treatment

Your doctor may prescribe a variety of treatments to help you manage your symptoms of GERD.

Lifestyle modifications, such as cutting out or avoiding particular foods, eating smaller meals, or remaining upright for a few hours after a meal, are generally recommended as the initial step.


GERD and associated symptoms can be treated with a variety of over-the-counter (OTC) medications:

1. Antacids

These products provide quick but slight comfort, which neutralizes stomach acid. However, the abuse of antacids can lead to diarrhea and kidney issues, among other negative effects.

2. Blockers of the H-2 receptor

They perform the same thing as antacids, which is to inhibit acid production. But they take longer to function and provide less immediate relief. When taking these medications, the stomach’s acid production may be reduced for up to 12 hours.

3. Inhibitors of proton pumps

They’re known as PPIs, and they work to reduce stomach acid and mend the lining of the esophagus.

Your doctor may suggest a prescription-strength H-2-receptor blocker or PPI if the over-the-counter medication doesn’t work. Baclofen, a drug that tightens the lower esophageal sphincter, is also available.

Surgical Options

Surgical Options

If making adjustments to your lifestyle and taking medication isn’t enough to control your GERD, you might be a fit for surgery. GERD can be treated with a variety of surgical techniques, including the following options:

1. Fundoplication

A surgeon performs this minimally invasive operation by sewing the top of the stomach around the esophagus. This puts increasing pressure on the bottom of the esophagus, which helps to stop the acid reflux.

2. LINX device

Another minimally invasive technique involves wrapping a ring of very small magnetic beads around the area where the esophagus and the stomach meet. A magnetic field keeps the beads in place. The magnetic connection among the beads is powerful enough to stop reflux but not strong enough to block the passage of food.

3. Fundoplication performed transorally without incisions (TIF)

In this more recent method, fasteners made of polypropylene are used to pull the lower esophagus closer. TIF does not involve the creation of a surgical incision because it is carried out with the use of an endoscope that is placed through the mouth.

4. Connection Between Acid Reflux And Sleep

As was just discussed, the majority of people who suffer from acid reflux experience symptoms during the night. In addition, the unpleasant symptoms of nocturnal heartburn can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. But how people sleep can also worsen those symptoms.

Night time acid reflux can be caused by a few different factors, including the following:

  • Because gravity is no longer acting as a force to keep everything in your stomach down, acid reflux is far more likely to occur while you are lying down in bed.
  • The stomach acid can be neutralized by saliva, but you generate less of it at night while you’re sleeping deeply. If you have reflux, this completely nullifies any potential benefits that your saliva could have.
  • In a similar manner, the decreased swallowing that occurs during sleep does not offer sufficient pressure to keep acid in the stomach, which is another factor that contributes to reflux.

Sleep apnea and gastroesophageal reflux disease are linked. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is associated with GERD in approximately 60% of individuals. OSA and GERD can enhance each other’s symptoms, even though they are not causally linked. OSA symptoms can worsen GERD symptoms and vice versa. The symptoms of GERD can be more severe in people who have obstructive sleep apnea.

A common occurrence is when an apneic episode creates a vacuum surrounding the stomach and neck, causing stomach acid to leak into these areas. In addition, because of the apnea, the chest’s negative pressure forces air into a narrowed aperture. As a result of this, your stomach experiences an increase in pressure, resulting in reflux, in which stomach acid or other contents are pushed up into your esophagus.

Treating GERD and obstructive sleep apnea simultaneously may be an effective way to address both conditions. Patients with both these conditions can benefit from CPAP therapy.

For OSA patients who suffer from overnight GERD symptoms, one study found that CPAP therapy reduced their heartburn scores by 62%. Additionally, the study found that long-term use of CPAP reduced heartburn scores much more.

Fortunately, if you don’t have sleep apnea, there are other ways to address your nocturnal acid reflux symptoms.


Most of the time, sleep disruptions can be remedied or avoided entirely by making a few straightforward adjustments. However, if you find that making adjustments to your lifestyle does not alleviate your night time symptoms, you must speak with your physician about other treatment choices. There are a variety of treatments available, ranging from taking medicine to possibly undergoing specialized surgery for more severe cases of acid reflux.

Suppose you discover that you have trouble falling asleep regardless of whether you are experiencing acid reflux symptoms. In that case, it is conceivable that you have a sleep condition that has not been recognized. Make an appointment with your primary care physician or a sleep specialist if you believe that sleep problems such as obstructive sleep apnea or insomnia cause poor sleep quality. They will be able to provide a diagnosis and assist you in determining which treatment options will be most beneficial to you.

The symptoms of acid reflux can completely disrupt your night, making it nearly difficult for you to obtain a good night’s sleep. To put an end to reflux once and for all, however, there are modifications to your lifestyle that are not only simple but also holistic that you can do. Try them out for yourself and see how you react to them!

Sarah Wagner

I'm Sarah Wagner, and I founded Sweet Island Dreams in 2022. It's a blog dedicated to helping people mental vacation virtually anytime they want. By providing information about the best sleep of your life, I help people drift away to paradise without ever having to leave their bed!

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