If you suffer from acid reflux, you know how uncomfortable it is.
Something as simple as a soda or cup of coffee can cause a flare-up that lasts for hours. You can’t eat spicy foods or a midnight snack without paying the price in the middle of the night. Sometimes, you’re too uncomfortable to lay down.
Not only can acid reflux lead to bloating and indigestion, but it could also be affecting you in ways you don’t even realize. For instance, did you know that acid reflux can also play a significant role in snoring? Once you understand how reflux works, it’s easy to see why.
What Is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux occurs when acid from the stomach flows back into the esophagus causing irritation and burning pain. It happens when the ring of muscle at the bottom of the esophagus, or esophageal sphincter, relaxes too often or at the wrong time and allows acid to escape.
There are a lot of things that can cause acid reflux including obesity, eating spicy or acidic foods, drinking carbonated beverages, and even smoking. Some people suffer from occasional bouts of acid reflux, but when it occurs two or more times a week, it usually means you have gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.
How Does Acid Reflux Affect Snoring?
While snoring can result from any amount of acid reflux, it’s the repetitive nature of GERD that can really cause problems.
During the day, acid reflux happens when you’re walking around or sitting at your desk. Either way, gravity is on your side. Stomach acid usually only reaches mid-chest before gravity pulls it back down to your stomach.
Bedtime is a different story. Because you’re lying horizontally, gravity isn’t on your side. When reflux happens at night, acid can actually travel all the way up your esophagus to the back of your throat and soft palate.
When this happens, the acid irritates the back of the throat and soft palate. This causes the tissue to swell slightly. The airway narrows, and vibration increases, and you start snoring.
If you suffer from occasional reflux, you may only have this problem every so often when you have a flare-up. That said, if you suffer from GERD, there’s a chance that chronic reflux has led to chronic snoring. The more often the soft tissue in the back of your throat is exposed to acid, the more damage occurs. This leads to further obstruction and increased snoring.
How to Prevent Acid Reflux when Sleeping
There are some things you can do to prevent or limit acid reflux at night. Interestingly, a lot of the common suggestions for getting acid reflux under control are the same things that you can do to stop snoring: lose weight, avoid alcohol, and stop smoking.
While getting acid reflux under control is certainly possible with long-term lifestyle changes, what do you do when it’s the middle of the night, and you need a quick fix?
One thing you can do is use an anti-snore pillow. Some monitor your sleep and snoring through an app. This can help you figure out patterns, like whether you snore more after a late-night snack or if the heartburn you get after eating pizza is causing problems into the night. If you can pinpoint the cause, you can avoid it.
Sleeping at an incline is another quick fix. By elevating your head and shoulders, you can use gravity to your advantage to prevent reflux from reaching the back of your throat, thus preventing the irritation that causes you to snore. A lot of people who suffer from reflux at night sleep upright in a recliner. That is an option, but a simple wedge-shaped pillow should be enough to do the job.
Another thing you can do is change your position. Laying on your left side has been shown to alleviate heartburn symptoms. Whatever you do, do not sleep flat on your back or your right side. Both have been shown to increase nighttime reflux.
The Answer You Never Expected
If you suffer from acid reflux and you snore, you might never have thought that the two could be related. The truth is there may be a direct correlation.
The simple act of lying flat while you sleep is enough to lead to problems. Without gravity to stop it, acid can reach your soft palate, causing irritation and eventually obstruction.
If you’ve tried everything to stop snoring and nothing seems to be working, it just might be your stomach. Lifestyle changes can be a long-term solution, but when you need fast relief, there are some simple things you can try. Sometimes, all it takes is changing your position or using the right pillow to get relief.
Chief editor here at Snore Nation and a proud father of two cool boys. I am a reformed snorer, a reformed smoker, a reformed overeater, a reformed city dweller and a reformed workaholic stress monster on the mission to share my insider tips to restore that quality sleep for you and your partner!