For people living with chronic acid reflux or GERD, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, bedtime can be the worst time of day.
That’s when, as many people with the condition lie down to sleep, they feel the burning begin behind their breastbone.
GERD symptoms can get worse at night for several reasons. The primary cause is a weak sphincter between the stomach and esophagus that allows stomach acid to escape and irritate the sensitive lining of the esophagus. When people lay down, gravity no longer keeps the stomach contents, including stomach acid, in place.
Timing and size of meals can also play a role.
“Eating a large meal in the evening then going to bed can make your symptoms worse,” says Dr. James Givens, a general surgeon at Tidelands Health.
Plus, people tend to swallow less as they sleep, reducing a force that helps keep acid down, and we tend to produce less saliva, which can help neutralize stomach acid.