Can acid reflux pillows help minimize the occurrence of nighttime heartburn?
These pillows are wedge-shaped and are designed to keep stomach contents from backing up the esophagus as the person lies down to sleep. Standing upright, the esophagus is above the stomach, but this changes when we lay down and the stomach and esophagus are at the same elevation. In this set-up, stomach contents (food, acids) flow out of the stomach and into the esophagus leading to reflux and heartburn which can disrupt sleep.
Acid reflux pillows with their wedge-shape design help keep stomach contents in the stomach, thus minimizing the incidence of acid reflux while sleeping and also reducing nighttime heartburn. The question now is – are these pillows comfortable to use and are they effective as long-term acid reflux remedy?
Acid Reflux Pillows – A Deeper Look
When it comes to these pillows’ effectiveness and comfort, this depends on which brand you choose. The most comfortable ones are made with memory foam but of course, different people have varying opinions on what is comfortable.
Many people do find that using a wedge pillow to elevate the torso, is an effective way to manage heartburn. Some people however find that these pillows are unnecessary as they can simply arrange their normal pillows in a way that elevates their torsos comfortably – but trying this, it turns out that it is not at all an easy task. For people who prefer to sleep on their stomach or on their side, the shape of acid reflux pillows may make sleeping very uncomfortable.
Some experts on kinesiology (the scientific study of human movement) may not be very keen on the use of acid reflux pillows as long-term acid reflux remedy because these wedge-shaped pillows may cause possible lasting side effects on one’s posture, hip flexors and spine. Their argument is that since wedge pillows are not hard, they cannot support the spine very well and it remains slightly curved as you sleep. If the spine is curved for long periods of time, there is a risk that the individual develops a herniated disc or facet joint pain. And even if the pillow is made of memory foam which is known to follow the body’s natural curve, the hips still remain flexed throughout the night which can cause it to degenerate into dysfunction and pain in the long term. However, there have been no studies made to support this claim, nor are there any studies linking wedge pillows with acid reflux and this is mainly due to the fact that such studies will take extremely long to complete and no-one would want to fund such research.
Acid Reflux Pillows – The Bottom Line
So, in conclusion, acid reflux pillows are best used by people with acid reflux problems who prefer sleeping on their backs but are not advisable to be used every night as they risk back problems and tight hips.
An alternative solution would be elevating the head of your bed to put it on an incline. You can take wooden blocks, stacks of magazines or books and put them under the bedposts at the head of your bed. Be sure that the bed is raised evenly by about 4-6 inches. This is enough to reduce heartburn and you can sleep any which way you want without worrying about waking up aching and sore all over. Simply raising your bed can eliminate the need for acid reflux pillows, although these wedge-shaped pillows may be helpful for occasional use like when you are travelling.