National Sleep Foundation

Chapter 1: Normal Sleep

The Physiology of Sleep — The Gastrointestinal System

Gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD) is a common ailment in which the stomach contents of food and acid back up into the esophagus and disrupt the person’s sleep. According to NSF’s 2001 Sleep in America poll, people who experience nighttime GERD are more likely to have sleep problems like insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, daytime sleepiness, and restless legs syndrome, compared to people without nighttime GERD.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to minimize GERD and its associated sleep problems, including:

  • Raise the head of your bed by putting 6- to 9-inch blocks under the legs at the head of your bed
  • Do not eat or drink two to three hours before you go to bed
  • Quit smoking
  • Don’t overeat (especially at dinner)
  • Avoid food and drinks that cause heartburn, like alcohol, coffee, and chocolate
  • Eat high-protein, low-fat meals

Finally, if you can lose weight, do it71.


71. (a website of the American Academy of Family Physicians), Heartburn: Treatment, 2014. Available online at: