Finding a pillow for GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) does not have to be hard. But how do you know what kind of pillow you need?
Best pillow for GERD
The best pillow for GERD is a wedge pillow. When you sleep with your upper body inclined on a wedge pillow, it can reduce symptoms of GERD that you may experience while sleeping flat. When you lie down flat on your back, your stomach and esophagus are positioned in a way that makes it easier for stomach acid to flow into your esophagus. This can lead to burning or aching in your chest, difficulty swallowing, difficulty sleeping, etc.
Sleeping elevated on a wedge pillow for GERD will position your stomach and esophagus in a way that makes it much harder for stomach acid to enter the esophagus. The elevation of your torso utilizes gravity to keep your stomach acid where it belongs, which is in your stomach! This leads to a good night’s sleep which is essential for your body to be able to rest and heal.
GERD pillow for back sleepers
A bed wedge for GERD for back sleepers is triangular in shape and at least 7 inches tall. 7 inches is the height that most physicians recommend for combatting symptoms of GERD. However, if you have a heavier torso, you may want to try out a 10-inch wedge. When sleeping on a bed wedge for GERD, always place your regular pillow on top of the wedge. This will support your neck while you sleep at an incline.
A pillow for GERD should be made with a firm polyurethane base as its foundation. A wedge made with a firm base will not lose its shape overtime and gives your body the best support. Additionally, look for a wedge pillow whose firm base is topped with a layer of memory foam. The combination of a firm and supportive base and luscious memory foam topper is the ideal makeup of a wedge pillow for GERD.
For the most comfortable experience, you will also want to sleep with a knee wedge pillow. A knee wedge pillow helps you to not slide down your GERD wedge during the night. It also takes pressure off your low back and hips so that your entire body can relax. This gives you the best sleep and most optimal rest.
GERD pillow for side sleepers
A GERD pillow for side sleepers is made especially for those who love to sleep on their side. Side sleepers no longer have to sacrifice comfort to avoid GERD symptoms at night. Using a side sleeper wedge is the best of both worlds.
A GERD pillow for side sleepers is made with specially designed contours that support the curves of your body. The contours make sure that while you side sleep, your low back and spine maintain a neutral position. The contours also make sure your upper back and shoulders are supported.
Just like on a triangle GERD pillow, place your regular neck pillow on top of the contoured side sleeper wedge to support your neck. Sleeping elevated and on your side positions your esophagus over your stomach and uses gravity in the same way a triangle wedge does. Gravity is used to hold your stomach acid in your stomach rather than allowing stomach acid to flow back up into the esophagus.
When sleeping on a GERD pillow for side sleepers, you should also use a leg separator pillow. A leg separator pillow supports your legs so that your hips and lower back are in a resting position when you sleep. Using a leg separator pillow can help you wake up without any back or hip stiffness.
A pillow for GERD can help you sleep comfortably and avoid the tossing and turning that often comes with GERD symptoms at night. Sleeping well will help you feel better, and when you feel better, you live better.
-Hillary Blare, Doctor of Physical Therapy