Bed time meal and GERD: When is the best time to lie down?

Author: Thaddeus M. Averilla, MD

Have you experienced any of the following symptoms: heartburn, chest pain, indigestion, chronic coughing, clearing of throat, and post nasal drip upon waking up?
If you answered yes to all the above, then you might have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
GERD can be caused by a lot of things, one of the more common reasons is the association between your last meal and time of sleeping. In fact, in a text book of the American College of Gastroenterology, it is recommended that one should refrain from eating within three hours of going to sleep.
This recommendation is supported by a study conducted among Japanese patients which showed that those with short dinner-to-bed times was significantly associated with an increased risk of GERD compared to patients whose dinner-to-bed time was four hours or more.
Thus, if you have GERD symptoms, sleeping at least three to four hours after the last meal could be one of the many approaches to relief.
Other things that you can do to help with your GERD include certain lifestyle modifications that have been advocated to be important in GERD therapy. These include elevation of the head, cessation of smoking, and avoidance of particular foods and/or alcoholic drinks, which provokes GERD symptoms. Losing weight for overweight and obese individuals is also recommended to lessen the GERD symptoms.
These lifestyle modifications have varying benefits towards good control of your GERD symptoms. It is important to know about these interventions so you can choose for yourself on how to integrate them into your treatment plan.
Over-the-counter medication such as antacids can also be of help to alleviate the symptoms of GERD. However, if symptoms still persist it is highly recommended that you consult a physician.


Lifestyle modifications that can help with GERD symptoms:
  1. Refrain from eating within three to four hours before going to sleep.
  2. Elevation of the head of the bed.
  3. Cessation of smoking.
  4. Avoidance of particular foods and/or alcoholic drinks which provoke GERD symptoms
  5. Maintain ideal body weight.


[1] DeVault, KR, Castell, DO. Updated guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease. The Practice Parameters Committee of the American College of Gastroenterology. Am J Gastroenterol 1999;94: 1434–1442.

[2] Fujiwara et al, Association Between Dinner-to-Bed Time and Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease, The American Journal of Gastroenterology (2005) 100, 2633–2636

[3] An evidence-based appraisal of reflux disease management. The Genval Workshop Report. Gut 1999;44 (Suppl 2):S1–S16.

This material is copyrighted. Printed with permission from Medicomm Pacific, Inc., publisher of Health.Care magazine and

Did you know?

  • 73% of people will suffer from both heartburn and indigestion. interchangeably
  • 1 in 5 people suffering from heartburn may experience symptoms every week.