How to sleep well with stomach ulcer

Stomach ulcer can cause very discomforting symptoms. But, it should not disrupt your sleep.

A black girl with stomach ulcer trying to sleep with stomach pain

Key takeaways:

  • Sleep problems affect many people worldwide, including people with nutrition and digestive system diseases like stomach ulcers and chronic inflammatory bowel diseases.
  • Doctors typically treat stomach ulcers by prescribing medications like pantoprazole and omeprazole, which are proton pump inhibitors; however, home remedies can help relieve the condition.
  • Things you can do to sleep well with stomach ulcer include sleeping in good positions, taking your medications, and exercising.

Stomach ulcers are open sores or wounds that develop in the stomach lining. The most common causes of stomach ulcers are Helicobacter pylori infection and excessive or prolonged use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Stomach ulcers can cause uncomfortable symptoms like gnawing pain in the abdomen, nausea, and a bloated feeling. Other common symptoms of stomach ulcers include:

  • Lack of appetite induced by pain
  • Acid reflux or burping
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Burning sensation in the chest (heartburn)
  • Pain that does not reduce after eating or sleeping

Anyone can have a stomach ulcer, but the pain and causes vary among individuals. Some people with the condition do not show symptoms, and for such people, it isn't easy to detect the condition. However, studies have shown that people with risk factors like obesity, cigarette smoking, alcohol use, and advanced age have higher tendencies to show symptoms.

When you have a stomach ulcer, it could affect your daily life, including your quality of sleep. A study showed that about one-third of people with stomach ulcers experience pain that wakes them from sleep between 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.

In this article, we discuss the various ways in which ulcer patients can get good sleep.

Tips on how to sleep well with stomach ulcer

If you have a stomach ulcer and experience symptoms that disrupt your sleep, there are things you can do to improve your quality of sleep, including:

1. Finding a good sleeping position

A 2016 study found that women who had a good amount of sleep—up to 7 hours—had lower chances of developing peptic ulcer diseases compared to those who had insufficient sleep.

Sleep disturbances have also been linked to health conditions like hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. People who have already been diagnosed with stomach ulcers usually find it difficult to get a good night's sleep due to pain and other ulcer symptoms. Sleeping in a good position may help them get better sleep at night.

Although there is no "one standard" sleeping position that is best for all ulcer patients, certain positions may be generally helpful for most people. For instance, propping yourself up with pillows may be better than lying down flat.

This is because gravity assists food in going down the esophagus into the stomach and also assists food in emptying from the stomach into the small intestines.

When you sleep, the muscles of the esophageal sphincter, which normally close tightly to stop food from going back into the stomach, loosen up. This can cause some food contents mixed with stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus, causing heartburn symptoms, which may be worse in people with stomach ulcers.

When you sleep with your head propped up on a pillow, gravity can help stop stomach acid from flowing back into your esophagus.

Some people with stomach ulcers also have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This is a condition in which the esophageal sphincter is weak or relaxes when it shouldn't, allowing food to move back into the back or even the mouth.

For ulcer patients with GERD, sleeping on the left side can help move food in the stomach quickly to the small intestine for nutrient absorption and reduce acid reflux episodes.

2. Taking your medications

Most likely, the medicine your doctor will give you will depend on what caused your stomach ulcer, how bad your symptoms are, and what kind of symptoms you have.

A study of peptic ulcer disease drug usage patterns in the Niger Delta, Nigeria, showed that common medications doctors prescribe for stomach ulcers include amoxicillin and a combination of tinidazole, omeprazole, and clarithromycin.

Ensure that you follow the instructions for taking your medications, especially before you hit the bed. This will help reduce stomach ulcer symptoms at night and help you get better sleep.

Do not skip taking your medications, and do not misuse them. Your doctor may give you antacids to help relieve your symptoms but don't be tempted to take them at the wrong times.

Also, try not to reach for NSAID pain relievers every time you have ulcer pain at night. NSAIDs are one of the main reasons why people get stomach ulcers. While they may provide temporary relief, they do more harm than good to your stomach wall.

If an H. pylori infection is the cause of your stomach ulcer, your doctor might recommend antibiotics. Also, your doctor might recommend antacids, proton pump inhibitors, or histamine receptor blockers for ulcer pain.

Taking recommended medications, especially at night, can help you sleep well.

3. Developing a good sleeping culture

A good sleep culture will help you sleep well if you have a stomach ulcer.

One good sleeping habit that people with stomach ulcers should develop is to stay away from their phone screen shortly before going to bed. Light from your phone screen, television, tablets, and computers can affect your sleeping cycle. Controlling your eye exposure to these gadgets, especially at night, will help you get good sleep.

Also, it would be best not to eat heavy meals before bed. Take your dinner earlier and try to avoid spicy food. While spicy food does not cause stomach ulcers, it can worsen the symptoms in some people.

4. Choosing your diet carefully

Contrary to popular belief, diets are not the primary cause of ulcers. Eating spicy foods or skipping meals does not cause stomach ulcers. But there is no doubt that diet and meal patterns can worsen ulcer symptoms or make it more likely that the ulcer will return.

Likewise, the food you eat can help relieve or worsen your ulcer pain. Certain foods may be helpful for stomach ulcer patients. This is another reason why you should choose the foods you eat carefully.

When you have a stomach ulcer, eating foods that make your symptoms worse at night can make it hard to sleep. On the other hand, eating foods that improve your symptoms will help you sleep better.

Also, the time you eat is significant. If you often experience stomach ulcer symptoms at night, you should try to eat earlier—about three hours before bedtime. Eating dinner earlier is generally good, even for people without stomach ulcers, as it can boost digestion and metabolism and reduce blood pressure, ultimately improving sleep.

To get better sleep with a stomach ulcer, it would be best to choose the following:

  • Foods that are rich in fiber, which will make you feel full on time and prevent overeating
  • Foods that have a high pH (alkaline foods), such as watermelons, nuts, and bananas to help neutralize stomach acidity
  • Foods that have a high water content, such as cucumber and lettuce to help hydrate and keep you full

You should also avoid certain foods or dietary habits that can worsen your symptoms, such as:

  • Beans
  • Foods cooked with excess red and black pepper
  • Fried fatty foods
  • Citrus
  • Salty food
  • Alcohol

5. Treating your sleep disorders

Health conditions like sleep apnea, a sleep disorder in which a person's breathing repeatedly stops and continues while sleeping, can disrupt sleep. Some people with stomach ulcers may also have sleep disorders, making it more difficult to sleep at night.

Aside from breathing interruptions, other symptoms of sleep apnea include insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep), loud snoring, irritation at night, and an early morning headache.

If these are the reasons why you find it hard to sleep, then you might have a sleep disorder. It would be best to speak with your doctor about these symptoms. Your doctor will diagnose you to determine if you have a sleep disorder. If you do, they will have to treat it alongside your stomach ulcer.

6. Avoiding taking coffee close to bedtime

Coffee is widely taken by many for alertness and to boost performance. However, coffee can induce gastric acid production and increase the risk of heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux, a recent 2022 study shows.

Another study also indicated that caffeine lowered total sleep time, prolonged sleep latency and efficiency, and worsened sleep quality.

If you have a stomach ulcer, you might want to cut back on coffee and other caffeine-containing drinks so you can sleep better.

7. Exercising regularly

Exercise can help improve the quality of sleep, both for people with and without stomach ulcers.

According to the Sleep Foundation, exercise improves sleep by reducing the time it takes to fall asleep, reducing the amount of time people stay awake in bed at night, and reducing other sleep-related problems.

A scientific study also showed that adequate exercise improves the quality of sleep. Exercise is good for people with chronic health conditions like stomach ulcers and reduces their risk of developing other health complications.

All you need to do is find an exercise you can keep up with and be consistent with.

When to see your doctor for a stomach ulcer

If you start noticing any of the stomach ulcer symptoms mentioned above, you should visit your doctor. Even if you suspect you have a stomach ulcer, the only way to be sure and to find out the cause is by seeing your doctor.

Your doctor will recommend tests such as a stool test or H. pylori urea breath test to determine if you have a stomach ulcer, after which they will recommend medications to treat your condition.

If you already have an ulcer, you can try some home remedies for stomach ulcers. You can discuss some of the home remedies with your doctor to be sure they are safe for you. However, if the symptoms persist, they may need to change your treatment plan.

Wrap up

You might occasionally experience disrupted sleep if you have a stomach ulcer. However, some of the tips in this article can help you get better sleep if you are experiencing stomach ulcer symptoms.

It is important to monitor yourself and note possible triggers that can elicit ulcer pain. This will help you better manage your condition and control the symptoms.

Do you know that stress can cause a type of ulcer called stress ulcers? Read about stress ulcers and the difference between stress ulcers and stomach ulcers.