You’re just about to slip into a deep, peaceful sleep, when all of the sudden it strikes. That familiar pain in your chest and the burning sensation that follows.
If all your best dreams are cut short by acid reflux, you’re likely looking for some relief. Try these seven tips from Housein Wazaz, MD, a Meriden based gastroenterologist, to keep nighttime heartburn at bay.
Why does heartburn seem to always strike at night?
To put it simply – gravity.
“The worst thing you can do after a large meal is lay down. When you’re standing up, gravity keeps acid traveling down the esophagus, but when you lay down, the opposite happens,” says Dr. Wazaz.
On top of that, you’re more likely to eat large meals or spicy food at night, and both can be triggers for heartburn. Alcohol is another common culprit, as it relaxes the esophageal sphincter and allows stomach acid to come back up.
What can I do?
The good news, says Dr. Wazaz, is there are several easy ways to reduce nighttime heartburn:
- Stop eating three hours before bedtime. This gives the food in your stomach plenty of time to fully digest before you lie down.
- Eliminate fatty or spicy foods with dinner. Spicy foods are a notorious heartburn culprit, but fatty foods can be just as bad. Watch out for saturated fats in particular, as these take longer to digest.
- Sleep on an elevated bed. Use gravity to your advantage. By keeping your head elevated, your esophagus will stay above your stomach and acid will be less likely to come back up.
- Avoid coffee and alcohol in the evening. Caffeine can increase stomach acid, and like alcohol, it relaxes the esophageal sphincter.
- Drink plenty of water. That’s not just at night – drinking water all throughout the day will dilute stomach acid, and helps improve overall digestion.
- Sleep in loose clothing. If you already suffer from heartburn, clothing that restricts the abdomen will only worsen symptoms.
- Maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet. Excess weight puts additional pressure on the abdomen, so losing weight is one of the most effective ways to reduce heartburn.
A sign of something serious
If natural remedies don’t help or if you have heartburn several times per week, it might be time to consult an expert.
Dr. Wazaz warns that nighttime heartburn can mask more serious conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcer disease or an esophageal infection, which all require medical attention.
But don’t worry – no matter the culprit, there are plenty of treatments out there to help relieve your heartburn.