Nighttime heartburn affects four out of five people who suffer regular
heartburn and acid reflux. The discomfort and bitter taste can make sleep
uncomfortable, even elusive.
While over-the-counter and prescription drugs can treat symptoms once you
have heartburn, "the cornerstone of treatment for any disease or disorder is
prevention," say Lawrence J. Cheskin, MD, and Brian E. Lacy, MD, PhD, in their
book Healing Heartburn.
The hiatus is an opening in the diaphragm (a muscle separating the abdomen and chest) that the esophagus, or swallowing tube, passes through to reach the stomach. If the hiatus weakens and stretches, part of the stomach and/or the esophagus can squeeze into the chest cavity, producing a hiatal hernia.
There are two main types of hiatal hernias: sliding and paraesophageal (next to the esophagus).
In a sliding hiatal hernia, the stomach and the esophagus slide up into the chest through the...
Fortunately, sometimes all it takes to prevent nighttime heartburn is a few
lifestyle changes. WebMD turned to the heartburn experts to get their tips on
stopping nighttime heartburn before it hits -- so you can sleep well
12 Tips for Nighttime Heartburn Relief
1. Sleep on your left side.This position seems to help reduce
nighttime heartburn symptoms, says David A. Johnson, MD, internal medicine
division chief at Eastern Virginia School of Medicine, Norfolk, Va. To remember
which side to sleep on, Johnson offers this memory trick: Right is wrong.
2. Lose weight, even a little. Heartburn often just gets worse as you
gain weight, but losing as little as two and a half pounds can help reduce
heartburn symptoms, Johnson says.
3. Sleep with your upper body elevated. When you lay flat in bed,
your throat and stomach are basically at the same level, making it easy for
stomach acids to flow up your esophagus, causing heartburn. You can elevate
your body in two ways:
Put the head of your bed on 4- to 6-inch blocks.
Sleep on a wedge-shaped pillow that's at least 6 to 10 inches thick on one
end. Don't substitute regular pillows; they just raise your head, and not your
entire upper body.
4. Wear loose-fitting clothes. Tight clothes, especially near your
waist, can put pressure on your stomach, leading to heartburn symptoms.
5. Avoid foods that trigger your heartburn. Foods that trigger
heartburn differ from person to person. Common foods and drinks that can cause
heartburn and interrupt sleep include alcohol; caffeinated drinks like colas,
coffee, and tea; chocolate and cocoa; peppermint; garlic; onions; milk; fatty,
spicy, greasy, or fried foods; and acidic foods like citrus or tomato products.
Keep a food diary to help you track which foods may trigger your heartburn.