The Special Risks of Nighttime Heartburn
Nighttime heartburn is painful. It disrupts your sleep and it can lead to serious medical problems.
The Link Between Nighttime Heartburn and Insomnia
The effects of nighttime heartburn aren't confined to esophagus. It can also result in chronic insomnia. Nighttime heartburn can wake you up and keep you up.
"The symptoms definitely aggravate insomnia," says Dave White, who has suffered from nighttime heartburn for years. "I'll wake up with cutting heartburn pain and then have to wait for the effects of [medicine] to kick in, which can take an hour or so. When that happens, I'll just get out of bed, since I know I'll be up anyway."
One study showed just how common nighttime heartburn can be. Researchers questioned nearly 15,300 average people and found that a whopping 25% reported having nighttime heartburn. The results were published in the journal CHEST.
Another survey of 1,900 people with GERD in the U.S. and Europe found that about half had trouble sleeping at night. In these people, GERD symptoms caused a 22% impairment of leisure activities and a 15% impairment of their ability to work. The findings were presented during the 2005 Digestive Disease Week, an international conference for gastroenterologists. So the pain -- and consequences -- of nighttime heartburn go well beyond that burning in your chest.
Controlling Nighttime Heartburn
Fortunately, there are a lot of different treatments for nighttime heartburn. They can reduce your symptoms and your discomfort. They also lower the risk of developing serious complications.
"Lifestyle changes are very important," Cheskin tells WebMD. "In so many cases, we don't need to go to prescribed medications or more aggressive treatments." Many people can find relief by:
- Avoiding foods that can lead to heartburn, such as alcohol, chocolate, peppermint, coffee, carbonated drinks, citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, pepper, vinegar, catsup and mustard, and spicy or fatty foods
- Not eating anything for two to three hours before bedtime
- Chewing gum in the evening to boost saliva
- Putting blocks under the top of the mattress to elevate the head 4 to 6 inches