Heartburn waking you up at night? Lying down makes it easier for stomach acids to splash up into your esophagus. To keep acid down, use gravity. Place an extra pillow or two under your shoulders or use a wedge-shaped pillow to prop yourself up. Not enough? Boost the head of your bed 6-8 inches with wood blocks secured under the bedposts. Sleeping on your left side can also help digestion.
Eat Earlier to Ease Heartburn at Night
Going to bed on a full stomach increases your risk of nighttime heartburn. A full stomach puts pressure on the valve at the top of the stomach, which is supposed to keep stomach acid from leaking into the esophagus. So eat at least two to three hours before bedtime to give your stomach time to empty. Try early dinners and avoiding snacks at night.
Skip Chocolate Dessert and Coffee
Both of these after-dinner treats can trigger heartburn in some people. Other common offenders to skip at your evening meal include citrus fruits, onions, carbonated drinks, and fatty or spicy foods. Instead of fried entrees, try broiled.
Don't Exercise Before Bed
Exercise can cause heartburn. Avoid strenuous physical activity, such as riding an exercise bike or doing sit-ups, right before you go to bed. Taking a leisurely walk after dinner and giving food time to settle, however, may actually help prevent heartburn at night.
Don't Overeat at Dinner
Overeating is a common cause of heartburn. It’s better to eat small, frequent meals instead of feasts. Keep your meals small by limiting your portion sizes. Eat just until your appetite is satisfied but before you feel full. This reduces your risk of nighttime heartburn and can help you maintain a healthy weight.
Watch for Danger Signs
If you're experiencing heartburn more than twice a week, tell your doctor. Frequent nighttime heartburn can signal GERD, which can cause a serious condition of the esophagus lining called Barrett's esophagus. Also beware: Heart attack symptoms can feel similar to heartburn. If you're concerned about sudden pain, tightness, or pressure in your chest, seek medical help immediately.
Say No to Nightcaps
Any type of alcohol can trigger heartburn. If you drink alcohol and have reflux at night, try easing back on wine or beer with dinner. And avoid after-dinner drinks altogether. Besides, drinking alcohol can lead you to overeat.
Watch Your Weight
Being overweight or obese increases your risk of heartburn. One reason may be that excess weight adds pressure on the valve at the top of the stomach. Losing weight isn't easy, of course, but trimming down may help with your acid indigestion. And that may mean better sleep at night and less daytime sleepiness.
Quitting Smoking May Ease Heartburn
Smoking is one of the leading causes of heartburn. Smoking can weaken the valve between the esophagus and the stomach. If you smoke, try to quit. Talk to your doctor about medications and other aids that can help you break the nicotine habit.
Avoid the After-Dinner Mints
A peppermint after dinner may sound soothing. But many people experience heartburn after eating mints. Research suggests that mint may relax the valve at the top of the stomach, making food more likely to flow back into the esophagus. To be safe, pass on the peppermints.
Keep a Food Diary
Not sure which type of food may be triggering your heartburn? Learn to recognize suspect foods by keeping a diary of what you eat for dinner. Then, the next day record if you had nighttime heartburn. Look for patterns linking certain foods to acid indigestion. Try to avoid those foods for a few days. Later, add them back one at a time, testing to see if they cause trouble.
Wear Loose PJs
Tight-fitting pajamas at night can add pressure to your stomach, increasing the risk of heartburn. Avoid snug waistbands and opt for loose sleepwear instead.
Chew Gum for Heartburn
Research shows that, for many people with heartburn, chewing non-mint, sugarless gum for 30 minutes after a meal reduces the risk of heartburn. Chewing gum may increase swallowing, thus helping wash acid out of the esophagus.
Bend With Your Knees
At night, whether you're lifting the kids to put them in bed or picking up laundry, bend with your knees when performing evening chores. Bending forward at the waist causes some people to experience heartburn. It's especially important to avoid it in the evening if you experience heartburn at night.
Antacids to Fight Heartburn
Over-the-counter antacids can provide short-term relief for occasional heartburn. Antacids neutralize stomach acid so it won't cause heartburn. Choose from dissolvable or chewable tablets or liquids. If one or two doses of antacid don’t do the trick, you may need to take an antacid every hour through the night to keep acid neutralized. If so, you should see your doctor to determine the right treatment for you.
H2 Blockers For Heartburn Relief
Drugs called H2 blockers decrease acid production. They can be taken at bedtime to suppress nighttime production of acid. Available both over-the-counter and as prescriptions, H2 blockers help about half of heartburn sufferers. Brands include Axid, Pepcid AC, Tagamet HB, and Zantac 75. Some drugs interact with H2 blockers, so be sure to tell your doctor about all your medications.
Proton Pump Inhibitors, Other Drugs
Proton pump inhibitors are available over the counter and by prescription. They decrease stomach acid production, and the prescription versions help heal esophagus damage caused by reflux. Brands include Aciphex, Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec, Protonix, and Zegerid. To control severe heartburn, doctors may recommend more than one drug. Other options: Promotility agents such as Reglan speed up digestion.
1) Steve Pomberg/WebMD
2) Visions of America/Joe Sohm/Digital Vision
4) Hill Street Studios/Brand X Pictures
5) Vstock LLC
6) Steve Pomberg/WebMD
7) Greg Elms/Lonely Planet Images, Dorling Kindersley
8) Terry Vine/Blend Images
9) Charles Bach/Photo Researchers Inc
10) Smneedham/Foodpix, Image Source
11) NOA Images/Photodisc
13) Uppercut Images
14) Hill Street Studios/Blend Images
16) Steve Pomberg/WebMD
17) Mother Image/Digital Vision
18) Surgi Stock/Taxi
American Academy of Family Physicians.
American Diabetes Association.
American Gastroenterological Association.
Avidan, B. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, February 2001.
Ferguson, D. Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy, January 2007.
Gerson, L. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, April 2009.
International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders.
Jacobson, B. New England Journal of Medicine, June 1, 2006.
Johnson, D. Reviews in Gastroenterological Disorders, Spring 2008.
Moazzez, R. Journal of Dental Research, November 2005.
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, National Institutes of Health.
Nocon, M. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, March 2009.
Paluska, S. The Physician and Sportmedicine, April 2009.
Parmelee-Peters, K. Current Sports Medicine Reports, April 2004.
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.