Tips for a Quiet Tummy, Restful Sleep

Medically Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on September 10, 2023
3 min read

Ever settle into bed expecting a good night’s sleep and then find that your stomach has turned against you?

Indigestion. Yes, it can stand guard between you and the slumber you crave. There are some simple steps you can take to help ease the symptoms, though.

Naturally, it’s hard to drift off when you have symptoms such as bloating and a growling stomach. Other things that might keep you awake include:

  • Burning or pain in your upper abdomen
  • Constipation
  • Feeling way too full long after a meal
  • Gas
  • Nausea

When you can manage your indigestion (the official name is “dyspepsia”), you should find it much easier to sleep.

Are you having pizza just before bedtime? Midnight snacks of hot dogs?

What you eat and drink are often at the source of your problem. Try to cut out or at least limit the following, especially 1-2 hours before bedtime:

  • High-fat foods. These move more slowly through your system and leave you bloated or trigger heartburn.
  • Gas-producing foods. These include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and baked beans. Pay attention to what causes your gas.
  • Coffee and fizzy drinks. These can also leave you feeling gassy.
  • Citrus fruits, tomatoes, and spicy foods. These might trigger heartburn.
  • Chewing gum or hard candy. Don't talk while chewing or eat with your mouth open. This may cause you to swallow air.
  • Drugs that may irritate your stomach. Examples include aspirin and anti-inflammatory drugs that can cause an ulcer to act out.
  • Alcohol and smoking. Both of these can irritate the lining of your stomach.

This isn’t all about what to avoid. It’s also about positive things you can do that will ease your stomach so you’ll sleep better.

Do you eat two or three big meals a day? If you do, try eating three smaller ones with healthy snacks in between. It’s easier to digest smaller amounts. Other things you can try:

  • Eat slowly and chew your food up well before you swallow.
  • Buy high-fiber foods, which move through your system more quickly.
  • Try to exercise before meals or wait at least an hour after a meal to work out.
  • Strengthen your abs; this helps prevent swelling.
  • Try relaxation techniques -- think yoga or meditation -- that might help you better manage stress.

Sometimes, stomach acid goes up into your esophagus, the tube that connects your mouth and stomach. That’s called heartburn.

If it’s also an issue, sleep with your head slightly raised. It may also help to avoid or limit:

  • Peppermint, chocolate, garlic, and tomatoes
  • Tight clothes
  • Meals within 2 or 3 hours of bedtime
  • Lying down right after a meal

Antacids or medications may be worth a try. They can curb stomach acid or help food move more smoothly into the small intestine. Talk with your doctor before starting any medication, even those you can get without a prescription.

Your doctor may recommend one of these:

Antacids. These are often the first drugs to try for symptoms of indigestion. They are available without a prescription.

Read the labels and watch for side effects such as constipation or diarrhea. You’re not supposed to take antacids for a long time. If your symptoms last, tell your doctor.

H2 receptor antagonists (H2RAs). These drugs also help reduce stomach acid. Some you can get over the counter. Others your doctor can prescribe. Examples include:

These medications could cause constipation or diarrhea. Also, watch out for these other side effects:

  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising

Proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs). These drugs are commonly prescribed to reduce stomach acid, to treat GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), and to prevent and treat ulcers. Variations are available over the counter. Examples include:

These medications can lead to serious side effects, including:

  • A higher risk of bone fractures
  • A higher risk of developing pneumonia
  • A higher risk of contracting C. difficile, a bacteria that can lead to infection
  • An iron and vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Low magnesium levels
  • Kidney problems