You’re tossing. You’re turning. And your chest is achy and burning. The haunt of nighttime heartburn strikes again, robbing you of the solid night’s rest you need.Ugh, why did I eat those nachos right before bed?!
If you’ve ever experienced nighttime heartburn, you know that it can be quite a nightmare. Not only are you suffering through those uncomfortable acid reflux symptoms, but you’re also losing precious shut-eye, which can leave you groggy and tired the next day.
Why Is Heartburn More Common at Night?
Acid reflux occurs when the digestive acid that’s naturally in your stomach backs up into the esophagus—a condition that can often be caused by heartburn-triggering food and eating habits. Heartburn is the most common symptom of acid reflux.
“Heartburn is more common at night because when you’re lying down you don’t have gravity to pull the acid down and keep it in your stomach, which is why many people experience nighttime symptoms,” says Roshini Raj, MD, a gastroenterologist at NYU Langone Health and co-founder of healthy living brand Tula.
Tips to Avoid Nighttime Heartburn
Experiencing heartburn at night can affect how well you sleep. “Sleep deprivation is associated with a whole host of health issues, so you really want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to ensure a good night’s sleep,” says Dr. Raj. Here are Dr. Raj’s tips on how to deal with nighttime heartburn.
1. Avoid eating a large meal before bed. “Try to have your largest meal more toward the middle of the day, or have smaller meals frequently throughout the day,” says Dr. Raj.
2. Nix the nightcap. Limit alcohol consumption before bedtime. Drinking before bed not only triggers acid reflux, but late-night drinking can affect the quality of your sleep, too.
3. Rest upright to digest. After eating, aim to stay upright at least three hours before bed to help keep the acid down, says Dr. Raj.
4. Sleep on an incline. “Raise the head of your bed so you’re sleeping at a bit of an incline as opposed to just flat where it’s much easier for acid to come up,” says Dr. Raj.
If lifestyle and diet changes don’t help your heartburn symptoms, you can treat heartburn with medication. “We often give medications, either over-the-counter or prescription medicines, to really help with both daytime and nighttime heartburn,” says Dr. Raj.
Even though nighttime heartburn is fairly common, it’s not something you should ignore. People who experience heartburn or other acid reflux symptoms at least two to three times a week may have a chronic condition known as GERD. If you get acid reflux enough, it can cause bothersome symptoms, like nausea, bad breath, and trouble swallowing, or injury to the esophagus. Learn more about GERD here.
Contrary to popular belief, feeling heartburn regularly isn’t just a normal part of life. “If you’re experiencing nighttime heartburn frequently, you should speak to your doctor,” says Dr. Raj.