8 Hidden Causes of Heartburn at Night and 14 Tips on How to Stop It

Heartburn strikes when you least expect it, particularly during the night. To prevent the dreaded burn from affecting your sleep, it’s important to know what can trigger it and how to put an end to it.

Learn about hidden causes of heartburn, and ways to stop them at night.

What is Heartburn?

Heartburn is a burning sensation in the chest and throat caused by stomach acid travelling upward into the esophagus; the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach.

It occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) weakens or relaxes too often, allowing acid and bile to escape.

Symptoms Of Heartburns

Symptoms of heartburn may include:

  • A burning sensation in the chest
  • A sour taste in the back of your throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Unpleasant bitter taste
  • Severe pain that can prevent you from getting adequate sleep
  • Decreased energy levels
  • Increased fatigue

What Causes Heartburn At Night?

Lying down right after eating: Lying flat causes gravity to push your digestive acid into your esophagus, which can cause burning sensations often associated with heartburn.

Eating heavy meals late in the evening: This can also lead to nighttime heartburn due to the higher levels of gastric acid present in your stomach during digestion.

Other potential triggers of heartburn at night include:

  • Consuming spicy or acidic foods
  • Drinking carbonated beverages
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Certain medications

It’s important to pay attention to what triggers your symptoms and make necessary changes to reduce them as much as possible.

14 Tips for Nighttime Heartburn Relief

Suffering from heartburn at night? Here are some simple tips to help you stop it:

Avoid Big Meals or Dinners Late at Night

The American Gastroenterological Association suggests eating 2-3 hours before sleeping, or having a smaller portioned meal. This will help your stomach empty partially and therefore reduce the acid flowing out of your stomach. Avoid big meals or dinners late at night to prevent nighttime heartburn symptoms!

Relax During Mealtime and not Rush Your Food

To reduce your chances of experiencing frequent heartburn at night, try to relax during mealtime and not rush your food. Following a meal, practice some calming techniques such as deep breathing or meditation — but don’t lie down!

Stay Upright after Meals and Avoid Strenuous Activities

Avoid Strenuous exercises like bending over or lifting heavy objects as it helps limit the chances of acid reaching your esophagus and triggering heartburn symptoms.

Avoid Exercising Close to Bedtime

Give your stomach at least two hours after eating a meal to empty itself, and then proceed with any physical activities you were planning on doing. This can help reduce the occurrence of heartburn during the night.

Combat Heartburns at Night with Gum

To reduce symptoms of night-time heartburn, try chewing some sugar-free gum after eating. This encourages the production of saliva which can soothe your esophagus and push acid down into your stomach where it belongs!

Lose Weight

Even dropping a few pounds can make a big difference when it comes to reducing uncomfortable heartburn symptoms.

So if you’ve been looking for a good reason to finally start that diet plan, now could be the perfect time!

Make Sure Your Body is Elevated While You Sleep

This can be done in two ways:

Firstly, elevate the position of your head and shoulders with an incline mattress or extra pillows.

Secondly, raise the height of your bed by placing blocks that are 4-6 inches tall underneath the legs of the bed frame to elevate it and help prevent stomach acid from travelling up your esophagus.

Sleep on a Wedge-shaped Pillow

Wedge pillow that is at least 6 to 10 inches thick can help to reduce the pain at night.

Regular pillows may provide some relief but will not be as effective in alleviating the symptoms.

Wear Loose-fitting, Comfortable Clothing

Especially avoid tight clothes around your waist as this can put pressure on your stomach and make night time heartburn worse.

Reduce Intake of Carbonated Drinks

People with GERD are often advised to reduce their carbonated beverage intake.

Evidence suggests that regular consumption of carbonated drinks such as soft drinks, seltzer, and club soda could potentially be linked to an increased risk of reflux-related symptoms such as heartburns, fullness, and burping at night.

This could be attributed to the fact that carbon dioxide in these drinks cause people to engage in more frequent burping, resulting in more acid entering the esophagus.

Quit Smoking

Smoking can cause the digestive tract to become inflamed, as well as weaken the muscles in the esophagus that keep stomach acids from rising up and causing heartburn. Therefore, cutting out cigarettes can be an effective way to reduce instances of late-night heartburn.

Limit Alcohol

If heartburn occurs at night, limiting alcohol intake could be beneficial. Studies have linked higher alcohol consumption to increased acid reflux and heartburn symptoms.

Alcohol contributes to the problem by increasing stomach acid, relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter, and compromising the esophagus’ ability to rid itself of excess acid. Some older studies suggest that drinking beer or wine leads to an increase in reflux symptoms compared to just drinking plain water.

Avoid Drinking Too Much Coffee

Many people experience heartburn at night, especially after consuming coffee or caffeine. Caffeine temporarily relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter – an opening between the stomach and the esophagus – which can increase the risk of acid reflux. However, studies on its effects on GERD symptoms have provided inconclusive results.

Some research suggests that it may worsen acid reflux for some individuals as evidenced by greater acid damage in the esophagus; yet, other studies found no significant effects of coffee intake on self-reported symptoms.

Ultimately, if you find that coffee gives you heartburn, it is best to abstain from it or reduce your consumption.

Speak with your Doctor about the Medications You are Taking

Certain drugs, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), some osteoporosis medicines, certain heart or blood pressure treatments, hormone medications, asthma medications, and antidepressants may be causing or worsening your heartburn symptoms.

Everyone’s experience of heartburn can be different based on their lifestyle and triggers – so it’s important to identify what medications could be a contributing factor as well!

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