Ten Tips for Nighttime Heartburn Relief

There are things you can do to relieve nighttime heartburn long before you go to bed.

You know the feeling.  You snuggle into bed hoping to get a restful night’s sleep.  And that burning sensation starts creeping into your chest.  You toss and turn and perhaps eventually fall asleep.  Only to wake up a few hours later with terrible heartburn.  There goes your good night of sleep.  Fortunately, there are things you can do to relieve nighttime heartburn long before you go to bed.  Here are our top ten tips:

  1. Sleep on your left side. Experts agree that this position seems to help reduce nighttime heartburn symptoms.
  2. Lose a little weight. Heartburn often gets worse as you gain weight. Losing as little as two and a half pounds can help reduce heartburn symptoms.
  3. Sleep with your upper body elevated. When you lay flat in bed, your throat and stomach are basically at the same level, making it easy for stomach acids to flow up your esophagus, causing heartburn. You can elevate your body in two ways:
  • Put the head of your bed on 4-to-6-inch blocks.
  • Sleep on a wedge-shaped pillow that’s at least 6 to 10 inches thick on one end. Don’t substitute regular pillows; they just raise your head, and not your entire upper body.
  1. Wear loose-fitting clothes. Tight clothes, especially near your waist, can put pressure on your stomach, leading to heartburn symptoms.
  2. Avoid foods that trigger your heartburn. This may seem obvious, but the fact is that the foods that trigger heartburn vary from person to person. Common foods and drinks that can cause heartburn and interrupt sleep include alcohol; caffeinated sodas, coffee, and tea; chocolate and cocoa; peppermint; garlic; onions; milk; fatty, spicy, greasy, or fried foods; and acidic foods like citrus or tomato products. Keep a food diary to help you track which foods exacerbate your heartburn.
  3. Wait to exercise.  Allow a couple of hours after a meal before rigorous exercise. This gives your stomach time to empty itself.
  4. Avoid large and late-night evening meals. According to the American Gastroenterological Association, you should avoid eating meals two to three hours before bedtime to reduce stomach acid and allow the stomach to partially empty its contents before you sleep. Because large meals put pressure on your stomach, try eating a smaller meal in the evening to help prevent nighttime heartburn symptoms.
  5. Chew gum. Chewing gum encourages the production of saliva, which can soothe your esophagus and wash acid down into your stomach.
  6. Relax when you eat. If you’re still feeling the stress of the day, wait a bit before eating.  Do something to help you relax. Feeling stressed when you eat can cause the stomach to produce more stomach acids. Relax after your meal as well — but don’t lie down. Try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation.
  7. Stay upright after eating. This reduces the risk of acid creeping up your esophagus. You’ll also want to avoid bending over or straining to lift heavy objects.

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