It hardly seems fair, but most folks who have heartburn say the flames burn higher at night. In fact, as many as eight out of 10 heartburn sufferers may have this problem. Even worse, it keeps them from falling asleep or wakes them up with that burning feeling in the chest. This can have a resounding impact on anyone’s ability to function the next day.
This heartburn is a problem that no one should ignore. After all, the consequences of nighttime heartburn can be far more serious than just feeling tired and sleepy after a restless night. According to one study, it means you are 11 times more likely to develop cancer of the esophagus than other people.
That’s why it is important to see your doctor if you have ongoing heartburn. He will prescribe a medication to calm your acid reflux. In a recent survey, however, about half of those who take medicine said they still have some symptoms. So, consider these ways to turn out the lights on stomach acid and help yourself to a better night’s sleep:
- Rest on your left side. Your esophagus angles a bit to the left where it connects to your stomach. If you sleep on your right side, stomach acid is more likely to flow into your esophagus and stay there. Lying on your back brings on more frequent reflux, but, even then, the acid tends to clear out faster than when you are on your right side. Sleeping on your left side seems to be the best solution. You may want to use a sleeping wedge behind your back to keep you facing left.
- Raise the head of your bed about six inches with wooden blocks or sleep with a foam wedge under your upper body. At this angle, gravity helps keep the juices in your stomach. Pillows do not work as well because they make you bend at the waist, and that just puts more pressure on your stomach.
- Stick with light suppers. If you stretch your stomach with a lot of food, you practically force acid back into your esophagus. If you eat lightly and wait a few hours after your last meal before you go to bed, you will have less acid in your stomach to cause problems. This strategy may also help you lose weight – and that could ease heartburn, too.
- Wear loose clothing. For example, choose a nightgown rather than pajamas. Elastic around your middle can put pressure on your stomach and boost your chances of nighttime heartburn.
- Look for ways to unwind and grow calm before bedtime. Worries can bring on heartburn, so try to set aside any problems and relax before you turn in for the night. Professional counseling, relaxation techniques, and regular exercise can all help. If symptoms continue, it is important to see your doctor.
- Nicotine relaxes the valve between your stomach and esophagus, allowing the acid to back up. So, give up smoking as soon as possible. And if you are already trying to quit, do not wear your nicotine patch to bed. The nicotine it releases can cause heartburn.