The fiery feeling of heartburn isn’t just uncomfortable. If you experience it regularly at night—as up to 75% of people who have frequent heartburn do—it could mess with your sleep and leave you exhausted. A National Sleep Foundation poll found that adults who have bedtime heartburn are more likely to have sleep issues such as insomnia, daytime sleepiness, and restless leg syndrome. That burning sensation that you experience with heartburn is due to stomach acid flowing back up the esophagus—the tube that brings food to the stomach from the mouth. But here’s some good news: It’s possible to manage the discomfort. Beat the burn and score better shuteye with these tips.
Watch What You Eat
One of the best ways to prevent heartburn before bedtime is to avoid fatty or fried foods at dinner, as well as alcohol and nicotine. Another smart idea: Have your last meal of the day at least three hours before you head to bed. Lying down too soon after eating can trigger acid to rise up from the stomach—ouch.
Sleeping on your right side can cause heartburn symptoms to flare. Sleeping on your left, however, may ease the discomfort, possibly because it helps to relax the lower esophageal sphincter, which is located between your stomach and esophagus. Sleeping with your upper body elevated may also help, so raise the head of your bed or use a foam wedge to keep your body slightly upright from the waist up while you sleep.
Skip wearing any pajamas that are restrictive or tight to bed. Loose-fitting, comfortable pajamas help fight heartburn by taking pressure off your abdomen and lower esophageal sphincter while you rest.
Pop a Pill
Antacid tablets, as well as H-2-receptor blockers, can be used to treat occasional heartburn. But if these meds don’t do the trick, talk to your doctor. He or she may test you for gastroesophagael reflux disease (GERD), a more severe form of reflux that can be treated with prescription medication or surgery.
Watch Your Weight
Putting on extra pounds can place pressure on your abdomen and stomach, causing acid to reverse direction and go back up the esophagus.Talk to your doctor about what your goal weight should be, and keep a scale in your bathroom to monitor your progress.
You’ll be able to enjoy more restful sleep once you’ve put out the fire, but if you’re not getting any relief from these tips—or if your heartburn disturbs your sleep frequently—it’s best to see your physician to rule out more serious health issues.