Nearly eight in ten heartburn sufferers experience symptoms at night. If staying up all night isn't the option you are prepared to take for handling your nighttime heartburn, the following suggestions should help you.
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- Eat your big meal at lunch instead of at dinnertime.
- Eat at least two to three hours before lying down. Eliminate late-night snacking.
- Avoid foods that are known to lead to heartburn.
- Sleep with your head and shoulder on an incline.
- Make sure your bed clothes are loose-fitting.
- Sleep on your left side. Studies have shown that this position aids digestion and helps with the removal of stomach acid. Sleeping on the right side has been shown to worsen heartburn.
- It is beneficial to eat 4 or 5 smaller meals instead of 3 larger ones. This will also reduce the gastric pressure. Also, certain foods increase acid production and gastric pressure or they loosen the lower sphincter muscle. You will also want to avoid foods that can irritate the lining of the esophagus, such as spicy foods, coffee, citrus fruit and juices. This is especially true if you eat any of these foods at dinnertime because they can increase your chances of having nighttime heartburn.
- The position you sleep in is important. Lying down flat presses the stomach's contents against the LES. With the head higher than the stomach, gravity helps reduce this pressure, and keeps stomach contents where they belong--in the stomach. You can elevate your head in a couple of ways. You can place bricks, blocks or anything that's sturdy securely under the legs at the head of your bed. You can also use a wedge-shaped pillow to elevate your head.
- Just as loose fitting clothing is important during the day, heartburn sufferers need to make sure their bed clothes are also loose. Clothing that fits tightly around the abdomen will squeeze the stomach, forcing food up against the LES, and cause food to reflux into the esophagus. Clothing that can cause problems include tight-fitting belts and slenderizing undergarments.
- Take an antacid before going to bed. Antacids will work very quickly on heartburn you may be experiencing before you go to bed. It can also be used for those heartburn episodes that wake you up during the night if the heartburn comes back. For longer relief a H2 blocker can be taken, as they usually work up to 12 hours, but may take a couple of hours to start working. One option is to combine the two. The antacid will provide quick relief you'll need until the H2 blocker starts working.
- If you continue to experience frequent heartburn symptoms at night, see your health care provider. He or she will be able to diagnose whether you are suffering from just occasional heartburn, or something more serious, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, an ulcer, or a hiatal hernia. You will be able to discuss with your health care provider different treatment options, including medications such as proton pump inhibitors.