How to Combat Acid Reflux and Heartburn at Night
How to relieve heartburn and acid reflux at night
We all know how great it is to wake up in the morning feeling completely refreshed after having a deep, uninterrupted sleep. But for some of us, this may be a rarity. Especially if you’re experiencing heartburn at night.
If you’ve been waking up with heartburn in the middle of the night wondering why your symptoms feel more severe, it’s because being in a horizontal position makes it easier for stomach acid to leak upwards to your food pipe. During the day, whilst we’re in vertical positions, gravity works its magic, making it harder for the acid to travel upwards and cause discomfort.
Our Comfort Experts (trained by our consultant Occupational Therapist, Julie Jennings) have kindly compiled some useful tips for how to stop (or reduce) the night-time symptoms, along with the best sleeping positions for acid reflux. We’d also recommend speaking to a medical professional to seek guidance on managing these issues long-term.
It’s time to say so-long to that burning sensation in your chest and hello to sweet dreams.
What is heartburn?
Heartburn is caused by stomach acids travelling up towards the oesophagus; it is a common symptom of the medical condition, acid reflux. It’s an unpleasant feeling that can cause discomfort, tightness and pain in your chest. If heartburn is something you’ve been struggling with continuously, you may have GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), which is the more chronic version of acid reflux.
Avoid eating triggering foods before bedtime
If you’re well versed with acid reflux and are clued up on what can cause a flare-up, you’ll know that certain foods are said to aggravate it. We’d highly recommend staying clear of these foods before bedtime and, if possible, cutting down on consuming them during the day too.
The below foods are known to activate symptoms:
- Spicy food and seasonings
- Food that contains a high fat level (fried food is one to particularly be wary of)
- Carbonated drinks and alcohol
Carefully manage at what time you consume food
It’s not just what you eat that makes a difference, it’s also when you eat. Ensuring you’re not tucking into anything too hearty at least three hours before you go to bed can hugely decrease your chances of having an unwelcome early wakeup.
It can take over four hours for your stomach to fully digest a meal, so giving yourself at least three hours is your best bet for avoiding waking up with heartburn in the middle of the night. Making sure you chew your food thoroughly can also aid and speed up the digestion process.
Sleep with your upper body elevated
People suffering from lack of sleep due to acid reflux at night may be reluctant to peel themselves out of their armchair or recliner when it comes time to go to sleep. Whilst we know how comfortable these chairs are, we also know that avoiding laying down isn’t a long-term solution.
As mentioned earlier on, we’re more vulnerable to the symptoms of acid reflux and GERD when we’re laid down. However, this can be managed by sleeping with your upper body in a more elevated position, as the stomach acid finds it more difficult to rise towards the chest.
Some people may try getting their head and shoulders more upright by stacking a few sturdy pillows around their usual pillow – and this is a great way to test whether this sleeping position relieves your heartburn.
If you find sleeping like this helps, you may want to look for a more ergonomic form of support; adjustable beds are specially crafted to form to your body shape to ensure a good night’s sleep. What’s more, these beds will allow you to situate yourself in an upright position with ease.
Offering boundless comfort and ultimate neck and head support, adjustable beds can be the answer many are looking for when it comes to alleviating heartburn at night. If you’re curious to find out more about them, read more in our All About Adjustable Beds Guide.
Try sleeping on the left side of your body
Finding the best sleeping position for acid reflux may also make a difference to the severity of your symptoms. It is advised to avoid sleeping on your right side, as when you’re in this position your stomach is above your oesophagus. This positioning means that the connecting muscles between the two are much more relaxed, giving the stomach acid an easier and higher likelihood of leaking upwards.
You might need to make a deal with your partner to ask them to swap sides of the bed with you whilst you test this method out!
Avoid tight fitting nightwear
Some people have reported that being mindful of what nightwear they choose can impact whether they get their much-needed beauty sleep.
Opting for looser clothing that doesn’t put any restrictions or add additional pressure to your body can help it to function better and reduce any pain or discomfort caused by acid reflux.
Other things you can work on day-to-day to reduce the symptoms heartburn at night
There are other ways to tackle your night-time acid reflux that include making small changes to your lifestyle. Below are a few common changes that are known to help:
- Eat smaller meals more often, rather than three big meals
- Lose weight – our Top Tips for Keeping Active Around the Home outlines small exercises that you can incorporate in your everyday routine.
- Having a balanced and healthy diet can help; reducing the amount of triggering foods mentioned in the above section is advised.
- Reduce stress levels.
Finally, if you are really struggling to manage with your symptoms, it’s always best to seek consultation from your GP.
At HSL, your comfort is our main priority and we hope this article has been of use to you. If reading this article has inspired you to get an adjustable bed, or if you already have one, our advice guide covers instructions-for-use, along with safety and maintenance tips.