Heartburn At Night: How to Improve Sleep Quality with Heartburn
Ever wondered why your heartburn appears to be worse at night? In this blog, we’ll explore why heartburn tends to worsen at night and what you can do to relieve symptoms.
Heartburn is a common condition, around a quarter of UK adults suffer from heartburn at some stage in their lives.1 It can be an occasional, uncomfortable nuisance which tends to happen after eating – bending down or lying down can make it feel worse too.1
But if it starts to regularly disrupt sleep, it can begin to impact your health and wellbeing too.
Why is my heartburn worse at night?
Heartburn is caused by acid reflux – stomach contents including gastric acid – leaking into the oesophagus and causing a burning sensation in the centre of the chest.1
When the oesophageal sphincter – the muscular ring between the oesophagus and the stomach – fails to close properly, whatever is in your stomach can travel up towards the throat.1
When standing or sitting, gravity goes some way to stopping it from happening but lying down makes it easier for it to travel back up.2
Heartburn can be uncomfortable at the best of times but if it starts to keep you awake at night it can really affect your sleep routine. We’ll explain a little later on why good sleep is so essential.
How can you reduce your chances of heartburn at night?
So what can you do to reduce your chances of getting night time heartburn?
Here are 5 tips to reduce the risk of night time heartburn.
- Try not to eat too close to bedtime. The usual rule of thumb is to eat three to four hours before going to bed.3
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals during the day rather than three large meals.3
- Many heartburn sufferers have food or drink triggers which can cause or make their symptoms worse. Try to avoid these if you can. Common triggers include spicy and fatty food, acidic food, alcohol and caffeine.4
- If exercise makes your acid reflux worse avoid working out later in the evening.4
- Prop up your head in bed with a pillow. Elevating your head and chest above the level of your waist helps to stop the acid leaking upwards. Around 10 to 20cms should be enough.3
Benefits of sleep
We can all feel tired and grumpy after a poor night’s sleep but if it happens on a regular basis, it can have a big impact on our health and wellbeing.5
In fact, sleep is considered to be as important as eating, drinking and breathing and it’s essential for physical and good mental health.5
A few nights of struggling to get to sleep or waking up several times can happen to any of us and we usually manage to get back into a routine soon enough.6
If sleep struggles are an ongoing problem, whether heartburn or a stress-related cause is at the root of it, it can lead to sleep deprivation and ultimately insomnia.6
We spend around a third of our lives asleep, allowing our brain to recover and regenerate and our bodies to rest, rebuild and recharge.5
While we’re counting sheep, a complex process is taking place which allows our brain to process information and back up memory so we can function effectively during the day.5
The average amount of time we need to sleep as adults varies from person to person, ranging from five to 11 hours.5
But it’s not just the amount of sleep we get that’s important, it’s the quality as well.5
Ultimately, we all need good sleep to be happier, less stressed and cope with whatever challenges life throws at us.
Having a few tricks up your pyjama sleeve can really help when it comes to falling asleep faster and sleeping better.
Tips on getting better sleep
So if heartburn has thrown you off a good sleep routine, here are a few ways that can help you get back on track.
- Brush up on your ‘sleep hygiene’ – that’s having a regular routine to improve sleep such as winding down at a set time and going to bed and getting up at a fixed time. This should ideally be at the same time seven days a week.7
- Plan some time to relax and unwind on an evening. Mobiles, tablets and computers give out blue light that stops sleeping to try to turn them off at least an hour before bed. A podcast, soothing music or sleep meditation can all help.7
- If worry is preventing you from going to sleep, maybe write a to-do list for the next day – a good way to put your mind at rest. Writing down your worries or concerns or talking to someone can help you better manage what’s bothering you. 7
- Create the right mood – a quiet, dark and cool environment is good for getting to sleep but try what’s best for you and maybe calm music or ambient sounds will help you drop off. 7
- If you can’t sleep, get up and get comfy somewhere with a book or some quiet music to help you relax. When you feel sleepier you can head back to bed.7
- Regular exercise is great for tiring you out and relaxing to improve sleep, just try to avoid doing it within a couple of hours before going to bed. A healthy diet can also help – again don’t eat a heavy meal before bed and steer clear of stimulants such as caffeine or alcohol. They’re a common cause of sleep problems.7
- Sleeping on your left side may help to reduce heartburn symptoms. Sleeping on the right is thought to relax the muscles between the stomach and the oesophagus making acid reflux more likely.8
While heartburn at night can be disruptive and affect the quality of your sleep, understanding the causes, implementing lifestyle changes and understanding the importance of a good night’s sleep can help you to manage it better.
Speaking to a GP about heartburn & over the counter treatment
If heartburn continues to disrupt your sleep – or you have heartburn most days for three weeks or more – and lifestyle changes and pharmacy medicines aren’t helping, speak to your GP.3
They can provide treatment such as omeprazole over the counter and help rule out any more serious causes.3
Available to buy in most major retailers and pharmacies, Pyrocalm Control 20mg Gastro-Resistant Tablets* contain omeprazole which is a widely used PPI treatment for the symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux and works to reduce the amount of acid your stomach makes.9
*Pyrocalm Control 20mg Gastro-Resistant Tablets. For the short-term treatment of reflux symptoms in adults.
Contains 20 mg Omeprazole. Always read the label.