Heartburn at Night
It’s not unusual for people to experience heartburn at night. Learn why the evening is prime time for heartburn pains and what to do to ease symptoms.
During the evening, many people plan on relaxing and unwinding from their day. Yet common nighttime practices can lead to an increased risk of painful heartburn – and the discomfort that comes with it. The good news is that there are ways to help prevent, manage and relieve evening heartburn.
The Effects of Heartburn at Night
Heartburn isn’t just uncomfortable, it can impact your sleep too, making it difficult to rest at night and have the energy you need for the day ahead. According to a survey discussed in the Harvard Medical School Guide to Heartburn, “About one-third of Americans have heartburn at least once a month, with 10% experiencing it nearly every day.” The survey also noted that 75% of those who regularly had heartburn at night said it also kept them up at night – worse, nearly half of those reported that “nighttime heartburn affects their job performance the following day.”1
Three Causes of Evening Heartburn – and Solutions
For those who struggle with heartburn, the evening presents some real challenges, including:
Tendency to Eat a Large Meal
For many, dinner is the largest meal of the day. Your stomach needs to build up acid to break down and digest food. And added acid means a greater chance that some may enter your esophagus and cause heartburn symptoms.
Tip: Try to avoid overeating at dinner. Also, keep in mind that certain foods, like those that are already high in acids (like tomatoes and tomato products, and fruits and juices) and/or fatty foods can make heartburn worse.
Built-Up Stress from the Day
Throughout the day, your stress levels can rise increasing the risk for heartburn both directly and indirectly. For example, stress can alter the proper functioning of your body’s nerve impulses and hormone signals, impacting proper digestive health. Indirectly, stress may lead you to overeat or eat less healthy foods, which can also up your chances of experiencing heartburn.
Tip: Ease stress before mealtime by taking a walk around the block, reading a book, talking to a friend or family member about your day or any other activity that helps you unwind.
Eating Too Close to Bedtime
When you’re sitting down or standing, your esophagus is vertical, helping stomach acid stay in place. When you lie down to sleep, however, it’s easier for excess stomach acid to work its way into your esophagus, which can lead to heartburn.
Tip: When possible, leave plenty of time between dinner and when you lie down for bed, so your food has time to digest.
1 Harvard Medical School Guide (2017). Take the Burn Out of Heartburn, p. 2. Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Institutes of Medicine. Boston, MA.