How to Get Rid of Heartburn Before Bed
Sixty million Americans suffer from heartburn at least once a month, according to the American College of Gastroenterology. For them, heartburn is an occasional annoyance. But for the 15 million Americans who suffer heartburn every day, it is a more serious problem, impacting their quality of life, disrupting their sleep, and causing a number of medical complications. Frequent long-term heartburn is usually referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Heartburn can be reduced or eliminated for many people, but for some, it’s a symptom of an underlying condition that requires management. In this article, we explain what heartburn is, before taking a look at some of the ways heartburn can be managed.
What Causes Heartburn?
Heartburn, which is also called acid reflux, occurs when acids from the stomach “reflux” or flow from the stomach into the esophagus (food pipe). Above your stomach, there is a ring of muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Its job is to keep acid in the stomach, where it is used to digest food.
When acid leaks past the LES into the esophagus, it causes the pain we call heartburn. The lining of the stomach is protected from the effects of acid, but the esophagus is not. Repeated heartburn can cause more serious problems, such as esophageal stricture and bleeding. It may also increase the likelihood of certain cancers.
Heartburn has many causes. For most people, it is the result of eating the wrong foods at the wrong time. For others, it is a consequence of an underlying condition, such as obesity, pregnancy, or a hiatal hernia. Heartburn is more prevalent in older people and can be caused by coughing or even physical exertion such as sitting up.
Manage Your Nighttime Diet
The most common cause of heartburn at bedtime is overeating. If you consume a large meal in the evening and then lie down, pressure on the LES can force the stomach’s contents into the esophagus. But it’s not only the quantity of food that causes heartburn. Certain types of food make heartburn more likely to occur. Many people suffer from heartburn after consuming spicy or fatty foods. Coffee and wine can also result in heartburn.
To reduce the impact of nighttime heartburn, eat smaller meals earlier in the evening—at least two hours before lying down to sleep—to allow time for digestion.
Keep a journal of what you eat and whether it causes heartburn. Avoid trigger foods that seem to make heartburn worse.
Antacids contain alkalines that neutralize stomach acid and offer temporary relief. If you suffer from occasional heartburn, antacids may be all you need, but they are not a complete solution. If you often get heartburn, it is better to seek medical advice than to mask the symptoms.
Antacids taken just before bed won’t protect you for a full eight hours, and your sleep may still be disrupted.
Being overweight is a common cause of GERD and heartburn. Excess weight increases the pressure on your abdomen, making it more likely for stomach acid to escape from your stomach into your esophagus. Losing weight can significantly reduce the impact of heartburn, as can avoiding fatty or spicy foods.
Elevate the Head of Your Bed with a Home Hospital Bed
Heartburn is more likely to occur when you lie down to sleep. When you are sitting or standing, gravity helps to keep stomach acids in the stomach. When you lie down, acids can more easily flow into the esophagus. You may find that stomach acids find their way into your throat and mouth, causing sore throats and regurgitation in addition to heartburn.
Medical professionals advise people with chronic heartburn to elevate the head of their bed. When the head is elevated, it is much harder for the stomach’s contents to escape. The easiest way to elevate your upper body while sleeping is with an adjustable home hospital bed.
Modern adjustable beds such as Transfer Master’s Supernal 5 feature electronic head adjustments and tilt adjustments, both of which can raise the upper body above the stomach to let gravity do its work. We also make a range of bariatric adjustable beds featuring a head adjustment. Our Heavy Duty beds support up to 600 lbs and our Super Heavy Duty beds support up to 750 lbs.
To find out which adjustable bed is right for you, talk to one of our home hospital bed experts for more information.