Why is Heartburn Worse at Night?

how to stop heartburn attack at night

Do you find that your heartburn symptoms often get worse at night? At gut-smart, our mission is to tackle digestive problems, and night-time heartburn, also known as nocturnal acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD), is an extremely common and frustrating issue.

Heartburn can strike at any time, but it frequently occurs at night when you are ready for bed and can be very disruptive to your sleep.

The painful, burning sensation happens because stomach acid flows more easily into the oesophagus (the tube that connects your stomach to your throat) when laying down.

With gravity no longer helping to keep the acid in your stomach, it’s more likely to irritate the sensitive lining of the oesophagus.

Heartburn at night symptoms

Symptoms of heartburn at night may include:

  1. Burning sensation – the most common symptom of heartburn is a burning sensation in the chest or throat, often referred to as heartburn. This burning discomfort can be quite intense and may radiate to the neck or back.
  2. Regurgitation – some individuals may experience the backflow of stomach contents into the throat, resulting in a bitter or sour taste in the mouth.
  3. Difficulty swallowing – in severe cases, heartburn can lead to difficulty swallowing or a sensation of food getting stuck in the throat.
  4. Coughing – nighttime heartburn can lead to coughing, which may be persistent and worsen when lying down.
  5. Sore throat – Irritation from stomach acid can lead to a sore throat, particularly in the morning.
  6. Laryngitis – chronic acid reflux at night can cause inflammation of the vocal cords, leading to symptoms like hoarseness or a change in the voice.
  7. Sleep Disturbance – heartburn at night can disrupt sleep, leading to frequent awakenings, discomfort, and restless nights.

How to stop heartburn at night

Night-time acid reflux can disrupt your circadian rhythm, leading to chronic sleep disturbances, fatigue and even more gut problems; research has found irregular sleep patterns are associated with harmful bacteria in your gut.

Lack of sleep causes stress, which can actually affect your gut’s microbiome and getting quality sleep is just as important as eating well. It’s recommended that adults get between 6-9 hours a night.

So, if you’re experiencing severe burning to the point where it’s ruining your sleep, there are some easy steps you can take to prevent and treat it.

Waking up with heartburn in the middle of the night? Sleep in a more upright position

Heartburn can happen at any time of day, but it may be more common at night because it’s easier for stomach acid to move up into the oesophagus when you’re laying down.

You can help prevent this by propping yourself up with multiple pillows or by using a wedge pillow to elevate your upper body.

This can stop stomach acid from flowing into the oesophagus.

heartburn can you die from acid reflux in your sleep

Best sleeping position for acid reflux

In addition to elevating your upper body, studies show that symptoms are less severe when sleeping on your left side, rather than right side or back

Changing your diet

Certain foods are more likely to cause or exacerbate heartburn at night, and it’s essential to be mindful of them if you’re experiencing symptoms regularly.

What foods cause heartburn at night?

There are a few common causes of heartburn at night, which include eating foods that exacerbate the problem, such as:

  • Large late-night meals
  • Spicy or acidic foods
  • Chocolate
  • Caffeine, carbonated drinks or alcohol
  • Peppermint or mint flavoured gum (although gum chewing can help)
  • Onions and garlic

To reduce heartburn at night, try to avoid or limit trigger foods in the hours leading up to bedtime or take a natural antacid.

Keeping a food journal can also help you pinpoint which foods or beverages are most likely to cause heartburn for you. A daily diary can also make you more aware of your food choices and eating habits.

what to do during an acid reflux attack

Waking up with heartburn in the middle of the night

If you’re waking up with heartburn in the middle of the night, you’re not alone. An estimated 30-40% of the UK population experiences symptoms of heartburn, commonly at night.

The long-term effects of untreated acid reflux can be significant, including sleep disruption, laryngitis and tooth erosion.

Other serious complications associated with chronic heartburn and acid reflux, include:

Barrett’s Oesophagus: This is when the cells lining the oesophagus are replaced with abnormal cells. Barrett’s oesophagus may increases the risk of oesophageal cancer.

Oesophagitis: Chronic exposure to stomach acid can lead to inflammation and irritation of the oesophagus, potentially leading to complications such as bleeding, ulcers and scarring.

Oesophageal Strictures: Repeated damage from acid reflux can even lead to the narrowing of the oesophagus (strictures) causing difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) and may require surgery.

Natural remedy for heartburn

If you need fast heartburn relief, you can neutralize stomach acid quickly with gut-smart COOL, whilst also helping to support better digestion and gastrointestinal health, naturally.

  • Calcium contributes to the normal function of digestive enzymes.
  • Biotin contributes to normal macronutrient metabolism and to the maintenance of normal mucous membranes.
  • Marshmallow may help to support digestion and gastrointestinal health.
  • Slippery elm helps to soothe the lining of the oesophagus and stomach.

These fruity, chewable tablets get to work immediately, for instant relief from symptoms of heartburn, acid reflux or indigestion.

When to talk to your GP

If you have been experiencing chronic acid reflux symptoms, we recommend that you consult your healthcare provider for an evaluation, especially if they persist for an extended period of time.