You’ve gotten into your PJs, turned out the lights, and are all ready for bed—but your stomach has different plans. General discomfort, acid reflux, and heartburn can be a frustrating obstacle after you’ve eaten a big dinner or late-night snack. Don’t worry! With a few tips, tricks, and precautions, you can have a better shot at catching some zzzs.
Sleep on your left side.
You’re less likely to have gastroesophageal reflux (GER) if you sleep on your left side. In a study, participants reclined on both their right and left sides. After reclining, individuals noticed that they had fewer GER issues when they were on their left side.
Research shows that sleeping on your right side makes heartburn worse.
Lift up the head of your bed.
Raising your bed by 6 in (15 cm) can prevent heartburn.To do this, place foam blocks securely under your back bedposts to raise the head of your bed, or slip a foam wedge directly under your pillow.
Treat an upset stomach with ginger.
Ginger helps ease an upset stomach. Chew on some freshly grated ginger, or sip on a cup of ginger tea. Studies show that ginger root can help get rid of nausea and vomiting—plus, it has anti-inflammatory and antiulcer benefits.
Ginger chews, ginger candy, or ginger ale are also great options.
Go for a walk before bed.
Light exercise helps you feel a little more comfortable. You don’t have to do a full workout—a short, slow walk around your home might ease some discomfort as your food digests. A light round of stretching might also help you feel better.
Pull your arm across your chest to do a basic shoulder stretch.
Tilt your neck forward and a little to the right. Then, using your right hand, gently guide your head downward. Hold this position for 30 seconds to give yourself a nice neck stretch; then, switch sides.
Slip into loose, comfortable pajamas.
Don’t wear tight shirts or tops to bed. Tight clothing can put pressure against your stomach, which can lead to heartburn. Instead, pick out a loose pair of nightclothes that won’t constrict you in any way.
Optimize your sleeping area.
Make your bedroom as dark and comfortable as possible. Close all your curtains or blinds, so no light can peek through the windows.Then, adjust the thermostat somewhere between 54 and 74 °F (12 and 23 °C), so you can sleep comfortably.
According to expert research, making your bed each day can improve your sleep.
Antacids are a quick solution for heartburn. Take this over-the-counter medication as needed if you’re having a lot of trouble getting to sleep. However, don’t take it every night—too many magnesium-based antacids can lead to diarrhea, while too many aluminum- or calcium-based antacids may leave you constipated.
Double-check the label to see what kind of antacid you have.
Don’t drink alcohol or caffeinated drinks close to bedtime.
Alcohol and caffeine prevent you from falling and staying asleep.Caffeine is very stimulating, and can leave you feeling wired and awake. Alcohol might help you feel drowsy, but will prevent you from falling into a deep sleep.
Space out your meals and bedtime by 3 hours.
Your body needs time to digest after a meal or snack. When you go to sleep, your body automatically slows down digestion, which can lead to some discomfort if you just ate a big meal or snack. Instead, try to wait at least 3 hours before heading to bed—this will make it a lot easier for you to fall asleep.
It can be tempting to take a nap right after enjoying a big meal or snack. Try to resist this urge—your GI tract will thank you for it!
Nicotine can lead to heartburn. Nicotine, a substantial ingredient in tobacco, causes the valve in between your stomach and esophagus to relax, which can lead to a bad case of heartburn. If you use tobacco products a lot, think about cutting back or quitting altogether.
Support groups and counseling are great resources if you’re trying to quit smoking.