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Hi, I'm Doctor Matt Foster and I'm here to talk about how to treat nighttime heartburn for About.com.

Nighttime heartburn is a painful and sometimes damaging symptom of acid reflux at night. It occurs when the stomach acids rise into the esophagus. There are, however, several things that a person can do to relieve this.

First, though, if you are experiencing heartburn more than twice a week, visit your doctor. You may need more aggressive treatment.

Tip to Prevent Nighttime Heartburn

Even before you go to bed there are some things to keep in mind. Remember to eat small meals, especially the last meal before going to sleep. A very full stomach encourages heartburn, and can make for an uncomfortable night. Be careful what you eat, foods that are very acidic, high in fat, spicy, or greasy can all cause heartburn. Learn which ones affect you specifically, and be aware of foods and beverages that commonly bring on heartburn. Skip the alcohol or coffee in the evenings. These both can bring on heartburn. Do not eat for a few hours before going to bed, and avoid reclining right after you eat. Also before bed you might try chewing a piece of gum, just avoid peppermint, as this can trigger heartburn.

When you first lay down at night, there are a few easy tricks that can help you get a night's sleep without heartburn Wear pajamas that are loose fitting, especially around the waist. This prevents extra pressure from being placed on the stomach. Raise up the head of your bed four to eight inches. Now gravity can work to your advantage and help keep the stomach acid in your stomach.

There are a few lifestyle choices that will help you keep heartburn away. Stay stress free. This is of course easier said than done, but allowing a few minutes of relaxation a day can make all the difference for some people. If you are overweight this puts extra pressure on the stomach, losing even a few pounds will help your condition. Exercising and drinking plenty of water throughout the day can help create a healthy digestive system alleviating heartburn. Finally, don't smoke. Smoking both causes your stomach to produce extra acids, and can relax the lower esophageal sphincter, whose job it is to to keep stomach acids in the stomach, making them more likely to raise up into the esophagus.

Medication for Heartburn

There are a few medications that might help with your nighttime heartburn. For mild cases taking an antacid before bed may provide all of the relief needed. You might also consider taking an H2 blocker if the antacid does not provide relief that lasts through the night. The H2 blocker lasts longer, but usually takes about an hour to kick in. A combination of this with an antacid works for many people. Also look at proton pump inhibitors which inhibit or stop acid production. If these are not working, talk to your doctor, there are many effective prescription drugs available for those suffering severe heartburn. In the most severe cases surgery may be required, but this should only be considered if all other treatment options have been exhausted.

Good luck with your heartburn, and for more information, check us out on the web at About.com.
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