Nighttime heartburn, sometimes also known as chronic heartburn, is a severe heartburn condition that shows no mercy. Attacks of this type of heartburn are typically severe, and last all too long for the victim. To the unwary person suffering from nighttime heartburn, an attack might even be seen as their experiencing a heart attack.
A burning pain in their chest, and shortness of breath, are two of the most key factors that will give rise to confusion whether the person is really having a heart attack, or merely suffering from heartburn. And although a heart attack is a more ‘respectable’ condition to which you can admit to, to the neighbors, (especially if your partner calls in the paramedics!), heartburn is no laughing matter either. Heartburn, particularly one on the scale of the almost debilitating nighttime heartburn, is an equally serious disorder, especially if left undiagnosed and untreated for a long time.
To fully understand, you need to know how heartburn occurs, and why. To put it simply, heartburn, or the burning sensation you get in your chest, most times after a heavy, or spicy meal, happens when the lower esophageal sphincter does not close properly, allowing the acids from your stomach to come back up.
In a non-heartburn sufferer, this lower esophageal sphincter – or LES – works by separating the esophagus from the intestine, only allowing a one way passage through from the esophagus to the intestine, thereby preventing the ‘reflux’ of any stomach content back into the esophagus.
When the LES becomes more or less permanently loose, allowing stomach acids a passage upwards very frequently, the person is generally thought to have a chronic case of heartburn. In most cases this is borne out by the sufferers themselves, as the heartburn manifests itself in the form of nighttime heartburn. This is a good indication that the person should consult a doctor as soon as possible, since this could only be a prelude to a far more serious condition.
There are however, a few tips that you can use to alleviate nighttime heartburn suffering, although these won’t be able to cure you. Eating a small dinner is always a good place to start with, and if you don’t include alcohol, and acidic food or beverages to your meal, then you’re already better off. Eating at least two hours before bedtime, and avoiding caffeine rich beverages will also help you in the long run.
Elevating the head of your bed, or even using a wedge shaped pillow to raise your torso higher than your stomach area should prevent you from waking in the night as well.
However, the best thing that you can do for yourself if you suffer from nighttime heartburn is to get a proper diagnosis, and get help. There’s no substitute for proper medical attention, whatever you suffer from.