Waking Up With Heartburn? 11 Reasons Why & How To Stop It Today!

An adult man covers his face struggling to wake up in the early morning after sleep while he sits in bed.

Last Updated on January 9, 2023 by theworldofsleepstaff

Heartburn is a burning sensation in the chest or throat often caused by acid reflux. It can be unpleasant and disruptive to people who experience it regularly, especially when heartburn occurs at night.

Waking up in the middle of the night with heartburn can be particularly difficult, as it can interfere with sleep and make it hard to get back to sleep. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to reduce or prevent the occurrence of heartburn during the night.

That’s what we look at right here, showing you the reasons why you’re waking up with heartburn, how to stop and prevent it, and foods you should avoid. Let’s get started!

Note: This content was only written as a reference, using third-party background information. It is not medical advice; as always, it is essential to research and speaks with a healthcare provider if you have questions or before taking any new supplement.


  1. Why Is Heartburn Waking Me Up At Night?
  2. Top 11 Causes Of Waking Up With Heartburn In The Middle Of The Night
  3. 8 Ways To Reduce Or Prevent Heartburn During The Night
  4. 10 Foods To Not Eat If You Suffer From Heartburn
  5. FAQs

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Why Is Heartburn Waking Me Up At Night?

It is not normal to experience heartburn during the night, but if it does happen, it can be distressing.

It is important to note that occasional episodes of heartburn are usually nothing to worry about as long as they do not become frequent or severe.

However, if you wake up with heartburn more than twice a week, it may be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and you should speak to your doctor.

The position of your body when you sleep can contribute to heartburn waking you up at night too. For example, laying flat on your back gives stomach acid an easier path to travel up your oesophagus.

Additionally, eating a large meal close to bedtime can cause the muscles in the lower oesophagus to relax and allow the acid to travel up.

man in bed suffering insomnia and sleep disorder thinking about his problem at night

Top 11 Causes Of Waking Up With Heartburn In The Middle Of The Night

1. Eating Close To Bedtime

Eating a large meal, snacks or beverages within two hours of sleep can cause heartburn. When the stomach is complete, it increases the pressure on the lower oesophagal sphincter (LES), which can cause acid to reflux.

The only way to prevent this is not to eat close to bedtime. So, if you know that your heartburn is caused by eating too close to bedtime, try eating dinner at least three hours before bed.

2. Eating Spicy Or Acidic Foods

Spicy and acidic foods can trigger heartburn, so it’s best to avoid them late in the day when acid reflux is more likely to occur.

Some known culprits include tomatoes, garlic, onions, pepper and citrus fruits. If these foods cause heartburn, try to avoid them in the evening.


3. Consuming Too Much Caffeine

Caffeine can relax the LES, which leads to acid reflux. Therefore, caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea and energy drinks should be avoided before bedtime.

In one study, people who drank caffeinated beverages in the morning and evening experienced more acid reflux symptoms than those who did not.

4. Drinking Alcohol

Alcohol can cause heartburn as it relaxes the LES, allowing stomach acid to escape into the oesophagus. One study has shown that both wine and beer can trigger heartburn, but this seems to be not so conclusive.

If you are prone to heartburn, try to avoid alcohol at least four hours before bedtime.

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5. Eating Large Meals

Eating large meals can make it hard for the stomach to digest food properly and puts more pressure on the LES, allowing stomach acid to escape.

It is best to have smaller meals throughout the day and avoid eating large meals within two hours of bedtime.

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6. Eating A High-Fat Diet

Eating a lot of fatty foods can slow down digestion and increase your risk of developing acid reflux.

This is because fats take longer to digest and move through the digestive system, which can cause acid to linger in the stomach and reflux back up.

If you are worried about having heartburn at night, try to limit your fat intake throughout the day.

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7. Stress

Stress can increase levels of a hormone called cortisol, which has been linked to an increase in acid reflux symptoms.

If you are prone to heartburn at night, try to reduce stress during the day and practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing or yoga.

Some people have reported that magnesium supplements have helped with their stress-induced heartburn.

8. Being Overweight

Being overweight or obese can put extra pressure on the stomach, leading to more frequent acid reflux episodes. Losing weight and exercising regularly may help reduce your risk of experiencing heartburn at night.

Overweight woman with tape is measuring fat on belly

9. Smoking

Smoking can also increase your risk of developing acid reflux. This is because the nicotine in cigarettes relaxes the LES, allowing stomach acid to escape into the oesophagus and cause heartburn.

If you are a smoker, try to quit or reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke throughout the day.

10. Certain Medications

Certain medications can relax the LES, which causes stomach acid to reflux into the oesophagus. These include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen.

Talk to your doctor about your medications and see if any of them may be causing your heartburn at night. Your doctor may be able to recommend an alternative medication that won’t cause reflux.

11. Bending Over Or Lying Down

When you bend over or lie down, the pressure in your abdomen increases and can push stomach acid up into your oesophagus. Therefore, it is best to avoid bending over or lying down for at least two hours after eating a meal.

You should also avoid bending over or lying down shortly before bedtime. Instead, try to stay upright for at least an hour before you go to sleep.

If you are experiencing frequent heartburn in the middle of the night, try these tips to see if they help reduce your symptoms. As always, if your symptoms continue or worsen, be sure to talk to your doctor so that they can diagnose and treat the underlying cause.

Man sleeping in his bed and snoring loudly

8 Ways To Reduce Or Prevent Heartburn During The Night

There are several strategies you can try to reduce or prevent heartburn at night:

1. Avoid Eating Late At Night Or Close To Bedtime

Try to finish your last meal of the day a few hours before you go to bed so that your stomach has time to digest it properly.

If you cannot manage to eat earlier, then try to stick to a light snack and avoid acidic or spicy foods.

2. Sleep On Your Left Side

One study found that sleeping on your left side is more effective at preventing heartburn than sleeping on your right or back.

This is because sleeping on the left puts less pressure on the lower oesophagal sphincter, making it easier for your body to prevent stomach acid from flowing back into your oesophagus.

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Photo via Unsplash+

3. Wait To Lie Down Immediately After Eating

Give yourself at least an hour before you go to bed so your stomach can digest the food properly.

Also, prop your head up slightly higher on your pillow. This will help keep the stomach acid from flowing back into your oesophagus while you sleep.

4. Wear Loose-Fitting Clothing & Sleep In A Cool Room

Tight clothing can put extra pressure on your abdomen, which can cause heartburn.

Try sleeping in a room that is at least slightly cooler than your average body temperature, as warm environments can make heartburn worse.

5. Quit Smoking

Smoking can make heartburn worse, so it is essential to quit if you are a smoker. However, quitting smoking can also have other positive health benefits, such as reducing your risk of developing lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses.

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6. Take An Antacid Before Bedtime

If you know you are prone to heartburn at night, try taking an antacid for about 30 minutes before bed. This can help reduce the amount of stomach acid that flows back into your oesophagus as you sleep.

7. Stay Away From Foods & Beverages That Trigger Heartburn

Common triggers include citrus fruits, tomatoes, chocolate, coffee, alcohol, spicy foods, and fatty or fried foods. Keeping a food diary can help you identify which of these items may be causing your heartburn during the night so that you can avoid them in the future.

8. If Symptoms Persist, Consult Your Doctor

If none of these strategies is helping to reduce your heartburn or if it is keeping you awake throughout the night, it is best to speak with a doctor. They may be able to provide further advice or prescribe medications which can help alleviate your symptoms.

Shot of a woman doctor having a consultation with a patient

10 Foods To Not Eat If You Suffer From Heartburn

Knowing what foods and drinks can further exacerbate your symptoms is essential if you have heartburn in the middle of the night.

Generally, acidic foods like citrus and tomato-based products should be avoided, but here are the top foods to steer clear of if you experience nighttime heartburn:

1. High-Fat Foods

Heavy, greasy meals may sit in the stomach for a long time, causing increased pressure and acid reflux. This includes fried foods such as french fries, burgers, and pizza.

2. Garlic & Onions

Garlic and onions are highly acidic ingredients that can aggravate your heartburn. If you experience burning after eating either, avoid them in the future.

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3. Spicy Foods

Many spices contain capsaicin, an ingredient that heightens acid production in the stomach. Therefore, foods like hot peppers, curries, and salsa should be avoided if you have heartburn.

4. Chocolate

Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, two stimulants that can increase acid production in the stomach. So steer clear of any form of chocolate if you experience heartburn.

5. Alcohol

Alcohol relaxes the muscle between the stomach and the oesophagus, allowing acid to enter the oesophagus quickly. Therefore, if you experience heartburn, abstain from drinking alcohol.

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iStock.com/Yana Tikhonova

6. Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits like oranges and lemons are highly acidic and can aggravate heartburn. Avoid them if possible, but if you eat them, make sure to have some form of dairy or a neutralizing agent like bread to help absorb the acid.

7. Carbonated Drinks

Carbonation in soda and other beverages can increase the acidity of your stomach, aggravating heartburn. Avoid these drinks if you experience burning after consuming them.

Learning what foods to avoid is a vital part of managing heartburn. Stick to low-fat, non-acidic foods like oats or omelettes, and make sure to drink plenty of water. If your heartburn persists after changing your diet, speak with a doctor about taking medication or other treatment options.

8. Caffeinated Drinks

Caffeine can act as a stimulant, increasing acid production in the stomach and aggravating heartburn. Therefore, coffee, tea and energy drinks should be avoided if you experience burning after consuming them.


9. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are acidic and can cause heartburn when consumed in large amounts. Therefore, if you eat tomatoes, it’s best to reduce the quantity and combine them with a non-acidic food like potatoes or rice.

10. Mint

Mint can relax the sphincter between your stomach and oesophagus, allowing acid to enter the oesophagus more easily. Avoid mint in any form if you experience heartburn.

Avoiding these trigger foods and drinks can reduce your risk of experiencing heartburn in the middle of the night. If you suffer from frequent bouts of nighttime heartburn, speak with a doctor about a treatment plan.

cups of tea with mint on wooden


Does drinking water help heartburn?

Yes, drinking water can help reduce heartburn. Water helps dilute the stomach acid in your oesophagus, which can help relieve the burning sensation of heartburn.

Drinking room-temperature or warm water is best since cold water can worsen heartburn symptoms.

Can I drink hot water for acid reflux?

Yes, drinking hot water can help reduce acid reflux. The hot water helps to dilute the stomach acid and provides some relief from the burning sensation. However, it is essential to be careful not to drink too much, as it can worsen your symptoms.

How long does heartburn last?

Heartburn can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours and is often caused by certain foods or drinks that trigger the symptoms. If your heartburn does not subside after an hour or two, consult a doctor for further advice.

Worried man in his 30s with a sore and irritated throat
iStock.com/Antonio Diaz


In conclusion, avoiding certain foods can effectively deal with heartburn symptoms in the middle of the night. High-fat foods, garlic and onions, spicy foods, chocolate, alcohol, citrus fruits and carbonated drinks should all be avoided if you experience heartburn.

Eating low-fat, non-acidic foods like oatmeal and omelettes can help reduce symptoms. If your heartburn continues after making dietary changes, speak with a doctor about other treatment options.