Heartburn at night - what to do if the pain deprives you of sleep?
According to the results of a US survey with 2,603 participants, a large number (approx. 45 percent) of heartburn patients also suffer from the painful burning sensation behind the sternum (chest pain) at night. Around half of them experience the symptoms of the disease even more intensely at night than during the day. Falling asleep and staying asleep are the result.
Adequate sleep is an essential prerequisite for the body in order to regenerate itself and be able to perform permanently. If the night's sleep is often disturbed by the painful occurrence of heartburn, the concentration and performance of those affected massively deteriorate and there may be significant health problems in the long term. Because persistent lack of sleep does not weaken the immune system and can lead to changes in metabolic activity. In addition, the esophagus is more severely attacked by nighttime heartburn than during the day, since the reduced swallowing reflex means that the mucous membrane is exposed to aggressive gastric acid for longer and less acid-neutralizing saliva is produced during sleep. In addition, the flat storage in bed helps to promote the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus.
Heartburn (reflux) arises as a painful disease in the area of the esophagus, which leads as a tubular, muscular organ from the throat through the chest to the abdomen. At the transition to the stomach there is a sphincter, which is intended to prevent gastric acid from flowing back into the esophagus. If this muscle is not fully functional, gastric acid enters the esophagus and produces a painful burning sensation behind the breastbone when it comes into contact with the lining of the esophagus. In many patients, this process is further exacerbated by a diaphragmatic rupture. In addition, the overproduction of stomach acid and drainage disorders at the transition from the stomach to the duodenum can also be the cause of reflux disease.
Experts believe that around 10 to 20 percent of Germans suffer from reflux, with around 10 percent developing inflammation of the esophagus as a result of chronic heartburn, says Professor Ekkehard Schippers, chief physician at the surgical clinic of the Würzburg Julius Hospital and head of the department General and Visceral Surgery. He further explained that about 10 percent of patients with inflamed esophagus subsequently convert the inflamed mucosa to highly dangerous esophageal cancer.
However, nocturnal heartburn can be avoided in most cases as well as 80 percent of general reflux diseases by a few simple rules of behavior. If the people concerned only pay attention to a few small things, they are usually helped considerably. The experts advise the person concerned to try to bring about relaxation for body and mind before going to sleep. Learning relaxation procedures, e.g. of yoga, tai chi, self-hypnosis or autogenic training can help sustainably here. In addition, ventilate the bedroom well and most importantly: do not eat any pronounced meals in the evening or go to bed shortly before eating. In addition, a walk after meals is generally beneficial because it stimulates digestion and the stomach calms down.
In addition, the expert advises to raise the head of the bed slightly in order to prevent the backflow of gastric acid into the esophagus even at night. Since the weight in the abdomen is increased and heartburn is promoted in the case of severe overweight, a weight reduction is also advisable for overweight patients. Refraining from alcohol and cigarettes can also help to alleviate the symptoms noticeably. Some doctors and websites also offer checklists for those affected, with the help of which they can change their lifestyle in such a way that the complaints disappear in most cases or are at least noticeably reduced.
If the heartburn persists for a longer period of time, the experts advise you to see a doctor. Because "if the mucous membrane is inflamed and the person affected has complaints again and again, an operation can (also) make sense," says Schippers. As part of the minimally invasive procedure, a possible diaphragmatic rupture can be closed and the sphincter strengthened. This procedure can be particularly advisable for patients who have no effect on the available medication. In addition, "of course, especially among younger people, there is also the question of long-term medication," says Schippers. "Does a young person really want to swallow pills all his life so that he doesn't get heartburn anymore, if you can help him in the long term through surgery?" (Fp)
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