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What is heartburn and Indigestion?

  • Heartburn is a burning sensation in the chest 1-3 that usually occurs after you’ve eaten certain types of food,4 along with other reasons.
  • Indigestion is a feeling of pain or discomfort in the chest or stomach that sometimes happens after eating or drinking. 5,6

Heartburn & Indigestion at night don’t make for a good morning…

From studies on chronic gastroesophageal conditions like GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease), we know that there is a close correlation between increasing frequency and severity of symptoms like heartburn and indigestion and a negative impact on quality of life. This is especially true of night-time symptoms, which have a substantial impact on quality of life and work productivity. 7 Even if you only experience mild symptoms, it can really ruin your day.

Why does it happen?

Studies on various population groups has shown that heartburn and indigestion are exacerbated after eating and at bedtime. 8,9,10,11

Night-time heartburn that wakes you up and general poor sleep quality may arise from the unusually long duration of periods of stomach acid moving into the oesophagus/throat resulting from reflux that occur during the sleep. 11

A lower gastric pH during the night than during the day may also have a role in these damaging episodes. 11

Even from a common-sense point of view, if you’re already experiencing heartburn or indigestion, lying down flat and trying to sleep may be putting pressure on your stomach, which can’t be helpful.

What can you do to relieve heartburn and indigestion at night?

Read ahead to find out our top tips to help relieve the pain.

Heartburn and indigestion symptoms can be painful and disrupt your sleep, so it’s important to try to reduce them as much as you can with some simple changes to your lifestyle.

1. Avoid going to bed too soon after eating

It’s important to give your body some time to empty and properly digest your food before you lay down and go to sleep. Be sure to eat your last meal of the day three or more hours before you go to bed to allow it to pass through your digestive system. 6,12,13

2. Adjust your sleeping arrangements

Find something to put underneath your mattress (such a piece of wood) to prop the top of your bed up, so that you can go to sleep with your upper body elevated slightly. Lying down flat can make it easier for excess stomach acid to escape up your oesophagus causing you to feel the pain of heartburn. Having your head and back slightly slanted will mean that gravity will work against any excess acid to help stop it from moving up into your throat. 6,12,13

3. Try reducing stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety can be a major contributor to heartburn and indigestion 14 and can have a real impact on our digestive system so it is imperative to try to keep our stress levels as low as we can. Make sure you get enough sleep each night and do things that make you happy. You could take up yoga or meditation to help you relax even more! 6

4. Wear the right pyjamas

Try wearing loose-fitting clothes to bed as tight clothes, especially around your waist, can put pressure on your stomach and this could also lead to heartburn and indigestion. 12

These simple changes may be small, but they can have a big impact on the severity of your heartburn and indigestion symptoms, so why not give them a try tonight?

When all else fails, use Gaviscon

Gaviscon is designed to relieve heartburn. It gets to work instantly, soothing in just 3 minutes 15 and lasting for up to 4 hours – two times longer than traditional antacids. 3,4

Gaviscon has been shown to reduce the frequency and severity of heartburn in the day and at night after treatment. 15

How Gaviscon works:

  1. As you swallow Gaviscon liquid, it soothes the throat and oesophagus. 15
  2. When it gets to your stomach, it only takes a few seconds for the sodium alginate in Gaviscon to react with the acid in your stomach to create a protective barrier or raft that floats on top of stomach contents. This raft keeps stomach acid from rising up and causing heartburn. 3,16
  3. Gaviscon Double Action also contains the antacids sodium bicarbonate and calcium carbonate. These antacids effectively neutralise stomach acid, which further relieves heartburn. 16

When should you take Gaviscon?

Take Gaviscon when you experience heartburn symptoms, or when they start to occur, such as after meals or just before bedtime. 16

Please note: All information presented is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. Always read the label before taking any medication. If symptoms are severe or prolonged, you should consult a doctor or pharmacist.


  1. Kahrilas PJ et al. Regurgitation is less responsive to acid suppression than heartburn in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol, 2012a; 10: 612–9.
  2. Vakil N et al. The Montreal Definition and Classification of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: A Global Evidence-Based Consensus. Am J Gastroenterol, 2006; 101:1900–1920.
  3. Meteerattanapipat P & Phupong V. Efficacy of alginate-based reflux suppressant and magnesium-aluminium antacid gel for treatment of heartburn in pregnancy: a randomized double-blind controlled trial. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (44830): 1–6.
  4. Mandel KG et al. Review article: alginate-raft formulations in the treatment of heartburn and acid reflux. Aliment Pharmacol Ther, 2000; 14: 669–690.
  5. NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) Guideline: Indigestion, heartburn and reflux in adults – Information for the public, 2014.
  6. NHS Inform website: “Indigestion.” Updated 14 February, 2020. URL:
  7. Reimer C et al. Randomised clinical trial: alginate (Gaviscon Advance) vs. placebo as add-on therapy in reflux patients with inadequate response to a once daily proton pump inhibitor. Aliment Pharmacol Ther, 2016; 43: 899–909.
  8. Strugala V et al. Assessment of the Safety and Efficacy of a Raft-Forming Alginate Reflux Suppressant (Liquid Gaviscon) for the Treatment of Heartburn during Pregnancy. ISRN Obstet Gynecol, 2012: 1–6.
  9. Richter JE. Review article: the management of heartburn in pregnancy. Aliment Pharmacol Ther, 2005; 22: 749–757.
  10. Matsuzaki J et al. Burden of impaired sleep quality on work productivity in functional dyspepsia. United European Gastroenterology Journal, 2018, Vol. 6(3) 398–406.
  11. Vakil N et al. Sleep disturbance due to heartburn and regurgitation is common in patients with functional dyspepsia. United European Gastroenterology Journal, 2016, Vol. 4(2) 191–198.
  12. Pallentino J. Proton Pump Inhibitor Clinical Trials: Focus on Lansoprazole in the Treatment of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease and Frequent Heartburn. The Internet Journal of Advanced Nursing Practice, 2009; 11 (1): 1–9.
  13. NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) Guideline: Indigestion, heartburn and reflux in adults – Information for the public, 2014.
  14. Farré R et al. Critical role of stress in increased oesophageal mucosa permeability and dilated intercellular spaces. Gut, 2007; 56: 1191-1197.
  15. Strugala V et al. A randomized, controlled, cross over trial to investigate times to onset of the perception of soothing and cooling by over-the-counter heartburn treatments. The Journal of International Medical Research, 2010; 38: 449-457.
  16. S0 Gaviscon Double Action Liquid (Suspension) Package Insert, 3 May 2016.

Article published 1 January 2021