Dealing with stomach pain at night
Picture this – you have sent that important email, rushed to cook and eat dinner, cleaned up the house and put the children to bed. Now it’s your time to cuddle up and get a good night’s sleep. But as you are dozing off in the world of dreams, you are interrupted by a throbbing pain the stomach. Stomach pain at night is a surprisingly common condition.
In this article, Dr Mayank Madan, a leading general surgeon at the CK Birla Hospital, discusses some common reasons behind nighttime stomach pain and what you can do about it.
What the causes of stomach pain at night?
It is never a pleasing situation to find that your stomach has turned up against you. However, what feels worse is being compelled to wake up from the pain.
Some people experience a disturbing ache in their abdomen usually at the end of the day or in the middle of the night. Stomach pain during the day can differ from the one at night. The primary reason lies in what causes stomach pain to occur.
The following is a list of some common causes of nighttime abdominal pain-
So, you had a fancy three-course meal for dinner. But the deliciousness of the food has transitioned into sharp bouts of pain in the stomach. Chances are high that your stomach pain is a result of gas. Gastric issues are extraordinarily common when people lose or divert from their usual dietary patterns. It can also be a result of stale or uncooked food. A heavy meal at any time of the day (usually lunch or dinner) can often translate into gas. If you experience sharp pain mostly in your upper abdomen, you may be suffering from gas.
2. Acid reflux
Have you ever felt a sour irritable sense in your food pipe or your mouth? Acid reflux is when the acid in your stomach travels back up. It is a common digestive disorder that often shows up at the night in the form of heartburn. If your meal was loaded with spices, you may have acid reflux. Fried and oily foods also lead to stomach pain associated with indigestion. If you lie down right after eating dinner, your chances of getting acid reflux increase.
3. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Your stomach pain at night may also be related to irritable bowel syndrome. Most people experience gas, bloating and a change in bowel movement in this condition.
So you ate a healthy and light meal but still woke up from stomach pain? You may have an underlying health condition that requires a detailed investigation. Sometimes yours nighttime stomach ache can be a result of stones in the gallbladder. Gallstones cause high-intensity stomach pain during sleep. If you have had a heavy meal, the symptoms of gallstones will worsen.
5. Stomach ulcer
If your stomach is left empty for an extended time, then you may feel pain due to ulcers. Nighttime is when your stomach is empty for the longest time in a day. Stomach ulcers cause throbbing pain, especially during sleep.
Several other conditions such as diverticulitis, kidney stones, food intolerances, allergies, constipation, Crohn’s disease, gut and throat conditions can also cause stomach pain.
Read: Foods to avoid to prevent acid reflux (GERD)
What can I do about stomach pain at night?
The appropriate treatment for stomach pain at night depends upon the reason that is causing it. You should try to identify the core issue and address it. For instance, if the pain is related to gas, you should walk to clear up the gas or ask your pharmacist for an antacid.
If you have recurrent abdominal pain during the night (more than twice a week), you should consult a gastroenterologist. Your primary healthcare provider may also be able to guide you towards a relevant remedial method.
Conditions such as acid reflux or irritable bowel syndrome can be treated with the use of medications. Some conditions, such as gallstones or kidney stones, may also require surgical removal for relief from stomach pain and other symptoms. Your doctor determines the size of stones, your complete health condition, age and other factors before indicating surgery.
How can I avoid stomach pain at night?
There are a variety of preventive measures you can take for stomach pain at night. Most precautions require basic lifestyle moderations.
Here is a list of fairly simple lifestyle changes you can do:
- Avoid overeating before bedtime
- Try to go for a walk after eating meals
- Do not eat heavy meals during nighttime
- Maintain a list of foods that you are allergic to
- Avoid eating fried and oily foods at night
- Limit your intake of alcohol
- Elevate the level of your head while sleeping
- Do not miss medications for chronic conditions
- Avoid specific gas-producing foods such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, beans and coffee night
- Try to limit your intake of citrus fruits and tomatoes, especially before bedtime
- Don’t eat with your mouth open
- Avoid talking while you eat to avoid swallowing air
- Try to chew your food slowly
- Do exercises to strengthen your abs
The concluding note
If you experience stomach pain at night, there is no need to worry or panic. Most of the times, abdominal pain at night subsides on its own and does not require immediate medical attention.
However, you should not take abdominal pain lightly if it occurs for long periods or at a higher frequency. You should practice the above-given prevention tips to avoid pain. In case the prevention measures do not work, make sure to consult with your healthcare provider.
More often than not, stomach pain at night results from an underlying health condition. Your doctor would suggest relevant screenings and diagnostic tests identify the real cause of concern. According to the diagnosis and your overall wellness, treatment is offered.
To learn more about abdominal health, book an appointment with Dr Mayank Madan at the CK Birla Hospital.
Also, read: Causes of stomach ache after eating