Most people have experienced hiccups during their lifetime. Hiccups occur due to sudden involuntary contraction of diaphragm. Diaphragm is a dome shaped muscle of respiration. This muscle contracts every time a person breathes in. This facilitates the lungs to expand so that enough air can enter into the lungs. Hiccups occur when diaphragm contract suddenly without any correlation of breathing in. Soon after such involuntary spasm of diaphragm the vocal cord abruptly closes. The closure of vocal cord produces sudden ‘Hic’ sound which we refer to as hiccup. Although uncomfortable and embarrassing, hiccups occur for short period of time and it is not a major health concern.
Causes of hiccups at night:
Hiccups can occur due to several causes. It usually occurs during daytime. But occasionally some people may also experience them at night while sleeping. Hiccups at night can disturb a person’s sleep.
- Eating or drinking before sleeping: Eating a large meal before sleeping can produce hiccups. A large meal expands the stomach. The distended stomach can press diaphragm and trigger sudden spasm causing hiccups. Same way drinking of too much of aerated drinks before bedtime can cause hiccups. The air produced by carbonated drinks can distend the stomach and trigger contraction of diaphragm.
- Consuming alcohol before sleeping is an important reason for hiccups during night sleep. When alcohol is consumed in large amount, it not only distends the stomach but also irritates the lining of stomach. The irritation can stimulate vagus nerve which also innervated the diaphragm. It can thus produce involuntary spasm of diaphragm and hiccups.
- Gastrointestinal reflux disease: It is a condition in which the gastric content moves up towards the lower end of esophagus. A weak lower esophageal sphincter fails to close when food is consumed. Some part of stomach content which also includes stomach acids thus moves upwards irritating the esophageal lining. The acid and enzymes can irritate the nerve present in the esophagus which also has connection with the diaphragm. Irritation of the nerve can cause contraction of diaphragm and resultant hiccups. Reflux usually occurs when lying down during sleep, especially if the person eats of drink near bedtime. A large meal before sleep can worsen the condition.
- There are several other medical conditions that may cause hiccups. Medical ailments such as stroke, brain tumor, tumor in neck, enlarged thyroid gland, pneumonia and other lung infections can irritate the diaphragm which may cause hiccups. Hiccups in such conditions can occur at night and even during day.
- Hiccups can be present in diseases such as electrolyte imbalance, reduced kidney function, diabetic ketoacidosis etc.
- Several medications are known to produce hiccups as their side effects. Certain medicines that are consumed at bedtime can cause hiccups during sleep. For example sleep inducing medicines, high blood pressure medicines, opioid group of drugs etc.
- Nighttime hiccups during pregnancy are not uncommon. It usually occurs during the second and third trimester of pregnancy. The growing size of uterus compresses the stomach and diaphragm especially while sleeping. This may trigger unwanted involuntary spasm of the diaphragm which can further lead to hiccups.
Measure to stop hiccups at night:
Hiccups usually does not need any specific treatment because in most cases it is short lived. However, if it occurs at night, patients sleep gets disturbed. Hence some home measures are helpful to control and stop discomforting hiccups at night.
- Avoid eating too late just before bedtime. This will help in preventing hiccups at night.
- Certain pressure points are beneficial in stopping hiccups. Press your finger for few minutes in the grove between the upper lip and nose.
- Hold your breath for few seconds. This increases level of carbon dioxide in the blood. This causes some changes in brain so that your mind gets distracted. The cycle of hiccups is stopped.
- Breathe in paper bag. This increases carbon dioxide lungs. It helps in relaxing the diaphragm and stops the involuntary contractions.
- Homeopathic medicines such as cocculus, cuprum met, cyclamen, Ignatia, Nux vomica etc are effective in stopping hiccups.