Sleep Apnea and Acid Reflux
Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that causes a person’s breathing to be interrupted during sleep. Millions of Americans have sleep apnea and, interestingly enough, there seems to be a connection between sleep apnea and gastroesophageal reflux, GERD, or what is more commonly known as acid reflux. Like the age-old conundrum of what came first, the chicken or the egg, the question here is what comes first: sleep apnea or acid reflux.
The general consensus among researchers is that there may be a casual relationship between acid reflux and the occurrences during the night that awaken people with obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is the cessation of breathing while you are asleep, and obstructive airway sleep apnea is the most common form of this condition. In this instance, your airway becomes blocked when soft tissue relaxes while you are asleep.
Some 80 percent of people diagnosed with acid reflux report the heartburn that is closely associated with this condition occurs most often at night. And if you think about it, this makes sense. When you are awake and upright, gravity prevents the acids in your stomach from leaking back into the esophagus, which causes the painful feeling of heartburn. On the other hand, when you lie down to sleep, these acids can more easily seep backward.
There are sleep researchers who think that when soft tissue relaxes and blocks the airway as happens with obstructive sleep apnea, then there is a change in airway pressure that may cause reflux. Other researchers believe that acid backing up into the esophagus causes the vocal cords to spasm, which may lead to sleep apnea.
Treat Acid Reflux with Sleep Apnea Therapy
Regardless of what comes first, the reflux or the sleep apnea, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that people with nighttime symptoms of acid reflux be screened for sleep apnea.
Occasionally, treating acid reflux means treating the underlying sleep problem. At Sleep Rehab, we treat sleep apnea with top-of-the-line and FDA approved oral appliances. We offer different types of oral appliances. Each of these oral appliances work by repositioning the jaw and reducing airway collapse during sleep breathing.
Dr. Keane Fedosky and his staff also offer the following recommendations for patients who have acid reflux:
- Have your evening meal at least three or four hours before you go to bed, and try to avoid late night snacks.
- Instead of an ordinary pillow, use a sleep wedge at night. A large, wedge-shaped pillow prevents your body from reclining too much at night, which increases pressure on your abdomen and aggravates the symptoms of acid reflux.
- Tilt the head of your bed up, so your head is elevated above your feet. This will reduce the chance of acid leaking back into your esophagus and toward your vocal cords. A couple of bricks or bed risers will do the trick.
If you are experiencing acid reflux as well as some of the symptoms of sleep apnea—loud snoring, gasping for breath at night, a morning headache, sore throat or dry mouth, frequent urination at night and difficulty concentrating during the day—then Sleep Rehab offers comprehensive treatment for sleep apnea that is non-invasive, non-surgical and non-pharmacologic. Contact Sleep Rehab today to find out how we can help.