If you have Acid Reflux Disease or Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD) you are not along. It is estimated that sixty million individuals in the United States suffer from this common disease. Symptoms tend to increase at night and seventy-five percent of people with GERD are stirred from sleep by their acid reflux. Then the question is the following:
Can GERD cause sleep apnea or vice versa?
It is first vital to understand what happens with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) as well as GERD. Patients who are affected by OSA stop breathing throughout the course of a night’s sleep due to an obstruction. The brain arouses the body from a deep sleep and muscle tone is restored. The patient gasps for air and clears their airway. The body again goes into a deeper sleep only to be interrupted again by the airway obstruction. This happen continuously through the night and a level of deep sleep is not maintained. OSA is seen most often in middle-aged men who are moderately over weight or obese. With GERD, stomach acids leak up into the esophagus, which can result in damage to the lining. The disease tends to develop in middle age, especially so in obese individuals, with the valve located toward the bottom of the esophagus weakening. During sleep, if the acid refluxes only into the esophagus, the sufferer will have heartburn. However, when the acid backs up as far as the throat, the individual will cough and choke and thus wake up from sleep.
There is still some debate about whether or not GERD causes OSA or it is the other way around. The results are not clear. Some researchers believe that obstructive sleep apnea results in airway pressure changes that can cause reflux to occur, yet other researchers believe that the reflux of acids may result in spasms of the vocal cords that can then lead to sleep apnea. However, it is important to note that Gastroesophageal reflux and sleep problems go hand in hand. At least 80% of the 60 million Americans who have been diagnosed with GERD report worse symptoms at night, and three in four say they routinely wake up from sleep because of them.
In OSA there is a blockage of the airway. Some researchers believe that obstructive sleep apnea results in airway pressure changes that can cause acid reflux to occur, yet other researchers believe that the reflux of acids may result in spasms of the vocal cords that can then lead to sleep apnea.