As providers who offer solutions for both conditions, we are often asked, “are sleep apnea and GERD related?” To better understand the link between these conditions, it’s helpful to know a bit of background on each.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition characterized by the stopping and starting of breathing during sleep. This can have a big impact on your quality of sleep (often those with sleep apnea are still tired even after a full night’s rest), but it can also be potentially serious for your health.
There are three main types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax and narrow the airways enough that it is difficult to get enough air. The brain will usually take over at that point and briefly wake up to regain control of the airway.
- Central Sleep Apnea occurs when it is the brain that fails to signal to the muscles that it is time to breathe.
- Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome occurs when a person has both of the above types of sleep apnea.
What is GERD?
A person with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) experiences reflux of the stomach’s contents flowing back up into the esophagus. Depending on the severity and causes of an individual’s GERD, treatment may include diet changes and/or a surgical procedure. GERD can affect sleep quality if a person is uncomfortable due to heartburn.
Are Sleep Apnea and GERD related?
The link between sleep apnea and GERD is not entirely clear, but research shows that many people who suffer with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) also experience GERD. It’s possible that the changes in pressure to the organs responsible for breathing (such as the diaphragm, lungs, etc.) make it easier for stomach acid to make its way back up the esophagus.
It’s also possible that the stopping and starting of breath and frequent waking up could interrupt the digestive process in a way that affects the esophagus’ ability to function properly.
Getting Treatment for Sleep Apnea and GERD
If you are experiencing any signs of acid reflux, GERD or sleep apnea, it’s important to speak with a professional as soon as possible. These conditions can have major effects on your health, and should be properly evaluated by a specialist. At ENTFPSS, we specialize in treating GERD, sleep apnea and acid reflux—especially if a patient has had a bad experience with a failed CPAP machine. Contact us to learn more about our practice and how we might help you.