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    Sleep Apnea Treatment May Help with Chronic Acid Reflux

    Posted: May 21, 2021

    Many people with sleep apnea suffer from chronic acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This condition can cause a lot of different symptoms and can even affect your quality of life. Luckily, research suggests that sleep apnea treatment may help reduce acid reflux for patients with sleep apnea. 

    Research Suggests Sleep Apnea Treatment with CPAP Therapy May Help Acid Reflux and GERD

    tired man lying down needs sleep apnea treatment

    Sleep apnea treatment may help with GERD symptoms as well as sleep apnea symptoms.

    CPAP therapy is the gold standard for treating sleep apnea. What’s interesting is that studies have found it can also help alleviate GERD symptoms in people who have sleep apnea. One 2016 study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that 78% of the participants with sleep apnea had acid reflux. However, after starting CPAP therapy, many of the patients experienced improvement in their symptoms. The average heartburn score for the group went down by about 62% for those who used their CPAP device. The researchers concluded that CPAP therapy may have helped improve acid reflux symptoms without heartburn medications.

    Another study from 2003 also looked at how CPAP therapy affected GERD symptoms for sleep apnea patients. The study found that patients who used a CPAP device saw reductions in reflux frequency and severity. In fact, the CPAP therapy group saw a 50% reduction in GERD frequency on average. Those who didn’t use CPAP for sleep apnea treatment saw no improvements in their symptoms. 

    What is GERD? 

    You might be wondering what GERD is. GERD is basically chronic acid reflux. Many people call chronic acid reflux just acid reflux or heartburn, but this isn’t necessarily accurate. People can experience occasional acid reflux and heartburn for different reasons. For example, after eating something particularly spicy. This occasional reflux is typically nothing to worry about. GERD, on the other hand, is when you have acid reflux twice or more every week. 

    GERD is usually caused by an issue with the muscles at the end of your esophagus, also known as the lower esophageal sphincter. Essentially, these muscles are supposed to act like a one-way valve – they let food and liquid pass through to the stomach and close off to stop anything from coming back up. However, if these muscles don’t close properly, they can allow digestive acids from your stomach to come back up the esophagus.

    Symptoms of GERD

    While you can have GERD without knowing it, there are some common symptoms, including:

    • Burning feeling in the chest
    • Sour or bitter taste in the back of your mouth
    • Bad breath
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Sore throat
    • Persistent dry cough
    • Laryngitis (lost voice)
    • Heartburn
    • Indigestion
    • Nausea

    If your GERD is associated with sleep apnea, you may also have other symptoms like daytime fatigue, snoring, and low libido. If you believe you may have sleep apnea, visit our men’s health clinic to talk to one of our medical providers for help. 

    Complications of GERD

    GERD isn’t life-threatening on its own, but it can cause serious complications. That’s why it’s so important to talk to our health care provider about your symptoms and treatment options. 

    Nighttime GERD can cause sleep disturbances, much like sleep apnea. Heartburn from the acid in your esophagus can be painful enough to wake you up throughout the night, even if you don’t remember waking. This can cause other symptoms as well, like fatigue and difficulty concentrating. When combined with the sleep disturbances that come with untreated sleep apnea, this can have a huge impact on your sleep health.

    In addition to affecting your sleep, GERD can also cause inflammation, narrowing, and permanent tissue damage to your esophagus. This can even increase your risk for esophageal ulcers or even esophagus cancer. Untreated GERD can also affect other aspects of your health. For instance, it can cause dental issues like enamel erosion and gum disease. 

    Therefore, it’s important to talk to a doctor if you think you have GERD. Fortunately, if your acid reflux is connected to GERD, sleep apnea treatment may help with your symptoms.

    People with Sleep Apnea May Have a Higher Risk for GERD

    Researchers are still studying the link between GERD and sleep apnea. However, those with sleep apnea may have a higher risk of developing chronic acid reflux. An estimated 10% of the population suffers from GERD, but an estimated 50% to 75% of people with sleep apnea or sleep disordered breathing have GERD. 

    It’s unclear what the connection is between these two conditions. However, one theory is that pressure changes in your chest cavity when you have an apnea event may be to blame. See, when you stop breathing, your body wakes you up and makes you breathe harder than normal as a survival reflex. This can cause a pressure change which may increase the risk for acid reflux. 

    Some others believe that upper airway spasms from acid reflux can lead to obstructions that cause you to stop breathing at night, leading to sleep apnea or more severe sleep apnea. Therefore, while sleep apnea and GERD are associated, experts still aren’t sure if one causes the other. 

    Your Sleep Apnea Treatment Plan May Help Reduce Acid Reflux Severity and Frequency

    In any case, research has found that sleep apnea treatment with a CPAP device may help with GERD symptoms. For instance, in the 2016 study we mentioned at the beginning of the article, the researchers found that acid reflux reduction increased with CPAP adherence. It’s important to note that they also found there was a minimum level of adherence needed to help with GERD, according to the study. The participants needed to use their CPAP for a minimum of 4 hours a night for at least 25% of the nights for acid reflux benefits. 

    Therefore, CPAP may help GERD for sleep apnea sufferers. Research is ongoing as to why, but one way to explain this is that CPAP helps increase pressure in the esophagus and reduce pressure changes from apnea events. This may help reduce the risk of acids traveling up the esophagus and causing heartburn. 

    Visit Our Men’s Health Clinic for Sleep Apnea Treatment

    If you believe you may have sleep apnea, our team at the Low T Center is here to provide quality, customized care. We’re one of the leading sleep apnea treatment providers in the U.S. and have helped countless men feel better. We take a holistic approach to healthcare, so we look at your overall health to find underlying causes of your symptoms. Make an appointment today with one of our medical providers at a convenient location near you!

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    Disclaimer: This article is made available for general, entertainment and educational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of Low T Center. You should always seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.