Sleep Apnea, Its Treatment, and Gastroesophageal Reflux

There’s no denying the connection between sleep apnea, a sleep disorder which results in episodes without oxygen while asleep, and gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD. Between fifty and seventy-five percent of people suffering from sleep apnea have also been diagnosed with GERD, a medical condition known for causing heartburn, sore throats, and a chronic dry cough. For those who’ve been struggling with GERD and sleep apnea before treatment, continuous positive airway pressure therapy can help both conditions. Unfortunately, the use of a CPAP machine, the standard treatment for sleep apnea, may also cause GERD or GERD-like symptoms, an issue known as aerophagia.

What is Aerophagia?

Aerophagia sometimes occurs as a result of continuous positive airway pressure therapy. Normally, the pressurized air from a CPAP machine keeps narrowed or obstructed airways open so that breathing is not interrupted while the user is asleep. Sometimes this pressurized air inadvertently enters a person’s stomach and bowel causing gas-related discomfort. Often, this problem causes so much frustration that sleep apnea sufferers discontinue their CPAP treatment all together.

Solving CPAP related GERD

If you’re GERD symptoms are the result of CPAP therapy, talk to your physician. It may be that your pressure setting is too high and air is entering your esophagus. Nose breathers may consider switching from a full face mask to a nasal mask. If you’re a mouth breather, try teaching yourself to fall asleep with your bottom teeth lightly pressed against the top of your mouth.

This reduces the likelihood of air leaving the windpipe. You can also ask your physician about medications to reduce gas. Gas-X is available over the counter and works to relieve many of the symptoms of GERD.

Still having problems? You may want to contact a sleep specialist. Advanced Sleep Therapy has created a team of health care professionals dedicated to diagnosing, initiating, and maintain sleep apnea treatment. We’ll do what it takes to solve your discomfort because we believe that better sleep means better health.