Acid reflux and sleep disorders: Both can be hidden
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Shore Dental Sleepcare Provides Information On Acid Reflux And Sleep Disorders To Its Patients In Monmouth And Ocean County
How reflux influences sleep quality
During sleep, a case of reflux may actually allow stomach contents to rise as far as the back of the mouth. This is due to the (usually) horizontal position of sleeping.
While upright and awake during the day, gravity can help limit the impact of reflux to the stomach and mid-chest. However, in a reclining position, gravity can no longer “push down” stomach acid. If the LES is faulty, it may easily fail at its task.
For those who experience reflux during sleep, this means rude awakenings with a sour, burning sensation in the back of the throat. Falling back asleep may require reintroducing gravity at night, either by:
- • Sitting partially upright in a reclining chair
- • Using a wedge pillow to elevate the upper body, or
- • Raising the head of the bed by 3 inches (usually by adding risers to the legs beneath the headboard).
Other tactics include:
- • Use of over-the-counter acid neutralizing medications
- • Sleeping on the left side, as a right-, back-, or stomach sleeping position typically encourages more reflux
GERD and sleep apnea
Research shows that a relationship exists between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and GERD. One report suggests that around 60 percent of patients with OSA also experience GERD. Sometimes, obesity plays a third role in this relationship.
When OSA occurs, changes in pressures within the diaphragm and the chest cavity make conditions favorable for acid reflux. It is also thought that an episode of apnea could alter digestive processes in a way that disrupts the function of the LES. Apneas also cause more “respiratory effort” during sleep. This might force a change in pressure in the esophagus that leads to an increased chance for reflux.
It’s beneficial to know that treatment of OSA by positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy has been consistently shown to result in an improvement to the symptoms of GERD.
Don’t ignore acid reflux
It makes sense to consult a doctor if you struggle with long-term and ongoing problems with heartburn. This means you experience it more than once a week, or have a condition that worsens and is continuous over time.
It’s also important to be honest about any problems you have with sleep (diagnosed or not) or about any of the silent symptoms listed above. Reflux, for instance, could be the reason you have problems with insomnia.
An accurate diagnosis may identify an undetected sleep breathing disorder as well. This knowledge can help you proactively seek appropriate treatment so you can sleep comfortably again.