Medical researchers have long suspected that there is a correlation between sleep apnea and gastroesophageal reflux disease, which is better known by its street name… GERD. Heartburn is the primary and most recognizable symptom of GERD and is felt as a burning sensation that radiates up from the stomach to the chest and throat. This sensation is most likely to be felt after a heavy meal, bending over, lifting and lying down, particularly on your back.
GERD is the backflow of the stomach contents into the esophagus. This backflow is composed primarily of acid and enzymes needed in the digestion of your food. This caustic brew is supposed to stay in your stomach and when it doesn’t, it makes it way up your esophagus which can erode the lining causing heartburn and even cancer.
When someone with GERD sleeps on their back, gravity takes over allowing the backflow to seep up the esophagus. When people also suffer from sleep apnea, it is believed that the sleep apnea increases the inter-thoracic pressure. This increase in pressure acts as a “siphon” on the esophagus, sucking up the contents of the stomach.
In a recent study, 80% of the subjects exhibited changes in the tissues of the upper GI tract in both snorers and people with obstructive sleep apnea that were consistent with tissue changes seen in known GERD patients. The most common GI tract finding was hiatal hernia, seen in 64.3% of OSA patients, followed by erosive esophagitis, seen in 45.2%.
“There is an increasing mass of evidence for a link between obstructive sleep apnea syndrome an gastroesophageal reflux disease,” lead researcher Dr. Nora Siupsinskiene, from Kaunas University of Medicine, Lithuania, told Reuters Health.
Their recommendation was for people with sleep apnea to have a specialist to out the possibility of having GERD as well. If you have any symptoms of consistent heartburn, please get it checked out with a specialist. A friend of mine has surgery for esophageal cancer and his life is forever changes… and not in a good way.