Among the conditions associated with sleep apnea is GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disease, in which stomach acid bubbles up out of the stomach to damage the throat and teeth. This condition is painful and disruptive to sleep. About 80% of GERD sufferers say their symptoms are worse at night, and many say the symptoms cause them to wake up.

There is still some dispute about whether there’s a causal relationship between sleep apnea and GERD, but we know that the two conditions are commonly found together. Now, a new study shows that treating sleep apnea may actually help alleviate GERD symptoms.

A Dramatic Improvement in GERD Symptoms

This study looked at 85 patients with obstructive sleep apnea. Of these 85 patients 6 had to be excluded from the study because they started taking medication for their GERD. Of the remaining 79 patients, 62 (78%) complained of nightly GERD symptoms on the entrance questionnaire.

Sleep apnea treatment can reduce GERD symptoms

Patient received Epworth Sleepiness Score (ESS) evaluation and other biometric measurements were recorded. Patients were prescribed CPAP for six months, then their GERD and sleep apnea were evaluated again. Objective compliance data was downloaded from their CPAP machines to ensure accuracy. This was an improvement over earlier studies that relied on self-reported compliance data.

At the start of the study, GERD symptoms were related to sleep efficiency, and sleep apnea severity correlated with obesity.

All patients experienced improved sleepiness and GERD symptoms, but CPAP compliance was of course an issue. Patients who were compliant with CPAP (four hours per night on a minimum of 70% of nights) got the most benefit, a decrease of 62% in their GERD symptoms. Patients needed to use CPAP for a minimum of 25% of nights to see any benefit.

Will Oral Appliances Work for GERD?

Of course this study has the same problem as many sleep apnea studies: by focusing solely on CPAP, the study doesn’t show whether any sleep apnea treatment option will result in GERD improvement. In this case, it seems likely that oral appliances will help.

At the beginning of the study, the primary factor correlated with GERD severity was sleep efficiency. Since oral appliances are capable of improving sleep efficiency, it’s likely that they will help reduce GERD symptoms as well.

If you suffer from nighttime GERD, it may be an indicator that you also have sleep apnea. To learn more about the connection and get effective, comfortable, convenient treatment options, please call (402) 493-4175 today for an appointment with Omaha sleep dentist Dr. Roger Roubal at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.