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Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD or Reflux) is a common disorder that is more frequent during sleep. Acid backs up from your stomach into your esophagus. This build up can effect your overall health as well being. While a certain amount of reflux is considered normal, too much can cause a burning sensation in the chest (heartburn), bloating, a bitter taste in the mouth, nighttime coughing and regurgitation, difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), and/or morning hoarseness. If you have asthma, reflux may make your symptoms worse, particularly during the night or in the early morning. Patients with a hiatal hernia are more likely to suffer from GERD.
Patients who snore or who have Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS) are more likely to suffer the effects of reflux. Changes in intrathoracic pressure that can occur from obstructed breathing can actually exacerbate the rise of stomach acid into the esophagus.
One of the most common and effective treatments for apnea may also well with to reduce reflux exacerbated by apnea. Nasal CPAP, or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, uses pressurized room air delivered via a mask worn over the nose and/or mouth to help support the airway and maintain normal breathing. Stabilizing the airway helps to reduce the fluctuations in intrathoracic pressure and can reduce the intrusion of stomach acid into the esophagus While CPAP will not prevent reflux, research suggests it helps limit the frequency and severity.
Reflux can be treated with a number of therapies. Antacids or prescription medications taken daily or after meals may help. Always avoid laying down directly after meals. Consider elevating the head of the bed by as little as four to six inches. Although elevating the head of the bed will not prevent the reflux from occurring, it will reduce the damage caused by reflux by helping the acid drain back into the stomach. Additionally, elevating the head of the bed can lessen the obstruction in the airway, therefore the reducing the obstruction that can exacerbate reflux. Furthermore, your physician may have you avoid certain kinds of foods, as they may worsen both reflux and apnea. These may include fatty foods, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, chocolate, and spicy food. Being overweight is one of the most common factors in both apnea and reflux. Dieting may be appropriate. In some cases, surgery may be considered.