Obstructive sleep apnea treatment improves body’s ability to fight acid reflux

American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine
Thursday, October 6, 2011

A study in the journal Sleep and Breathing found that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) treatment may reduce gastroesophageal reflux (GER) by decreasing strain where the esophagus and stomach meet.

GER is characterized by symptoms such as heartburn and acid reflux. When awake, GER events are usually brief because of powerful mechanisms like swallowing. When patients are asleep, these protective mechanisms end, resulting in longer GER events that increase risk of esophageal injury. People with OSA exhibit an increase in both daytime and nighttime GER symptoms and events.

GER is usually prevented by the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES is located between the esophagus and stomach. Baseline LES barrier pressure was low in these OSA patients. The results indicated that OSA may increase GER events as it strains the LES. CPAP treatment seemed to reduce this strain, consequently decreasing the events.

The study included eight patients with OSA and nocturnal GER. They each took a sleep study. The first half of the night was spent without treatment. The second half was spent with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).

When patients were off CPAP, they experienced an average of 2.7 GER events per hour and 70 obstructed respiratory events per hour. There was no direct relationship between the occurrence of GER and OSA events.


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