Acid reflux: Is it causing sleep apnea?

Is acid reflux causing sleep apnea?

If you’re plagued with acid reflux you know that it can occur at any time during the day or night, even while you’re sleeping. Reflux can be one of the main contributors or catalysts behind obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and may generally be the reason you are having a night of disruptive sleep.

Why reflux can be worse when sleeping.

Persons who experience little to no discomfort from acid reflux during the day may often wonder why symptoms flare up when they are sleeping or get worse when they are just laying in bed. Throughout the day being up and about means that gravity is helping to keep the acid in your stomach where it is supposed to be. When you’re in bed, stomach acid can seep up into your throat. Sleep apnea (also spelt apnoea) can exacerbate this.

How acid reflux causes sleep apnea

There is some debate as to whether acid reflux causes sleep apnea in general (and OSA specifically) or vice versa. One theory states that reflux may cause the contraction of vocal cords, restricting breathing, causing sleep apnea. Some researches content that the change in airway pressure during a bout of sleep apnea can cause reflux to occur. While this may seem like a no-win chicken or egg situation the good news is that researchers have found that treating either condition has improved the other.


The use of a CPAP machine has helped those suffering from both ailments achieve a comfortable night sleep. The stream of air provided by the machine through the CPAP mask helps keep your airway open. The CPAP won’t cure the condition but can significantly improve the quality of life of a person using it and may be a good non-medicated way of solving the issue.

Don’t ignore reflux

Acid reflux is much more than just a nuisance or inconvenience. It is a condition that can cause more serious problems down the road. Among other things, the acid from your stomach can erode the lining of your esophagus increasing the risk of esophageal cancer. It is worth a trip to your physician’s office to determine the best course of action to treat both sleep apnea and acid reflux.

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