Sleep Apnea Treatment May Reduce Night-Time Heartburn

Obstructive sleep apnea treatment may also reduce night-time heartburn and respiratory symptoms, such as coughing, a new study finds.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) happens when the upper airway becomes blocked many times during sleep, reducing or completely stopping airflow.

In people with OSA, breathing stops and resumes while they sleep, and they may wake up several times at night. As a result, they may experience day-time tiredness and are at a higher risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

A new study published in the ERJ Open Research enrolled 822 newly diagnosed patients with OSA referred for sleep apnea treatment with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. It works by blowing air through a face mask throughout the night to prevent the user’s airway from closing.

Before starting CPAP treatment, the patients took part in an overnight sleep study and answered detailed sleep questionnaires, including whether they had heartburn or experienced respiratory systems.

Two years after beginning CPAP treatment, the participants underwent a new evaluation. It showed that people who regularly used CPAP machines were about 42% less likely to suffer from night-time heartburn than those who used the machines a little or not.

Additionally, the decrease in reflux among CPAP users was associated with more than a four-fold lower risk of productive morning cough and almost a four-fold reduced risk of chronic bronchitis.

Researchers say that because CPAP treatment keeps the upper airway open during sleep, this probably helps the valve between the stomach and the food pipe to keep closed, which could stop acid from leaking out of the stomach.

About 29.4 million Americans suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, but only 6 million people are officially diagnosed. President Joe Biden also uses a CPAP machine.

The annual economic burden of undiagnosed sleep apnea among adults in the United States is about $149.6 billion, as the condition causes loss of productivity, motor vehicle accidents, workplace accidents, and comorbid diseases, according to the Frost & Sullivan report.

The signs of OSA may include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Frequent waking
  • Day-time tiredness
  • Coughing and wheezing that do not get better with the usual treatments
  • Night-time reflux

The study shows that a CPAP machine used for sleep apnea treatment can also reduce night-time reflux and coughing.

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