SLEEPtember Speaker Series: Sleep Apnea and GERD, UARS

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By Eugena Brooks

Researchers estimate that about 10 percent of the general population suffers from nighttime gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). However, the study shows that 62 percent of people with obstructive types of sleep apnea or breathing interruptions (that last 10 seconds or longer) during sleep also suffer from nighttime heartburn and acid reflux.

SLEEPtember continued with a discussion about GERD and upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS). Shelley Berson, M.D. joined Justine Amdur in the next installment of the SLEEPtember Speaker Series.

Topics of discussion included UARS — a sleep disorder characterized by the narrowing of the airway that can cause disruptions to sleep, and GERD, a chronic digestive disease where the liquid content of the stomach (and stomach acid) refluxes into the esophagus.

· What occurs when reflux happens during sleep? Not being able to breathe properly will cause a vacuum that allows stomach acid and content to back up to the throat leading to sleep disruptions. These are not only problematic for good rest but also influence the apnea hypopnea-index (AHI) causing it to disrupt the REM phase quality of sleep.

· Mechanical trauma that occurs from snoring as a result of gasping for breath during sleep.

· Polyps may develop from the spasmatic behavior of the vocal cords during sleep as the patient is gasping for breath. Polyps are often preceded by scar tissue.

· Allergies can influence the situation by changing the natural way we breathe. Humans naturally breathe through their noses, but allergies can cause nasal congestion and result in mouth breathing.

So, if you missed this important and informative part of the series or if you just would like to view it again, you will find it posted on Facebook or