Did you know acid reflux causes sleep apnea?

Yep. It’s true. Acid reflux causes sleep apnea. If having one of those wasn’t bad enough already, having both can be absolutely detrimental to your health. We’ll break down acid reflux symptoms, sleep apnea symptoms, and treatments/remedies for both. But first, we have to show you the evidence from other sources that acid reflux really is a cause of sleep apnea. 

Let’s start with the basics, though. 

What is acid reflux? 

The Mayo Clinic defines reflux as, “Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back into the tube connecting your mouth and stomach (esophagus). This backwash (acid reflux) can irritate the lining of your esophagus” (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2020). Unfortunately, acid reflux is prevalent, yet it’s more dangerous than we might think. Not only can it cause sleep apnea, but it can lead to esophageal cancer. That’s why it’s important to receive a test from an ENT and receive treatment as soon as possible. 

Acid reflux symptoms: 

symptoms of gerd

  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Acid in the throat
  • Burping
  • Weight loss
  • Dry cough
  • The feeling of something stuck in the throat

Watch the videos below to learn more: 


What is sleep apnea? 

Sleep apnea isn’t just a lack of sleep or poor sleep. It’s much more complicated than that. Obstructive sleep apnea happens when a person’s airway closes up and stop breathing for 10 seconds, several times an hour during sleep. This occurrence prevents deep sleep, leading to a wide variety of health problems. Sleep apnea can lead to health issues such as stroke, diabetes, and heart attack. 

Sleep apnea symptoms: 

  • Snoring
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Stop breathing while sleeping
  • Headaches in the morning
  • Dry mouth

“Research shows that a relationship exists between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and GERD. One report suggests that around 60 percent of patients with OSA also experience GERD.”

How acid reflux causes sleep apnea

Now, there are many causes of sleep apnea, but acid reflux is one of the most prominent. Think about it: acid reflux gets into the throat and esophagus, which then affects the quality of a person’s sleep. If sleep apnea has to do with the open airways of the throat, then it’s obvious what role reflux has to play. 

Sleepapnea.org states, “Research shows that a relationship exists between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and GERD. One report suggests that around 60 percent of patients with OSA also experience GERD. Sometimes, obesity plays a third role in this relationship” (Sleepapnea.org, 2017). They then continue to go deeper by saying, “When OSA occurs, changes in pressures within the diaphragm and the chest cavity make conditions favorable for acid reflux. It is also thought that an episode of apnea could alter digestive processes in a way that disrupts the function of the LES.  Apneas also cause more “respiratory effort” during sleep. This might force a change in pressure in the esophagus that leads to an increased chance for reflux”. 

It sounds like reflux and apnea go hand-in-hand. 

They’re so hand-in-hand, in fact, that there’s a cyclical pattern to be seen here. WebMD says this: Some researchers believe that obstructive sleep apnea results in airway pressure changes that can cause reflux to occur, yet other researchers believe that the reflux of acids may result in spasms of the vocal cords that can then lead to sleep apnea (Kirchheimer, 2003). 

If there’s a good chance you have acid reflux, there’s a good chance you have sleep apnea. If there’s a good chance you have sleep apnea, there’s a good chance you have acid reflux. 

Acid reflux remedies

Dealing with acid reflux alone can be a pain, literally, so here are a few acid reflux remedies you can use to relieve those burning symptoms temporarily. For long-term relief, come see the experts at the ENT Institute

foods that cause dizziness


  • Reduce alcohol 
  • Reduce coffee
  • Reduce carbonated drinks
  • Avoid citrus
  • Elevate your head during sleep
  • Don’t eat just before sleep

As said above, for long-term relief, come see us. We use various methods to diagnose and treat your reflux properly. 

Sleep apnea treatment

There’s not much in the way of at-home remedies for sleep apnea. It requires diagnosis and treatment to fix. Having said that, here are a few things you can do to get better sleep, despite the apnea. 

Sleep tips: 

  • No electronics an hour before bed
  • Exercise during the day
  • No food a couple of hours before bedtime
  • Avoid naps during the day
  • Avoid caffeine a few hours before bedtime

Again, these aren’t hard and fast solutions. They’ll hopefully get you better sleep, but all-in-all, sleep apnea requires a visit to a sleep specialist. Watch the video below to learn more about Inspire, an innovative solution to sleep apnea. 


Sleep apnea and acid reflux treatment at the ENT Institute

With all that said, you can see how At the Ear, Nose & Throat Institute we treat both sleep apnea and acid reflux. To request a same-day appointment, call or click the button below.

Call 770-740-1860 Book Appointment Now

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