Multiple studies show that insomnia and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can lead to each other. Insomnia is difficulty falling or staying asleep. It also may cause fatigue, low energy, trouble concentrating, mood disturbances and/or decreased work performance. According to a National Sleep Foundation Poll, over 50 percent of respondents reported at least one insomnia symptom at least a few nights per week within the previous year. Thirty-three percent had at least one symptom almost every night during that time.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, the third most common gastrointestinal disorder in the U.S., is the same as acid reflux disease. You may call the burning sensation in your chest heartburn, but this painful chronic condition doesn’t involve your heart. One in five Americans has suffered from GERD at some time.
Sleep Problems Lead to Heartburn
A study discovered that insomnia sufferers were 56 percent more likely to develop GERD, compared to healthy sleepers. Their symptoms included nighttime awakenings due to reflux as well as short periods of arousal overnight. The researchers found that sleep problem symptoms disappeared in nearly half of a small number of treated insomniacs with reflux. A Pennsylvania State University study of over 1500 people noted that a significant number with sleeping difficulties also voiced GERD complaints.
Findings from a cross-sectional study associated insomnia with an increased likelihood of developing reflux. Participants included 564 people with an average age of 51. The results indicated that the 374 patients with previous insomnia diagnoses had a 3.5 times higher GERD risk. Researchers compared them with the 170 subjects without insomnia, after accounting for age, gender, body mass index, alcohol consumption frequency and depressed mood. The depressed mood factor increased subjects’ reflux chances by 2.8 times.
Among participants whom doctors had referred to sleep clinics, 51 or 9 percent had GERD. These patients scored significantly higher than those without the gastric disorder on three tests. They included the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (average 11.28 versus 9.31), the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (11.32 versus 8.31) and the Beck Depression Inventory (16.27 versus 8.35). These subjects also experienced more nighttime awakenings and consumed alcohol more often.
The researchers noted that the relationship between reflux and insomnia likely is bi-directional. While acid reflux events can cause frequent nighttime sleep fragmentation and arousals, sleep disturbances may alter normal esophageal clearance and increase acid exposure.
Acid Reflux Triggers Insomnia
Previous research showed that acid reflux during the day hampers sleep quality at night, causing insomnia and subsequent daytime tiredness. According to a sleeping poll, America adults who experience nighttime heartburn are more likely to report insomnia and daytime sleepiness than those without nighttime heartburn.
A systematic review of five population-based studies associated sleep-related GERD with insomnia symptoms. One study reported that reflux sufferers complained of heartburn at least four days a week and woke up at least one night per week with heartburn. Typically, they had higher acid reflux levels during the day.
Coping with Insomnia
Life circumstances tend to cause brief acute insomnia. You may be anxious about tomorrow’s presentation or upset after receiving bad news. Usually, this passing sleep disruption resolves without treatment. Chronic insomnia, however, is disrupted sleep that occurs at least three nights per week and lasts at least three months. Environmental changes, unhealthy sleep habits, shift work and other concurrent clinical disorders can lead to a long-term pattern of insufficient sleep.
Common insomnia symptoms include difficulties dozing off, staying asleep, getting back to sleep, waking up too early and/or not having refreshing rest. Talk to your doctor about your particular situation, insomnia history and causes. A single treatment or combination of behavioral, psychological and medical options can help you resume healthy sleep patterns.
Living with GERD
When your lower esophageal sphincter fails to close after food passes through your esophagus into your stomach, gastric acid travels backward up your food pipe. Heartburn strikes as a burning pain in your chest below or behind your breastbone. Other symptoms include inflammation of your gums, tooth enamel erosion, bad breath, belching and chronic sore throat.
Lifestyle changes can help minimize your GERD symptoms. Avoid trigger beverages, substances and foods like alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, fatty and fried foods, citrus fruits, tomato sauce, onions, garlic, spicy dishes, chocolate and peppermint. Eat smaller meals while maintaining an upright, relaxed posture. Lose weight, especially excess belly fat. Wear loose-fitting clothing. Swallow medications with plenty of water while in an upright position. Avoid lying down after eating a large meal. Don’t eat for three hours before bedtime. Sleep on a wedge pillow to elevate your head.
Most GERD patients experience increased symptom severity at night while attempting to drift off or during sleep. If your stomach acid backs up as far as your throat and larynx while you’re reclining, you wake up coughing and choking. Sometimes reflux can cause serious complications including inflammation of the esophagus with bleeding or ulcers. Studies have shown that GERD can aggravate or cause asthma, chronic cough and pulmonary fibrosis. In fewer patients, reflux may result in Barrett’s esophagus, which can lead to cancer over time.
Recurrent and chronic GERD won’t resolve itself. Discuss medications, behavioral modifications, surgery or combination treatment with your doctor. Nexium relieves reflux symptoms by decreasing the amount of acid your stomach produces. For maximum effect, take it a half hour before eating. Save money by ordering all of your prescriptions from Canada Drug Pharmacy.