Sleep Apnoea and Reflux: Exploring the Connection

Sleep Apnoea and Reflux: Exploring the Connection

Understanding Sleep Apnoea


Sleep apnoea, affects millions worldwide and disrupts normal breathing during sleep due to the relaxation and narrowing of the throat's walls. This condition is characterized by interrupted breathing, causing pauses in breathing that can last from a few seconds to minutes, often followed by gasping or choking as the body attempts to restore normal breathing.


There are two primary types of sleep apnoea: Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) and central sleep apnoea. OSA, the more common type, occurs when the muscles at the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open.


The Link Between Sleep Apnoea and Reflux

Experts have long debated the relationship between sleep apnoea and reflux, with some suggesting that sleep apnoea causes reflux, while others propose that reflux triggers sleep apnoea. Recent research has provided new insights into this complex relationship.


Two Theories


Sleep apnoea leads to reflux: One theory suggests that obstructive sleep apnoea could induce changes in airway pressure, leading to reflux. The struggle to breathe effectively can create a vacuum effect, pulling stomach and oesophageal contents into the throat, which may then narrow the airways and worsen sleep apnoea symptoms.


Reflux leads to sleep apnoea: The second notion proposes that reflux of stomach contents triggers spasms of the vocal cords, potentially causing sleep apnoea. Stomach juices, rich in bile, digestive enzymes, and bacteria, also contain pepsin – a digestive enzyme produced only in the stomach. If pepsin refluxes into the oesophagus, it can lead to irritation and swelling, particularly in the sensitive squamous tissue lining the oesophagus, contributing to sleep apnoea symptoms.


Research Studies


Recent studies have revealed a significant connection between the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and the reduction of sleep apnoea symptoms.


A 2023 study investigated how positive airway pressure (PAP) treatment for sleep apnoea could impact nocturnal gastroesophageal reflux (nGER) and related respiratory symptoms. The study found that patients who fully used PAP treatment showed a reduced presence of nocturnal gastroesophageal reflux and respiratory symptoms like wheezing and coughing.


Peptest's Role in Understanding Reflux


Whether sleep apnoea exacerbates reflux or vice versa, understanding this relationship can lead to more targeted approaches in managing both conditions. Advancements in diagnostics, like Peptest, contribute to a clearer understanding of these interconnected health challenges.


Peptest, an accurate, rapid, and painless diagnostic test, plays a crucial role in objectively assessing the presence of reflux by measuring the stomach enzyme pepsin in a saliva sample.




In conclusion, there is a strong connection between sleep apnoea and reflux, with research studies providing valuable insights into this complex relationship. Further studies with larger groups of people are necessary to fully understand how often this connection occurs in patients with sleep apnoea and those without sleep problems.



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