Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Acid Reflux, Heartburn and Your Sleep

There’s a reason why doctors say you should avoid eating spicy foods before bedtime. The pain and discomfort from indigestion can make getting to sleep a real challenge. People with acid reflux disease (GERD) may struggle with this problem on a daily basis.

Several study abstracts presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology explored how upper gastrointestinal problems such as acid reflux disease and indigestion affect sleep.

People with an upper GI condition are more than three times more likely to have a sleep disorder, researchers discovered. Women appear to have twice as many sleep problems as men.

The authors of the study determined mental and physical factors such as overall fitness were related to sleep disorders in patients with an upper GI condition, but not age or substance use. The principal investigator believes depression and anxiety are major contributing factors.

Two other studies looked at how treatments for nighttime heartburn impact sleep. One small pilot study addressed the problem of drowsy driving, a serious public health concern according to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

A small group of patients with sleeplessness from acid reflux disease practiced driving on a simulated roadway. When they were treated with the drug esomeprazole, otherwise known as Nexium, the drivers’ performances greatly improved. Daytime sleepiness ratings decreased by an average of two points on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. Researchers intend to further explore these findings with larger, blinded control studies.

The final study presented compared the drug baclofen to a placebo. Acid reflux patients slept nearly an hour longer with far greater sleep efficiency after they took the drug. The average number of acid reflux events per night dropped from four to just over one per night. The drug is currently prescribed to treat central nervous disorders causing uncontrolled movement.

Upper gastrointestinal conditions affect 1 in 10 U.S. adults. Common symptoms include chronic pain, pressure and the feeling of fullness in the abdomen.

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