Sleep aids may hinder detection of nighttime GERD

People who suffer from insomnia may want to talk with their doctors about the possibility of having acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) before starting sleep therapy. Research shows that the symptoms of nighttime GERD, such as heartburn and acid regurgitation, may hinder sleep. If the symptoms are not recognized and patients are prescribed a sleep aide, there is a possibility their GERD can worsen, causing complications of the esophagatis, including Barrett’s esophagus and cancer.

GERD “disrupts sleep, causes insomnia, and is associated with daytime impairment,” says Dr. Susan M. Harding with the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and may lead sufferers to seek treatment for sleep issues rather than for the condition that is causing the sleep disturbance.

The problem, says Dr. Anthony J. DiMario Jr., who leads a research study on the subject at Thomas Jefferson University, widely prescribed Ambien (zolpidem), which works to suppress nocturnal arousals to aide in restorative sleep, also helps people sleep through their symptoms of GERD. Those who sleep through their symptoms may forgo treatment to stop the symptoms and thus may suffer even worse complications.

GERD can be treated through lifestyle changes, such as raising the head of the bed so that the sufferer doesn’t sleep flat, eating smaller meals, and avoiding foods that promote reflux, such as chocolate, peppermint, alcohol and caffeinated drinks. Some medications, both prescription and OTC, are used to treat the condition, but some carry risks.

Reglan (metoclopramide) is a prescription medication approved in the treatment of GERD. A pro-motility drug that works by stimulating the muscles of the gastrointestingal tract including the esophagus, stomach, small intestines and colon, metoclopramide has been associated with a serious movement disorder known as Tardive Dyskinesia. The condition is debilitating and can continue even after treatment has been stopped.

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