Acid reflux (also referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD) is a condition which causes the acid in the stomach to back up into the esophagus. A number of studies show that individuals who suffer from acid reflux also suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.
It is not fully understood why the two conditions are linked. Some researchers believe that apneas cause reflux symptoms by changing the pressure in the lungs and gastrointestinal systems and drawing the stomach contents into the esophagus. Still others believe that it might be the other way around – that irritation of the esophagus from acid reflux causes spasms in the airway, leading to apneas. There is further data to support this theory: some acid-suppressing drugs used to treat acid reflux have also shown to reduce the risk for sleep apnea.
A third school of thought contends that neither disorder causes the other and that another condition is to blame, such as obesity. Individuals who are overweight are far more likely to suffer from both disorders than a slim individual.