From the Journals

Frequency and duration of GERD symptoms associated with poor sleep



Gastroesophageal reflux symptoms in women may increase the risk of poor sleep quality, shows a recent analysis of the Nurses’ Health Study II published in JAMA Network Open.

The findings suggest that treating gastroesophageal reflux may do more than offer symptomatic relief, but it could improve the chances of a good night’s rest by addressing comorbidities associated with poor sleep quality, wrote authors who were led by Andrew T. Chan, MD, MPH, of the Clinical and Translational Epidemiology Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.

“Approximately 20% of the U.S. population experiences gastroesophageal reflux (GER) symptoms at least once a week, and the worldwide prevalence of GER disease (GERD) has been increasing. Beyond its association with quality of life, GERD is also associated with long-term complications, including Barrett esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma,” the authors wrote. “In this prospective cohort study, we found that GER symptoms were associated with an increase in subsequent risk of poor sleep quality. Although risk was somewhat attenuated among women who regularly used PPIs [proton pump inhibitors] and/or H2RAs [histamine2-receptor antagonists], the risk of poor sleep quality remained significantly higher among those who experienced GER symptoms at least once a week.”

A growing body of evidence suggests that GERD may be one of those lesser known risk factors of poor sleep quality (trouble falling asleep, sleep disturbance, daytime sleepiness, or restlessness of sleep). But data on the subject are scarce, compelling researchers to conduct the present investigation.

The analysis drew data from the Nurses’ Health Study II, an ongoing prospective study involving 116,429 female participants. Among the 48,536 women included in this analysis, 7,929 (16.3%) developed poor sleep quality during a 4-year follow-up period.

The multivariable relative risk for poor sleep quality among women who experienced GER symptoms more than once a week was 1.53 (95% confidence interval, 1.45-1.62). For those who experienced GER symptoms more than twice a week, the RR was 1.49 (95% CI, 1.39-1.58) for difficulty in falling asleep, 1.47 (95% CI, 1.39-1.56) for excessive daytime sleepiness, and 1.44 (95% CI, 1.36-1.53) for restlessness of sleep.

GER was more common in women who had higher body mass index, were less physically active, and had asthma and depression. Among women who experienced GER more than once a week, 48.2% regularly used PPIs and/or H2RAs which are commonly prescribed for GERD. However, researchers found that frequent GER symptoms were significantly associated with higher risk of poor sleep quality regardless of whether patients used PPIs and/or H2RAs. But poor sleep quality, in this case, was more common among those who did not use PPIs or H2RAs.

Dr. Bradley Morganstern, codirector of the IBD Center at Stony Brook (N.Y.) Medicine

Dr. Bradley M. Morganstern

In an interview, Bradley M. Morganstern, MD, medical director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at NYU Long Island, Mineola, N.Y., brought up the potential for confounding variables. For example, obesity could confound the analysis, he said, as people who are overweight have increased risk of reflux, but also sleep apnea, a strong risk factor for poor sleep.

Despite this possible limitation, Dr. Morganstern said the results are important because they point to a possible practice gap. Physicians typically screen for the classic symptoms of reflux like discomfort and burning, but not sleep quality.

“It’s not something we usually ask about unless the patient volunteers that they’re actually having reflux symptoms at nighttime,” Dr. Morganstern said. This possible link between reflux and poor sleep quality should be on the radar for both gastroenterologists and primary care providers, he added.

“I think different specialties could be asking about it for different reasons,” Dr. Morganstern said, suggesting that it may be worth discussing during diagnosis of reflux or detection of poor sleep quality, and when monitoring symptoms and responses to therapy.

Dr. Chan reported receiving grants from Pfizer, Zoe, and Freenome and receiving personal fees from Pfizer and Boehringer Ingelheim outside the submitted work. Other authors disclosed receiving fees and grants from a number of companies, but outside of the scope of this work.

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