Public Release: 

GERD and other GI disorders may disrupt sleep

Two studies measure impact of sleep disturbances

American College of Gastroenterology

SEATTLE (October 21, 2002)--The results of two recent studies to be presented at the 67th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology suggest that people with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and other gastrointestinal disorders are more likely than others to report excessive daytime sleepiness, insomnia, and poor sleep quality. More than 15 million Americans experience daily heartburn symptoms and may suffer from GERD.

Excessive Daytime Sleepiness Researchers at Pennsylvania State University (Hershey) conducted a large study using records from a random telephone survey of 16,583 adults. From this pool, 1,741 adults who reported having risk factors for sleep-related breathing disorders were selected for further study. After undergoing a physical examination and providing a detailed medical history, each subject spent a night in the sleep lab.

"Our study is different from most others in that we did not base the analyses on subjects who were recruited because they had specific gastrointestinal disorders. After removing this selection bias from the equation, we can be more confident when we report that there is a significant relationship between GERD and excessive daytime sleepiness and insomnia," said Geoffrey S. Raymer, M.D., of the Gastroenterology and Hepatology Department at Penn State. "We also found a connection between peptic ulcer disease and hiatal hernia and insomnia."

The 1,741 adults selected for this study also were the subject of a recent analysis of insomnia and physical and mental health problems. The results were published by the Penn State researchers in the July 2002 issue of the Journal of Psychosomatic Research 53(1):589-592.

Objective Measures of Sleep vs. Complaints William C. Orr, Ph.D., and Jennifer J. Thompson of the Lynn Health Science Institute in Oklahoma City compared data from 20 GERD patients with results from their database of healthy individuals. All the GERD patients reported having heartburn at least four days per week and having woken up with heartburn at least one night a week. The participants completed the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index exam and underwent a baseline esophageal monitoring evaluation for 24 hours. In the sleep lab, they also underwent full polysomnography (comprehensive and continuous monitoring of physiology during sleep), which evaluated the number of minutes required to fall asleep, the number of arousals from sleep, sleep efficiency, and the proportion of time spent in various stages of sleep.

People with GERD reported having much worse sleep quality than did healthy adults. The difference between the two groups for this subjective measure was statistically significant (P<0.05.) Among people with GERD, higher levels of reflux during the day are associated with more complaints about sleep.

"There is very little data in the literature that compare objective and subjective sleep measures among people with GERD," said Dr. Orr. "Although our study establishes that there is a difference between GERD patients and healthy adults for subjective measures of sleep quality, our findings indicate that the objective measures were not appreciably different between the two groups."


The ACG was formed in 1932 to advance the scientific study and medical treatment of disorders of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The College promotes the highest standards in medical education and is guided by its commitment to meeting the needs of clinical gastroenterology practitioners. Consumers can get more information on GI diseases through the following ACG-sponsored programs:

  • 1-800-978-7666 (free brochures on common GI disorders, including ulcer, colon cancer, gallstones, and liver disease)
  • 1-800-HRT-BURN (free brochure and video on heartburn and GERD)
  • (ACG's Web site)

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