Are you experiencing excessive bloating and discomfort in your stomach? This may be due to aerophagia, a disorder characterized by inadvertently swallowing air1 that enters your gastrointestinal tract and can cause issues such as gas, bloating, heartburn, acid reflux, and excessive burping.
Of course, this type of discomfort can make it more challenging to sleep at night, and since the symptoms can be caused by other factors, it can sometimes be hard to tell if you actually have aerophagia. We’ll review the details of this condition more in-depth so that if you are experiencing discomfort, you can get the help you need to feel better and sleep more soundly.
What Causes Aerophagia?
Aerophagia happens when you unintentionally swallow too much air, and it enters your digestive tract, which can then make you bloated or uncomfortable. Different factors can cause aerophagia2, including eating too quickly, chewing gum, smoking, drinking through a straw, intense exercise, loose dentures, and carbonated drinks.
Experts add that if you’re talking or eating under stressful circumstances, aerophagia is more likely to happen3. In fact, a 2021 study4 found that in Indonesian adolescents between the ages of 10 and 17, there was a link between aerophagia and family-related stress.
Additionally, aerophagia can happen to those who use machines to help them with breathing, such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices, which are used to help treat sleep apnea.2
How Do CPAP Machines Cause Aerophagia?
If you have sleep apnea and you’re using a CPAP device, it may very well be the reason behind your aerophagia. Your CPAP machine delivers air through a hose and mask, and sometimes, you can swallow too much air, which could result in aerophagia.2
More Info: Signs You Have Sleep Apnea
Symptoms of Aerophagia
Aerophagia shows itself through various symptoms, but they are more generic and can be linked to other conditions just as well. For this reason, it’s important to talk to your doctor about what you’re experiencing because they can better determine if what you’re having is indeed aerophagia.
According to health experts, the following symptoms are associated with aerophagia3:
- Frequent burping
- Stomach bloating
- Gurgling sounds in the stomach
- Visibly expanded stomach
- Stomach pain or discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Decreased appetite
- Diarrhea or constipation
Risk Factors of Aerophagia
As mentioned above, if you’re talking or eating while stressed, you are more likely to experience aerophagia3. Similarly, people who drink carbonated beverages a lot, drink through a straw, regularly chew gum, have loose dentures, and vigorously exercise can increase their risk of aerophagia because these factors can contribute to this condition.2
Research shows that aerophagia could be a psychological issue too as it’s more common in people with anxiety or depressive disorders5.Lastly, people who use breathing devices in their sleep, such as CPAP machines, are also at an increased risk of aerophagia.2
What to Do if You Think You Have Aerophagia
You should see a doctor when you notice your symptoms are becoming more frequent and/or uncomfortable. To get diagnosed, doctors typically look to see if you have main symptoms like excessive burping, bloating, and an expanded stomach for at least 12 weeks during the previous year.2
Your doctor may also perform an X-ray, CT scan, or endoscopy to rule out other causes like a digestive tract blockage or supragastric belching, the latter of which being when the air you swallow enters the esophagus but comes out immediately.2
How to Stop Aerophagia
If aerophagia isn’t a result of your CPAP device, you may have to work on some lifestyle changes. This is something your doctor can help you identify if, for example, you have aerophagia due to fast eating or chewing gum.
Some tips to help alleviate aerophagia include3:
- Eating and drinking more slowly
- Chew your food well before you swallow
- Eat with your mouth closed
- Avoid carbonated beverages
- Don’t drink through a straw
- Try to be more mindful of swallowing too much air
- Manage stress and anxiety
- Avoid smoking
- Don’t chew gum or suck on hard candies
- Ensure your dentures fit well if you wear them
Ways to Prevent Your CPAP Machine from Causing Aerophagia
In the event your CPAP machine is what’s causing your aerophagia, the following tips could help, though we recommend discussing any changes to your CPAP treatment with your healthcare provider first.
- Adjust CPAP pressure – Talk with your doctor to see if it’s possible to lower the air pressure setting on your CPAP device.
- Try a different mask – The CPAP mask you’re using might not fit properly. In this case, try to get it refitted for better airflow.
- Try a gradual increase in pressure – If you need a higher pressure level, try a CPAP device that allows a gradual increase, giving you more time to adapt and get used to it
Frequently Asked Questions
Will my CPAP machine give me aerophagia?
It’s possible that your CPAP machine could give you aerophagia. This is because you can swallow excess air during treatment.2
If you use a CPAP and have concerns about this, talk with your healthcare provider as they may be able to lower the air pressure settings or recommend a different type of mask to help alleviate your aerophagia.
Is CPAP aerophagia dangerous?
Aerophagia isn’t inherently dangerous but it can be highly uncomfortable for those who have it. It can also indirectly lead to other health issues. For example, if you’re aerophagia is making it hard to sleep, this could lead to sleep deprivation, which can negatively impact your physical, cognitive, and emotional health while increasing your risk of accidents.
How do I prevent aerophagia?
In some cases, certain lifestyle changes can help with aerophagia. This might include cutting out carbonated drinks, not chewing gum, or managing your stress levels. However, if your aerophagia is caused by CPAP use, then it’s a good idea to talk about this with your doctor to find a viable solution so that you can still treat your sleep apnea without experiencing aerophagia symptoms.
Olivera is a content writer for Sleep Advisor and is enthusiastic about sleep. She firmly believes in the benefits of daytime naps on top of getting a full 8-hour sleep at night.
- 1. “Oropharyngeal Dysphagia & Aerophagia”. UConn Health. Webpage accessed December 29, 2024. –
- 2. “What to Know About Aerophagia”. Cary Gastro. Webpage accessed December 29, 2024. –
- 3. “AEROPHAGIA”. Narayana Health. 2022. –
- 4. Oswari, Hanifah., et al. “Aerophagia Study in Indonesia: Prevalence and Association With Family-related Stress”. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. 2021. –
- 5. Appleby MD, Brian S., Rosenberg MD, Paul B. “Aerophagia as the Initial Presenting Symptom of a Depressed Patient”. The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2006. –