Best Sleep Position for Sleep Apnea

by Sep 23, 2022Respiratory0 comments

You probably fall right into your favorite position when you curl up under the covers at night without giving it much thought.
However, could one sleeping position be more beneficial to your health than another?
Finding a comfortable sleeping position can be more challenging for people with sleep apnea, a disorder in which one’s breathing stops and starts during sleep. If you want to understand better and help someone with this condition, you may ask:


What is sleep apnea? Is sleeping on the stomach, back, or side better for sleep apnea? If sleeping positions do not work, are there any alternatives to try? Are there products or tools that can help with sleep apnea?
Whether you’re a mother looking for self-care practices to help you support your family or a college student wanting to take better care of your brain, sleep is one of the most crucial areas you must consider.

However, establishing healthy sleep habits can be more demanding for individuals with sleep apnea:
This article discusses the following topics:

  • The most effective sleep positions to reduce sleep apnea symptoms
  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask as an alternative if sleep positions do not work
  • How sleep apnea affects sleep

The Most Effective Sleep Positions to Reduce Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Various tools and treatments can help improve sleep apnea symptoms, including breathing difficulties.
For example, a CPAP machine may help maintain a continuous air stream at the user’s optimal air pressure level.
Still, sleeping in specific positions can also help people with sleep apnea manage their symptoms while sleeping.
A Better Sleep Council (BSC) survey showed six common sleep positions in the United States. These positions include sleeping on your back, side, and stomach.
Here are several sleeping positions that can affect your sleep apnea symptoms:

Sleeping on the Left Side

Sleeping on the left side may help improve sleep apnea symptoms by alleviating related conditions.
For example, a study showed sleeping on the left side may help prevent gastroesophageal reflux (GER). GER happens when stomach content comes back to your esophagus, leading to regurgitation and spitting up.
Another research indicates that gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) correlates with obstructive sleep apnea.
GERD is a more severe form of GER in which repeated symptoms can cause complications. The study suggests that GERD may aggravate sleep apnea symptoms.

Sleeping on the Right Side

Another obstructive sleep apnea symptom is loud snoring. This kind of snoring may become disruptive, waking a person with sleep apnea multiple times at night.
Consequently, loud snoring may prevent sleep apnea patients from getting adequate rest.
However, sleeping on the right side may improve the body’s air and blood flow, lowering the chances of snoring.

Sleeping on Your Stomach (or Belly)

Gravity pulls your tongue and soft tissue downward when sleeping on your stomach. This situation may help reduce airway obstructions.
However, suppose you cover your face and mouth with a pillow while sleeping on your belly. In that case, blocking your airway may worsen your breathing difficulty.
You must also consider what sleeping positions may worsen your sleep apnea symptoms. For instance, sleeping on your back may cause the soft tissues in your upper airway to resist airflow.

The CPAP-Mask as an Alternative to Sleep Positions for Sleep Apnea

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) may help prevent air blockage during sleep.

CPAP machines with masks optimize the pressure inside the airway and keep it open, preventing the airway from getting smaller or closing.

Suppose you have obstructive sleep apnea, and your doctor recommends you use a CPAP machine with a mask. In that case, understanding different mask options may help you maximize your CPAP use.

The appropriate CPAP mask may depend on your sleeping position. You may consider the following factors when choosing your CPAP mask.

  • For side sleepers: Nasal pillow masks and nasal masks are excellent options for side sleepers because they allow users to move more freely while not having many facial touchpoints.
  • For back sleepers: CPAP users who sleep on their backs can choose from various masks because this position easily fits even full-face masks. However, removing your mask in that position is also challenging, and some back sleepers may have trouble with single-strap headgears.
  • For stomach sleepers: Most people can only use nasal pillow masks when sleeping on their stomachs. However, CPAP users who wear nasal pillow masks should check if their actual pillows can accommodate the mask.

For instance, some masks include tube placement along the temples, which might cause air restriction depending on your position and cushion firmness.

How Sleep Apnea Affects Your Sleep

Obstructive sleep apnea patients may experience breathing disturbances at least five times per hour during sleep.
Moreover, each episode of breathing interruption reduces the body’s oxygen supply, resulting in either partial or total waking.
Furthermore, the brain’s normal processes may experience significant disruptions, leading to severe medical conditions.
If you think you are exhibiting some sleep apnea symptoms, consult with your doctor.

References


Starfish or Freefall? What Your Sleep Position Can Tell You
https://bettersleep.org/better-sleep/sleep-positions/
The Relationship Between Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) in Inpatient Settings: A Nationwide Study
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8980249/
A Novel Sleep Positioning Device Reduces Gastroesophageal Reflux: A Randomized Controlled Trial
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26053170/
The Sleeping Positions for Sleep Apnea Patients
https://www.okoa.org/articles/the-sleeping-positions-for-sleep-apnea-patients
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/obstructive-sleep-apnea

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