Posted on Saturday, July 1st, 2023 at 8:00 am    

It’s challenging to get a good night’s sleep when you suffer from sleep apnea. Tossing and turning may be normal as you attempt to get comfortable and settle in for the night. Yet, did you know that the position you settle on may worsen your sleep apnea symptoms? Some sleep positions are better suited to easing sleep apnea symptoms than others. How you choose to sleep at night can impact the quality of your sleep and whether you wake up the following day feeling refreshed or distressed.

The Cause of Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that occurs when an individual’s airway becomes obstructed during sleep. With obstructive sleep apnea, people experience periods throughout the night where they cannot breathe, interrupting the sleep cycle and leaving them tired, fatigued, and irritable. Often obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a collapse of the airway when the muscles surrounding the throat relax, narrowing or closing the space needed for airflow. Risk factors for sleep apnea include excess weight, being older, neck circumference, alcohol use, and smoking. The tongue and soft palate can also cause breathing difficulties in patients with sleep apnea.

The Best Sleep Position for Sleep Apnea

What are the best sleep positions for individuals with sleep apnea? The team at Silent Night Therapy has the answer.

Side Sleeping

Generally, the best sleeping positions for those with sleep apnea are positions that help maintain the airway and keep it open. To that effect, side sleeping is a good sleep position for people with obstructive sleep apnea. Research indicates that sleeping on your side, with your spine straight, can significantly reduce the number of breathing disruptions overnight.

Sleeping on your side means the soft tissues in the mouth and throat are less likely to move into a position that can block your airway. Some studies show that sleeping on your right side is more effective than sleeping on your left. The reason could be due to differences in blood flow to and from the heart.

If side sleeping doesn’t come naturally to you, try placing pillows behind you to prevent you from rolling over onto your back. Some people also recommend putting a tennis ball in a sock and sewing the sock to the back of a sleep shirt. This tactic makes rolling over onto your back uncomfortable and may keep you on your side.

Stomach Sleeping

Some research suggests that sleeping on your stomach slightly reduces breathing interruptions from obstructive sleep apnea. However, sleeping on the stomach is the least popular among adults. Sleeping on the stomach also makes comfortably wearing a CPAP machine almost impossible. 

Back Sleeping

Unfortunately, sleep experts warn against sleeping on your back if you suffer from sleep apnea. Sleeping on your back means gravity can cause your tongue to fall back into the mouth, which could obstruct airflow. Sleeping on your back can also make snoring worse. Other breathing problems are also made worse by sleeping on your back.

If you can’t break the back-sleeping habit, try elevating your head to approximately 60 degrees. The elevation can help counter the effects of gravity and prevent soft tissues from blocking your airway while also reducing snoring.

Better Sleep Is Within Reach

Did you know that the path to better sleep is within your reach? The sleep professionals at Silent Night Therapy want to help you combat the effects of sleep apnea and give you a quality night’s sleep. Contact our sleep apnea team at 631-983-2463 to arrange a complimentary consultation today.