Most people have a preferred way to sleep, be it curled up on their side or sprawled out on their back. While your favorite sleep position may feel the most comfortable, have you ever considered its impact on your overall health?
Your go-to sleep posture could significantly affect how well you breathe at night—especially critical for those dealing with sleep disorders like sleep apnea.
In this article, our sleep experts will delve into the question, “What is the best sleep position for sleep apnea?” We aim to help you make the adjustments that can dramatically improve your sleep quality.
What Happens During Sleep Apnea?
Before we explore the best sleep position for sleep apnea, it’s essential to understand what happens during an episode.
The most common form is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), where the muscles at the back of your throat relax excessively, partially or entirely obstructing your airway. This obstruction causes your chest muscles to work harder to open the blocked passage.
Consequently, the brain senses the impediment and may briefly awaken you, often so momentarily that you don’t even remember it, leaving you unaware of your disrupted sleep.
What Is the Best Sleep Position for Sleep Apnea?
So, how does your sleep position affect sleep apnea? Sleep posture can be a significant factor for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). OSA happens due to a narrowed or blocked airway that interferes with breathing, while CSA arises when your brain fails to send the signals necessary for regular breathing.
Research shows that over half of individuals with OSA experience more severe symptoms when sleeping on their back. Adjusting your sleep position can reduce symptoms of both OSA and CSA.
Optimal Sleep Positions for Sleep Apnea
Understanding your sleep position can be a game-changer in managing sleep apnea symptoms. Different positions affect your airways, and making a conscious choice can lead to better sleep quality and overall health. Let’s delve into the specifics of optimal sleep positions for sleep apnea.
Side sleeping is often touted as the best position for those with sleep apnea.
Sleeping on the left side
Most experts agree that sleeping on your left side is the most effective position to alleviate sleep apnea symptoms. This orientation encourages better blood flow, reduces snoring, and minimizes apneic events. Research supports that individuals who sleep on their left side tend to experience less severe occurrences of sleep apnea.
Sleeping on the right side
If you find sleeping on your left side challenging, the right side is a good alternative. Both left- and right-side sleeping are favorable as they can also alleviate issues related to gastroesophageal reflux diseases (GERD), which can worsen sleep apnea symptoms.
STOMACH (or Belly) SLEEPING
Sleeping on your stomach can work for some because gravity pulls the tongue and soft tissues forward, thus reducing airway obstructions.
However, there’s a word of caution: don’t obstruct your face and mouth with a pillow when sleeping in this position.
This precaution is especially vital for those with severe sleep apnea. Additionally, stomach sleeping can strain your neck, so this may not be the best option if you have neck issues.
BACK (or Supine) SLEEPING
Sleeping on your back is generally considered the least favorable option for sleep apnea sufferers. This is because gravity tends to pull the soft tissues in the upper airway downwards, increasing airway resistance.
In contrast, when you’re sleeping on your stomach, gravity helps to pull the soft tissues forward. If you’re an adamant back-sleeper and can’t break the habit, consider elevating your head to help minimize sleep apnea symptoms.
If you suspect you have sleep apnea, consider scheduling a sleep analysis with Sleep & CPAP Center. We offer comprehensive, in-home patient sleep studies, CPAP, and Bi-PAP services and supplies seven days a week. We’re here to help you sleep better so you can live better.