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Do you get complaints about snoring in your sleep or feeling tired when you wake up instead of refreshed? If so, you might have sleep apnea, a potentially life-threatening condition that can impact your quality of life. This breathing disorder can happen to anyone, and around 18 million Americans are affected. Sleep apnea creates brief pauses in your breathing while you sleep.

Back Sleeping vs. Side Sleeping

Positional sleep therapy is proven to prevent snoring or experiencing obstructive apnea by holding you in a side sleeping position that helps keep your airways from collapsing. There is even a side sleeping backpack to help you sleep in a position that minimizes snoring. It allows your body to recline and your throat airway open by creating an unobstructed passage for air to breeze through. And when you have more air getting in, the less likely you are to snore or unconsciously stop breathing while you catch those precious zzz’s!

Studies have shown to assess the effectiveness of PST in those who chronically experience obstructive sleep apnea or OSA. It is helpful for those who can’t handle using a CPAP device and found that positional OSA may be effectively treated using positional therapy.

What is Positional Sleep Apnea?

For patients with positional sleep apnea, a form of obstructive sleep apnea lying on your back, the supine apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) is at least twice that when sleeping on one side. Gravity tends to take over when you are on your back, pulling the tongue closer to the back of your pharynx. It is an area of your throat on top of the esophagus and trachea. An American College of Chest Physicians study found that up to 60% of patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea had fewer symptoms when sleeping on their side instead of on their back. They also concluded up to 50% of those with sleep apnea might benefit from positional therapy.

Sleeping on Your Side With Positional Therapy

If your sleep breathing issues mostly come up when you lie flat on your back or you had a sleep study finding that you have normal apnea index when lying on your side, test the following. Try sleeping on one side or elevating your head with pillows to see if that makes a difference in your sleep quality. In addition to sleeping with a filled backpack, there are other creative ways to help you sleep on your side. You can buy an anti-snore shirt or put some tennis balls in a pocket that you sewed onto the back of your pajama shirt or nightgown. There are even posture alarm clocks that go off whenever you roll over and stay on your back while sleeping.

Sleep positioning therapy is worth trying if you have tried but can’t handle using a CPAP machine or are unable to afford it. It is also good when you travel a lot and don’t want to carry a CPAP machine around, especially if positional treatment and CPAP offer relief for patients struggling with positional OSA.

If you aren’t sure of your sleep apnea diagnosis, you may benefit from partaking in a sleep study to see if you have positional sleep apnea and not central sleep apnea. If you are currently experiencing poor sleep from chronic snoring or mild obstructive sleep apnea, try positional sleep therapy to see if that helps. You can also call us anytime to learn more or come in for a consultation. You deserve a healthy night’s sleep!