Nearly 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea and an estimated 80% of cases go undiagnosed. 

Perhaps you suffer from sleep apnea and you’re not sure what the best position to sleep in is. Sound familiar? If so, you’ve come to the right place.

Here are the four best sleep positions for sleep apnea.

What Is Sleep Apnea? 

Before discussing what the best sleeping position for sleep apnea is, it’s important to know what the condition is. 

Sleep apnea is where your breathing repeatedly stops and starts. There are three main types such as obstructive sleep apnea, the most common one, where your throat muscles relax during sleep.

Central sleep apnea is when your brain doesn’t signal the muscles that control your breathing and finally, complex sleep apnea syndrome. Otherwise known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea this is a combination of the other two. 

Regardless which you have, the most common symptoms include:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Waking up feeling tired with a dry mouth
  • Frequent awakenings
  • Waking up with a sensation of choking

If any of these are frequent, you must seek sleep apnea treatment.

The most common is continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP) where you wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose while you sleep.

It’s effective because the mask is attached to a device that pumps air into your throat through a hose to prevent it from collapsing. Or your physician may advise dental appliances or surgery.

The Problem With Breathing When Horizontal

You may wonder how to sleep with sleep apnea because it’s harder to breathe when you’re laying down. 

During the day when you’re sitting or standing, your airways are pointing downward so your breathing and airflow are unrestricted. 

But once you get into bed, your body is forced to breathe in a horizontal position so gravity is working against your airways. This is because the tissue in your top airway relaxes so your mouth and nose access limited air causing sleep apnea or snoring.

The Best Sleep Positions For Sleep Apnea

It’s important to know the main sleep apnea positions so you can breathe comfortably and get a good night’s rest. Try each one out so you can decide which one is most comfortable for you.

For instance:

Left-Side Sleeping Position 

Side sleeping is recommended for sleep apnea patients as it prevents insomnia and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) which can disrupt your shut-eye. 

Sleeping on the side is the best sleep position because it promotes blood flow and there are no breathing restrictions. To fully reap the benefits, find a firm pillow that supports your neck and back, and enjoy a good night’s sleep.

But it’s important to note that if you’ve been diagnosed with congestive heart failure then consult with your doctor. This is because left side-sleeping can cause discomfort or put stress on your heart.

Right-Side Sleeping Position 

The second best sleeping position for sleep apnea is on your right side if the left isn’t comfortable enough.

Right-side sleeping reduces snoring and makes it easier for you to breathe throughout the night. But it’s problematic if you experience reflux because it causes your low esophageal sphincter to relax. 

Many people sleep in the fetal position, another type of side-sleeping, but it’s not known to treat sleep apnea. It can also cause neck and back issues when you’re older so stay on your side but stretch out. You can even place a pillow between your knees so you get extra neck and back support. 

Or hug a pillow while your sleep so your right arm doesn’t get tired during the night. It’ll also make you feel comfortable and reduce sleep restlessness.

Prone Sleeping Position

Otherwise known as sleeping on your stomach, the prone position is where you’re face-down on the pillow. This position solves the gravity issue because the downward pull brings your tongue and palate back. But, the pillow may also block your nose and mouth in the process.  

Plus, the prone sleeping position puts pressure on your neck so it becomes stiff thereby affecting your rest. If you sleep in this position, adjust your pillow so it promotes good spinal alignment even when your head is facing the side. 

Further, your arms must be parallel to your head so you don’t put extra stress on your shoulders or neck.

Supine Sleeping Position

Sleeping supine (on your back) is one of the worst positions for sleep apnea or if you regularly snore.

This is because the gravitational force makes the jaw, tongue, and soft palate to drop back towards the throat which narrows the airways. Laying supine can also cause insomnia, hypertension, and improves your chances of heart disease. 

If you’re prone to sleeping on your back then elevate the head of the bed.  “Does sleeping sitting up to help sleep apnea?”, the answer is yes because it alleviates sleep apnea symptoms. 

Start sleeping elevated by getting a wedge-shaped foam pillow so you can get into a good, comfortable position while opening up your airways. Don’t have one? Then elevate the head of your bed with a bed riser so you can get a good night’s sleep.

Read More: What Benefits Can You Get From a Good Night’s Sleep?

Those Are the Best Sleep Positions For Sleep Apnea

Now you know the main sleep positions for sleep apnea.

Left- and right-side sleeping are the most effective as it opens your airways, promotes good blood flow, and ensures a good night’s sleep. 

Sleeping on your back is the worst because it constricts your airways unless you keep your head elevated. But if you have any other ailments, consult with your physician and they can suggest the best position for your case. Happy sleeping! Did you find this article helpful? If so, check out our posts on everything from Health to Technology. 

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