Research recommends people with sleep apnea to sleep on their left side. Join us as we break down other sleeping positions and why sleeping on the left side is the best.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder associated with abnormal breathing during sleep. The airway becomes obstructed during sleep. People with apnea do not take in oxygen and often gasp for air during sleep. It may even cause them to wake up.
Apnea only occurs when you are asleep; you may only know you have it if your roommate or partner complains about your snoring.
Most people are unaware that they have sleep apnea even though this is the most common sleep disorder. It affects males and females, adults, and children.
Sleeping position affects how we breathe. We are going to explore how sleeping positions can help improve sleep apnea conditions.
How Sleep Apnea Affects Sleep
You may not be aware if you have sleep apnea or not. When you breathe in, air flows in through the mouth and passes through the throat, and flows down into the lungs. The reverse happens when you exhale. Click here to know if you Get with Sleep Apnea.
When awake, as you breathe in and out, the signals are sent to the brain to stiffen the airway. Therefore, air flows in and out without any interruption.
When we are asleep, the airway behind the tongue collapses. It happens every time you breathe in and out. The airway collapses because signals are not sent to the brain to stiffen the airway.
Ideally, when the airway is interrupted, oxygen does not get to the lungs. It will lead to the accumulation of carbon monoxide released by the cells during metabolism. This build-up may eventually lead to death.
However, the brain senses that there is a shortage of air; the airway becomes stiffened and breathing resumes. The airway size reduces during sleep. Air passage causes the airway to vibrate. The sound produces is known as snoring. This cycle continues until you wake up.
The silence after snoring may indicate that the airway is completely blocked. Snoring shows that the airflow is interrupted. The person may not be breathing.
The Types of Sleep Apnea Include
- Obstructive apnea-It occurs when the throat muscles relax during sleep.
- Central sleep apnea-It occurs when signals are not sent to the brain to control breathing.
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome-It occurs when a person has both obstructive and central sleep apnea.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
- Dry mouth in the morning
- Headache in the morning
- Daytime sleepiness
Effects of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a cause of sleep deprivation. People suffering from sleep apnea frequently wake up during sleep. When this occurs, they do not go through all the required stages of sleep. They may wake up feeling tired in the morning and feeling drowsy throughout the day.
Apart from sleepiness, sleep apnea may result in other health conditions like heart problems, obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
We are dwelling so much on sleep apnea so that you may know the magnitude of its effects. One of the ways to treat it is positional therapy.
The other ways to treat sleep apnea include:
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Use oral appliances.
- Use a humidifier
- Avoid alcohol and smoking.
- Best sleeping positions
Everyone has a favorite sleeping position. Trying a different one may feel uncomfortable. You may start sleeping in a preferred position then unconsciously go back to the comfortable one.
We are going to break down a different sleeping position. We are doing this to figure out the best sleep position to combat sleep apnea.
Best Sleeping Position for Apnea
The following are the common sleeping positions:
Left-Side Sleeping Position
The body may be symmetrical externally. However, it is asymmetrical internally due to organ placement. That is why most experts recommend the left-side sleeping position. Sleeping in the left side position allows gravity to move waste through the large intestines. Apart from aiding in digestion, it may help prevent heartburns.
Additionally, this posture may help the brain clear its interstitial waste. Sleep makes the interstitial volume to expand to aid waste removal. The left sleeping position makes this process faster.
Sleeping on the left side helps with blood flow and offers little resistance during breathing. Sleeping in this position prevents the tongue from falling on the airway and obstructing the airway. It thus reduces snoring and sleep apnea.
You can place a pillow between your legs to support the lower back. Use one that matches your collarbone structure. You can hug a different pillow to rest your top arm.
You are likely to change position during sleep. That is okay. Start by sleeping in the correct position.
Disclaimer: This sleep position is inappropriate for people with congestive heart failure. It may cause discomfort or put a strain on the heart.
Right-Side/ Fetal Sleeping Position
Studies recommend that you should sleep on the left side. However, some people cannot do that for one reason or another. A good example is people with congestive heart problems. For such people, the next best choice is the right side position.
Sleeping on the right side also helps with blood flow and may offer no resistance to breathing. It is a way to reduce sleep apnea and snoring for people who can't sleep on the left side.
A modification of this position called the fetal position involves bringing the knees up and curving the back forward. It is a way to combat sleep apnea but can lead to back and neck pain.
Prone/Stomach Sleeping Position
It involves sleeping on your belly. Sleeping on the stomach works with gravity since the tongue does not obstruct the airflow. However, sinking your head into the pillow will not help the situation. Doing this will cover the mouth and nose and make it harder to solve sleep apnea.
Sleeping on your belly has so many disadvantages. You will put a lot of strain on your spine. Apart from that, it may result in neck pain.
It is only okay to sleep on the belly if you do it with the right posture and pillow. You can decide not to use a cushion. Alternatively, you can place a pillow on your pelvic section to prevent neck pain by relieving pressure.
Other ways to make this position comfortable are to; turn your head to prevent a stiff neck, keep your legs straight, don't tuck your hands beneath your pillow, and place your hands in a goalpost position.
Supine/ Back Sleeping Position
It is the worst position for sleep apnea. The sleeper is most likely to snore when sleeping on the back.
Sleeping in the back may seem more comfortable than other positions. The spine is more aligned when you sleep in this position. It takes off pressure from the jaw and the shoulder. It also reduces discomfort from past injuries like leg and arm fractures and other chronic conditions. However, it is not the best position for sleep apnea.
Sleeping on your back can work against gravity. The tongue and other soft tissues may interrupt the airway during sleep. When the tongue relaxes, it lies on the airway making it difficult for air to flow. It is what leads to sleep apnea.
Sleeping on the back is not recommended for sleep apnea. However, it can help people with chronic conditions. There are ways to make it better if you do not have any other options.
Elevate your head and knees with a pillow. It will help you protect your spine. Sleep with your legs and hands spread out to distribute your weight. You can use a cushion on either side. Make sure you elevate your head to around six inches. It will help reduce headaches and reduce sinuses when you have a stuffy nose.
Sleep apnea occurs when the airway is interrupted. The only positional remedy is to ensure you choose the right sleep position.
Sleep Apnea is harmful to your body. It not only causes sleep deprivation but may also cause obesity, diabetes, and heart problems.
However, it can be treated by positional therapy, maintaining the right weight, using oral equipment and humidifier, and quitting drinking or smoking.
Sleeping in the right position can help in the flow of air through the throat to the lungs. We have concluded that the left side sleeping position is the best for people with sleep apnea.
Apart from sleep Apnea, it uses gravity to aid in digestion, may prevent heartburn, and may also fasten waste removal from the brain.
It is possible to change position during sleep. Make sure you start off sleeping on the left side.