Whether you are a side, back, or stomach sleeper is determined largely by personal preference and practical considerations. Does the bright light outside your window bother you? You’ll likely sleep facing the wall. Like to curl up with a pillow or a partner? You’ll probably sleep on your side.
For people with sleep apnea, though, there are additional factors to take into consideration when laying down for the night. The need to keep airways open and possibly to use specialized breathing equipment while sleeping, can influence which sleeping position you choose.
Sleep apnea affects every facet of your life. Frequent sleep disruptions can lead to depression and irritability, problems in focus and concentration, and daytime drowsiness that makes it difficult to get much accomplished.
Getting the right amount of high-quality sleep will improve your physical and mental performance, as well as your mood. Most seriously, sleep apnea can even lead to death if the breathing stops for long enough to cause a stroke.
See also: Why Do You Need a Good Night’s Sleep?
Because it is such a serious issue, make sure you speak with a sleep specialist before you make any major changes to your sleep routine if you suffer from sleep apnea.
How Does Sleeping Position Affect Sleep Apnea?
There is no best or worst sleep position overall. Different sleeping positions can be advantageous or disadvantageous to various medical conditions. For example, people who are prone to acne or concerned about wrinkles may choose to sleep on their back to reduce contact between the skin of their face and the pillow. Sleeping on the stomach can help with mild snoring, and sleeping on the side is often the best choice for pregnant women.
Since every body is different, it is possible that the best sleeping position to reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea for one person might not be the same for another. In general, keeping the airways open and the breath flowing easily are the most important factors in which sleeping position is best for you.
Which Sleeping Positions are Best for Sleep Apnea?
For most people, the sleeping position that tends to keep the airways open the best is the side sleeping position, particularly on the left side. When lying on the left side, your airways tend to be open and free from any potential obstructions, which cuts down on sleep apnea and snoring.
This is also the best position for blood circulation. However, people with congestive heart failure are usually discouraged from sleeping on the left side, as this position can cause them discomfort or put extra stress on the heart.
For people at risk of heart conditions, sleeping on the right side is preferable. The right side is also more advantageous as people age. The left side is the best for people with acid reflux, since sleeping on the right side can relax the lower esophageal sphincter.
Sleeping on the stomach can help people with mild sleep apnea as well. The force of gravity pulls the tongue forward and down, keeping them out of the way of the windpipe. People who sleep on a very soft surface or use a pillow in the stomach sleeping position might be partially blocking off the mouth or nose, though, which makes sleep apnea worse. The stomach position is also notorious for putting undue strain on the cervical vertebrae, which can cause soreness.
What Sleeping Position Makes Sleep Apnea Worse?
Any sleeping position that makes it more difficult to breathe can make sleep apnea worse. Sleeping on the back is arguably the worst sleeping position for sleep apnea because the tongue and soft tissues of the mouth relax to the back of the throat, partially blocking the airways.
Don’t let another restless night of sleep interfere with your quality of life. If you have experienced any symptoms of sleep apnea, it is always a good idea to reach out to a sleep expert.
Contact us at SleepWell Louisiana for a complimentary airway consultation to see if an at-home sleep apnea test is the right fit for you! Our expert team of sleep professionals will also offer treatment options based on your results.