The Best Sleeping Position for Sleep Apnea (According to Experts)

Everyone has their own way of sleeping. Some wear pajamas while others go for their birthday suits. Some stick one foot outside of the covers while others would never tempt the monster waiting under the bed. And some sleep on their side while others are back or stomach sleepers; the latter of which are the worst sleeping positions you could choose for sleep apnea. Why is that? The experts at Aeroflow Sleep are here to tell you.

Side Sleeping for Sleep Apnea

Michelle Worley, Director of Clinical Operations at Aeroflow Sleep and a Registered Nurse, says, “When you have sleep apnea, sleeping on either side helps reduce the chance of having an apnea event from obstruction.”

So, side sleeping is the best position for sleep apnea, and it doesn’t matter if it’s your left side or right side...unless you are pregnant. Michelle elaborates, “Sleeping on the left side increases blood flow to the fetus for pregnant women—,” not to be confused with sleeping in the fetal position. 

But what makes the other sleeping positions so bad for you?

Why Back Sleeping and Stomach Sleeping Are Not Okay

Back sleeping and stomach sleeping exacerbate all types of sleep apnea, but especially Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA); the most common sleep disorder. It could even be the reason you have OSA.

When you sleep on your back or stomach, your neck muscles are lying flat against your airway instead of being supported by your spine in its intended supine position– on your side. Gravity is then pushing your neck muscles against the airway, forcing it to narrow and causing undue stress or pressure that may lead to or worsen an obstruction.

This is also why you’re more likely to snore as a back or stomach sleeper, which is a typical symptom of sleep apnea. Airflow is trying to make its way around the obstruction, but you hear it making contact with whatever is causing the blockage when you snore. Luckily, there are ways to improve airway obstructions like sleeping with your head elevated, positional therapy, and traditional sleep medicine.

Does Sleeping With Your Head Elevated Help Sleep Apnea?

“Yes,” Michelle confirms, “Sleeping with the head of your bed elevated will help improve sleep apnea but will not resolve it completely. It may just decrease the severity.”

OSA is measured on the apnea-hypopnea index and how often you have an apneaic event (how often you stop breathing) determines how severe your sleep apnea is. A patient with severe sleep apnea has 30 apneas or more within an hour, and sleeping with your head elevated may help lower that number. That said, sleeping with your head elevated doesn’t just help sleep apnea patients. It promotes better sleep for everyone!

Michelle reminds us, “Sleeping on your side with your head slightly elevated is best for breathing problems. In fact, sleeping with the head of your bed elevated will help reduce gastroesophageal reflux, commonly known as acid reflux or gerd, and heartburn symptoms too.” It may also help people with high blood pressure and neck pain.

Positional Therapy

Changing your body position isn’t easy, but it will dramatically improve your quality of sleep and quality of life. To go from sleeping on your back or stomach to sleeping on your side, try purchasing a body pillow and fit it against your new body position at night. You may experience a little neck and shoulder pain in the early stages, but remember, it doesn’t matter if you try left-side sleeping or right-side sleeping. It all depends on what’s more comfortable for you.

Traditional Sleep Medicine: Aeroflow Sleep's Specialty

Of course, traditional sleep medicine (CPAP therapy) can help sleep apnea in any sleeping position. CPAP therapy is prescribed by your doctor in the form of a CPAP machine that will release continuous positive air pressure into your airways via a CPAP mask. You just have to know which CPAP mask is best for your favorite sleeping position, but don’t worry; our experts at Aeroflow Sleep have already done the research. 

You’ll also need to find out if the CPAP mask for your favorite sleeping position is the right fit for you. Luckily, Aeroflow Sleep now offers a new, revolutionary mask-fitting technology available through any smartphone. Simply download the app, take a photo of your beautiful smile, and watch as the algorithm discovers which of the latest CPAP models fit your unique face shape.

If you’re still not completely comfortable with the CPAP mask you ordered, Aeroflow Sleep guarantees a free 30-day mask swap. We’re committed to helping you find the perfect CPAP mask, so you can get the most out of your CPAP therapy.

Best of all, it’s Aeroflow Sleep’s goal to cover your CPAP supplies up to 100% through insurance. We work with your doctor and insurance provider to get you the highest quality product for the lowest possible payment plan. Plus, we are in network with most commercial insurance companies and are accredited by Medicare and Medicaid.

Joining the Aeroflow Sleep Program is as simple as filling out a form on our website. Then, you’ll be contacted by one of our dedicated Sleep Specialists within 5-7 business days about your healthcare status and well on your way to personalized CPAP therapy. It’s that easy! Get back to a good night’s sleep, regardless of your sleeping position, with Aeroflow Sleep today.