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Sleep-Disordered Breathing and Sleep Position

Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Sleep Apnea, Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Sleep position

Changing Your Sleep Position For Better Breathing

There’s nothing so rejuvenating than a good night’s sleep. However, for many suffering from sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), sleep may not be refreshing. But did you know that your sleep position can affect a good night’s sleep?

SDB disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are caused by repeated episodes of upper airway obstruction during sleep. This interrupted sleep can result in health hazards such as daytime sleepiness, hypertension, stroke, heart failure, diabetes, depression, and the development of mental disorders.

Postural stability is essential and is our foundation for standing and walking independently. However, studies have shown that poor posture while sleeping or your choice of sleep position can lead to sleep deprivation, which can negatively affect a person’s daytime stability.

The results of poor sleep can reduce alertness levels and lower body temperature, which, along with reduced oxygen saturation levels, can lead to unsteadiness and an increased risk of falls, especially in older people. SDB has also been shown to alter reflexes and reaction time while driving, as reported in a study published in the BMJ Journals.

How Your Sleep Position Affects Your Health

The position in which you sleep can impact your overall comfort and health, and certain sleep positions may be recommended for those suffering from sleep apnea.

Sleeping on your Back

Sleeping on your back (supine position) is a good position for those who can breathe well. Your body gets good support, and raising the feet above the heart can help alleviate swelling of the feet and ankles (edema) to reduce the impact of congestive heart failure. This is also the preferred position for infants and can reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). On the other hand, for those who have trouble breathing, sleeping on your back can allow your lower jaw and tongue to shift back and obstruct the airway, leading to sleep apnea.

Sleeping on Your Side

Sleeping on your left or right side (lateral sleep position) with the legs drawn up into the fetal position may be a better solution to reduce the effects of sleep apnea and snoring. It helps keep your airways open. However, this position also has its drawbacks. While lying on your side, your internal organs can shift and put pressure on the heart and lungs, causing the heart to work harder or reducing the lungs’ ability to take in air. Shoulder, hip, and lower back pain can become issues in time.

Sleeping on your Stomach

The least common sleep position is on your stomach (prone position). It can avoid the problems associated with back sleeping and prevent organ shifts within the chest. It can also lead to neck pain, as the head must be turned to one side or another, and it may be harder to breathe as body weight can limit the diaphragm’s ability to breathe air.

Sleeping Upright

You can also sleep in a position where your head is upright, as in a recliner chair or with a wedge pillow or adjustable bed. This position prevents airway collapse and may diminish problems commonly associated with sleep apnea. The downside is that you can’t easily change positions for comfort.

Address Sleep-Disordered Breathing with Airway & Sleep Group

You spend a third of your life lying down or sleeping, so you deserve a good night’s sleep without sleep-disordered breathing issues. For diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea symptoms, contact Airway & Sleep Group.  

Your quality of life is crucial to both you and us. Contact Airway & Sleep Group to schedule your in-person or virtual appointment at (571) 244-7329 or complete our convenient online contact form. We’re conveniently located in Reston, VA, to serve patients throughout the Washington, DC metropolitan region.

Learn more about sleep-disordered breathing on our blog and podcasts.

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