What Type Of Sleep Apnea Can Benefit From Positional Sleep Therapy?

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What Type Of Sleep Apnea Can Benefit From Positional Sleep Therapy?

Sleep apnea is a common disorder, and it’s one that can lead to a host of side effects and secondary health conditions. These range from fatigue and moodiness to an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease. Treating sleep apnea can sometimes be difficult, but positional sleep therapy may be a beneficial treatment.

What Is Positional Sleep Apnea?

Positional sleep apnea is a subtype of obstructive sleep apnea. In obstructive sleep apnea, something physically blocks the airway, creating an obstruction that prevents the person who’s sleeping from breathing properly. Positional sleep apnea occurs when the obstruction is related to the position the person is sleeping in; usually supine or on the back. 

The obstruction can be caused by anything from excess weight and fat pressing down and cutting off the airway to loose, flabby tissue in the throat hanging down into the airway. Even if you have no excess weight or flabby tissue, your jaw can sink down as you relax and sleep, narrowing your airway and sometimes creating an obstruction. Your head position, too, can create positional sleep apnea if you bend your neck too much and cut off your airway.


What Is Positional Sleep Therapy?

Positional sleep therapy is exactly what it sounds like: a therapy for sleep apnea that involves changing the position in which you sleep. The idea is to keep you in a better sleep position, such as on your side, so that an obstruction can’t form in the first place. The tough part about positional sleep therapy is keeping you in that optimal position.

The therapy can take several specific forms, but they all have the same function. They make it impossible for you to roll over onto your back, so you stay on your side instead and continue breathing. A common therapy is to attach a tennis ball to a T-shirt and wear it to sleep; if you start to roll over onto your back, the ball stops you. Foam wedges, towels, special devices that vibrate if you turn over, and other items can be used.

Anyone whose sleep apnea is caused by their sleeping position can benefit from positional sleep therapy because this therapy targets the very thing that leads to an obstruction. You may still need additional therapies (e.g., losing weight if excessive weight is pressing down on your body when you sleep on your back or removing loose tissue that droops into your airway).

Why Use Positional Therapy Instead Of CPAP Or Other Therapies? 

For people who are comfortable or who prefer sleeping on their sides, positional therapy is a better option than other therapies. First, it’s almost free, unless you pay for a specialized device or supplies for DIY therapy. Second, you’re not hooked up to a machine, and there’s no mask on your face. Third, it is much more comfortable sleeping on your side without a CPAP mask or other appliance on your face. Plus, positional therapy targets the position you’re in, while other therapies, such as CPAP, would address only the obstruction itself and not what caused it.

If you live in the Homewood or Birmingham area and are struggling with sleep apnea, get in touch with the team at TMJ & Sleep Solutions today.