Every person has his or her favorite sleeping position. Some are perfectly comfortable in a curled-up stance, while others by lying on their backs and even on their stomachs! When you get to doze off in your most preferred position, it usually gives you a good night’s sleep.
However, there is some not-so-good news about this. While no one really cares about how to lie on your bed, the way you position your body while sleeping can affect your breathing and cause sleep apnea.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a severe sleep disorder wherein a person’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts again. Here are some common signs of sleep apnea:
- Loud snoring
- Excessive sleepiness
- Difficulty concentrating during daytime
- Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Abrupt rousing with gasping or choking
There are also different types of sleep apnea and it pays to know which type you are experiencing. The main types are:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
This is the most common form. It happens when the muscles that support the soft tissues in your throat temporarily relax.
Central Sleep Apnea
This type occurs when the brain temporarily ceases forwarding signals to the muscles that control one’s breathing.
Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome
This is also known as treatment-emergent sleep apnea which is characterized by the rise or persistence of central sleep apnea while undergoing treatment for obstructive sleep apnea.
What are the best sleeping positions to avoid sleep apnea?
With your back mostly straight in this position, it minimizes the chance of airway obstruction, therefore reducing the amount of apnea that a person experiences when sleeping. According to research, side sleeping on the left reduces apnea more than sleeping on the opposite side.
It is also believed that side sleeping decreases insomnia, relieves gastroesophageal reflux, and keeps the spine in proper alignment.
When you sleep on your stomach, the gravity goes on your side. This causes the tissues in your mouth and throat to get pulled forward which reduces the chances of airway obstruction. If you choose to sleep in this position, make sure that your nose or mouth is not blocked by any pillow, blanket, or your mattress. It is also important to note that the pillow you use has a lot to do with your breathing when asleep.
One risk of stomach sleeping, however, is that it may place unnecessary strain on the throat and create other health.
These two positions are highly recommended for people who experience sleep apnea. Some of you may ask if lying on one’s back is also a safe option. Now, here is our answer to that.
Lying on your back is not recommended for people suffering from sleep apnea. In fact, it is the worst sleeping position to be in. It does have a good effect in terms of spine alignment, but when you lie on your back, it makes the gravity pull the soft tissues in your throat downwards and increases the chance of airway blockage, therefore making snoring much worse.
If you are used to sleeping on your back and unconsciously goes back to this position during your sleep, you may want to look for a good pillow that will provide enough support for side sleeping for you to keep you from turning.
Are there other ways to avoid sleep apnea?
Yes, aside from adapting the best sleeping position, there are also other alternative treatments for sleep apnea.
Losing weight is one. Extra weight may reduce the airways in our respiratory tract, depositing fat in the bottom of our tongue.
Avoiding sedatives and alcohol is another. Those types of products may relax the muscles of our upper airway, which may result in obstructive sleep apnea.
Lastly, practice healthy sleeping habits. The way we sleep is as important as how much sleep we regularly get, and our sleeping posture has a great deal to do with it. Its quality and quantity both have an impactful effect, not only on our sleeping patterns, but our health in general.