When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, your comfort is a priority. Is your pillow comfortable? Is the blanket just right? Is the room the right temperature? While all these factors play a role in getting a good night’s sleep, did you know your sleep position also plays a big role when you’re getting some ZZZ’s, particularly if you have obstructive sleep apnea?
What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when there is a blockage or narrowing of the airways during sleep. These blockages can be caused by swollen tissue from allergies, enlarged tonsils and adenoids, excess fat around the neck, or other factors. The blockage causes an increase in negative pressure inside the throat, which then pulls the tongue and soft tissue of the throat forward and down against the back of the airway. This blocks airflow and leads to snoring and interruptions in breathing during sleep.
Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea
Having one risk factor increases your chances of developing OSA, but many people have several risk factors in combination. Here are some of the risk factors that can contribute to you developing the sleep disorder:
- Being male
- Having a high body mass index (BMI)
- Being over 40 years old
- Smoking cigarettes
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Family history of OSA
How Does OSA Affect Your Health?
When you wake up with a sore throat, dry mouth, tiredness and headaches, you may have OSA and not realize it. But as time goes on, this condition will cause more serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, depression, memory loss and even death.
What Are Some Symptoms of OSA?
The most common symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Irregular heartbeat
- Morning headache
- Poor concentration
- Memory lapses
- Weight gain
- Lack of sex drive
Worst Sleep Position for Sleep Apnea
On your back. If you suffer from sleep apnea, sleeping on your back can be very uncomfortable and even dangerous, because this position puts pressure on your airway, which may cause obstruction or collapse. If you are not able to breathe properly during sleep, you risk waking up feeling tired despite getting a “good night’s sleep.” Obstructive sleep apnea can also contribute to:
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure
- Respiratory infections
- Lung cancer
- Asthma attacks
- Severe headaches
- Neck pain
- Back pain
- Atrial fibrillation
Best Position for Sleeping with Sleep Apnea
Side sleeping is the preferred sleep position for those living with sleep apnea. Sleeping on your right side can reduce snoring and encourages blood flow. It also helps keep your spine straight, which keeps your airway open. However, sleeping on your left side can put too much pressure on your lungs and your stomach.
Sleeping on your stomach is another popular sleep position option for people who have sleep apnea because it allows the tongue and soft tissues of the throat to stay open. If you sleep on your stomach, turning your head to the side can block the flow of air into your lungs, so if you’re a stomach sleeper, the best sleep position is with your forehead down on a pillow.
Other Ways to Get a Good Night’s Sleep With OSA
Now that you know the best sleep position to sleep in if you’re living with obstructive sleep apnea, here are some other tips to get a good night’s sleep:
1. Avoid alcohol before bedtime. Alcohol can make you feel sleepy, but it actually makes you more likely to wake up during the night.
2. Develop a good sleep routine. Make sure you go to bed at the same time every day. Also, try to avoid naps during the day.
3. Keep your bedroom cool. Keeping the room temperature between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit will help you fall asleep faster.
4. Use a humidifier. Humidifiers add moisture to the air in your home, which can help reduce nasal congestion. Nasal congestion can contribute to breathing interruptions during the night.
5. Try using a fan. Fans circulate air throughout your home, helping to remove stale air and replacing it with fresh air. This can help prevent sinus infections and colds.
6. Drink plenty of water. Water helps flush out toxins from your body and keeps you hydrated. Drinking enough water can also help you relax and get ready for sleep.
7. Relax. Stress can interfere with your ability to fall asleep. So, find ways to relax before bedtime. Exercise, meditation, listening to music, reading, watching TV, or spending time with friends and family can all help you unwind.
8. Eat well. A healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy products can improve your overall health and promote better sleep.
9. Don’t smoke. Smoking increases the likelihood of developing sleep apnea as well as heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
10. Take care of yourself. Taking regular breaks from work and doing things like exercising, eating healthier foods and taking walks can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle.
11. Talk to us. If you’re living with OSA, we can help. Give us a call now to schedule a consultation.
Is Sleep Apnea Dangerous?
Sleep apnea is not dangerous unless you don’t treat it. Untreated sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure and even death. In fact, untreated sleep apnea has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Treatments for sleep apnea include:
CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). CPAP machines use pressurized air to keep your airways open while you sleep. They can be used at home or in a hospital setting.
BiPAP (Bilevel Pneumatic Therapy). BiPAP machines blow two different levels of air through your nose and mouth. The higher level of air pushes open your upper airway while the lower level opens your lower airway.
Oral Appliances. These devices are designed to hold your jaw open while you sleep.
Surgery. Surgical treatments may involve removing tissue from your throat or tongue to enlarge your airway.
Do you think you or a loved one has sleep apnea? Schedule a consultation with us today.