Sleeping Position For Sleep Apnea: Best And The Worst
August 19, 2020// by Terry Cralle//
Obstructive sleep apnea or OSA is a sleep disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of breathing difficulties or complete breathing cessation. OSA is causing sleeping problems to millions of people and is one of the leading issues of the modern world. Luckily, there is a treatment option for sleep apnea patients, known as CPAP , and so far the treatment has shown effective.
However, research has shown that it isnt only enough to use CPAP for OSA improvement and all it a day. The way sleep apnea patients sleep can significantly affect their OSA symptoms and effectiveness of the therapy.
Because the number and duration of breathing difficulties with OSA patients largely depends on body position during sleep, well look at the best sleeping positions for OSA patients.
Well also take a look at the worst sleeping positions for OSA patients, so you know whether or not the way you sleep is affecting and worsening your sleep apnea.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea Symptoms
The following are the most common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. However, every child is different and symptoms may vary. Symptoms may include:
- Snoring loud snoring or noisy breathing during sleep.
- Periods of not breathing although the chest wall is moving, no air or oxygen is moving through the nose or mouth into the lungs. The duration of these periods is variable and measured in seconds.
- Mouth breathing the passage to the nose may be completely blocked by enlarged tonsils and adenoids leading to the child only being able to breathe through his mouth.
- Restlessness during sleep the frequent arousals lead to restless sleeping or “tossing and turning” throughout the night. Many children will move all over their bed, or wake up in completely different positions from when they went to sleep
- Sleeping in odd positions the child may arch his neck backwards in order to open the airway or sleep sitting up.
- Behavior problems or sleepiness may include irritability, crankiness, frustration, hyperactivity and difficulty paying attention.
- School problems children may do poorly in school, even being labeled as “slow” or “lazy.”
- Bedwetting also known as nocturnal enuresis, although there are many causes for bedwetting besides sleep apnea.
- Frequent infections may include a history of chronic problems with tonsils, adenoids and/or ear infections.
What Are The Treatments For Sleep Apnea
If you have symptoms of sleep apnea, you should make sure to talk with a doctor. Without understanding the root causes of your sleep apnea, it is difficult to treat. When necessary, the doctor can recommend an overnight sleep study to analyze your sleep, including your breathing.
If a person is diagnosed with OSA or CSA, treatment is often effective at improving sleep and reducing the risks of long-term health complications. A doctor familiar with a patients situation is in the best position to address potential benefits and risks of treatments and make specific recommendations.
Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, reducing use of sedatives, and sleeping on your side, can resolve some cases of OSA. Another common treatment is nightly use of a continuous positive airway pressure or bi-level positive airway pressure machine. These devices push air through a mask and into the airway to keep it open during sleep.
Some types of mouthpieces that hold the jaw or tongue in a specific position are an option for people with certain anatomical features that trigger mild OSA. In addition, though usually not the first treatment option, surgery to remove tissue and expand the airway can be considered. Medications may be prescribed to help with daytime sleepiness in people with this symptom.
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Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treatment
The treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is based on its cause. Since enlarged tonsils and adenoids are the most common cause of obstructive sleep apnea in children, surgical removal of the tonsils and adenoids is usually the recommended treatment . An ear, nose and throat specialist will evaluate for and make the recommendation for surgical removal. Other types of surgery are occasionally needed in children with craniofacial abnormalities. Weight loss and treatment of other medical problems may also be helpful in the management of obstructive sleep apnea. Oftentimes, the child can be referred to the Healthy Weight Clinic, which can help focus on ways to improve health and contribute to healthy weight loss.
In cases where surgery is not helpful, another effective treatment is continuous positive airway pressure . CPAP involves wearing a mask over the nose during sleep. This mask is attached to a machine that blows air through the nasal passages and into the airway. This will be managed by a lung specialist, or pulmonologist.
If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can cause poor growth , high blood pressure and heart problems. Obstructive sleep apnea can also affect behavior and cognition. Therefore, it is important to get it evaluated early.
Longing For More Sleep
There is a common misconception that there is an exact amount of sleep that the body requires. The necessary hours of sleep can vary, as some people can require as little as five hours or as much as nine hours to function optimally. In addition, too little or too much sleep can cause problems. The classic example is someone who sleeps in on the weekends. Although one may think getting more sleep than usual would leave a person feeling well rested, sleeping an extra 2 to 3 hours can actually cause the person to feel groggy and less rested. For my migraine patients, both under- and oversleeping can serve as triggers for more migraines. Naps can also be detrimental to sleep hygiene, as they often lead to poor sleep that evening.
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More Scary Sleep Disorders
What It Is: This is probably one of the most well-known of the parasomnias and, as the name suggests, it is characterized by the individual getting up and walking around while in deep sleep. Sleepwalking can be dangerous to you and to others. It most commonly occurs in children.
How to Treat It: Like other parasomnias, safety risks can be reduced to the sleepwalker by making the bedroom safe. Shutting doors or putting gates at stairways might be needed. In some cases, medical evaluation and medication is necessary to control sleepwalking.
What Happens If It Is Left Untreated
If sleep apnea is left untreated , it can lead to many other health issues that are dangerous. One of the worst things about sleep apnea is how it affects your heart and cardiovascular system. It has been found in study after study that people with sleep apnea have significantly higher rates of stroke, high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias , and congestive heart failure than those who do not suffer from this disorder.
Its also important to know that when you dont get enough or poor quality sleep due to obstructions caused by snoring and Sleep Apnea then we start accumulating these sleeping hours which leaves us feeling more fatigued during the day leading many doctors to believe there may be a link between lack of good quality sleep and sleep apnea.
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What Causes Obstructive Sleep Apnea
A blockage or narrowing of the airways in your nose, mouth, or throat generally causes obstructive sleep apnea . This usually occurs when the throat muscles and tongue relax during sleep and either completely or partially block the airway.
Sleep apnea can also occur if you have bone deformities of the jaw or face or larger than normal tissues in your nose, mouth, or throat. For example, you may have large tonsils. During the day when you are awake and standing up, this may not cause problems. However, when you lie down at night, your tonsils can press down on your airway, narrowing it and causing sleep apnea.
Other factors that make sleep apnea more likely include being obese, using certain medicines or alcohol before bed, and sleeping on your back.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea Is The Most Common Subtype Of The Condition
The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, sometimes referred to as OSA. With OSA, the throat muscles in the back of your throat, which naturally become more relaxed during sleep, collapse too much to allow for normal breathing.
The throat muscles support the soft tissues in the back of the throat such as the soft palate, the uvula, the tonsils, and tongue so when those muscles collapse too much, those tissues can fall back into the throat, partially or completely blocking the normal flow of air in your airway. When the airway is blocked partially the person may start to snore, which is why this symptom is common in OSA.
When your brain senses that you arent getting enough oxygen, it signals your body to wake up enough so that you can reopen your airway, and you may gasp for air during the night. Simply put, having obstructive sleep apnea means that not enough air can get into lungs at night, and your brain wakes you up to breathe, says Robson Capasso, MD, chief of sleep surgery and associate professor of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine in California.
Doctors diagnose OSA using a sleep test that measures your body and brain activity during sleep, which is conducted either at home or at a sleep lab.
Your doctor may also advise you to lose weight and to avoid sleeping on your back, to prevent gravity from further pushing your tongue, tonsils, and other soft tissues in your throat into your airway.
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What Are The Complications Of Sleep Apnoea
Sleep apnoea is bad for your health. Apart from making you tired, there is good evidence that people with untreated moderate to severe sleep apnoea have other health problems. They are more likely to have high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease than someone without it.
They also have a higher risk of:
What Are The Risk Factors For Sleep Apnea
You are at a higher risk for obstructive sleep apnea if:
The ASAA estimates that between 1 and 4 percent of American children have sleep apnea.
Although surgical removal of the tonsils and adenoids is the most common treatment for pediatric obstructive sleep apnea, positive airway pressure therapy and oral appliances are also prescribed.
Make an appointment with your doctor if youre exhibiting any of the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, especially:
- loud, disruptive snoring
- episodes of stopped breathing while sleeping
- abrupt awakenings from sleep that are frequently accompanied by gasping or choking
Your doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist, a medical doctor with additional training and education in sleep medicine.
Treatment for severe obstructive sleep apnea includes lifestyle changes, therapies and surgeries, if needed.
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Make Sure Your Mask Fits Correctly
When it comes to CPAP therapy, one size does not fit all. Its very important to get a mask that fits correctly and is comfortable for you.
There are many different types of masks available, including ones that cover the full face and ones that cover only the nose. Masks also come in a range of sizes, to accommodate different face shapes. There are also options that allow you to sleep in any position, accommodate glasses, and stay on if you toss and turn.
Be sure to discuss your options with your doctor and schedule follow-up appointments to check the fit, evaluate your treatment progress, and adjust or switch your mask if necessary.
Sleep Apnea: 7 Things That Can Make It Worse
Obstructive sleep apnea, also called OSA, is a disorder in which a person may stop breathing several times while they are sleeping. The condition is a serious health problem that affects people of all ages, including children. If you suspect that you have sleep apnea, your doctor may send you to a sleep specialist who will conduct a sleep study to determine if you have OSA. This is the typical approach that your health care provider uses to confirm a diagnosis of apnea.
It is also helpful to understand that lifestyle habits and health conditions can worsen apnea. Some of these health habits are factors that you can control, so it’s important to find out what can make sleep apnea worse.
1. Obesity: Being obese can also worsen sleep apnea, so it is important to manage your weight if you are significantly overweight. Extra weight can result in excess tissues in and around your airway, which negatively impacts your airway as your body relaxes at night. What’s more, sleep apnea can actually lead to weight gain. If you’re struggling with weight gain, talk to your doctor about good nutrition so that you can maintain a healthy weight.
2. Alcohol: Alcohol is another type of muscle relaxant, and this can create problems for people who deal with apnea. Drinking alcohol can cause your airway to relax too much, which can lead to obstruction. If you are struggling with OSA, it is best to avoid drinking alcohol altogether.
Sleeping On Your Back
Sleeping position is a pretty hard factor to modify, but with enough help from a partner or family member, you can start getting used to sleeping on the side. Sleeping in the supine position increases the tendency of snoring and worsen sleep apnea. On the other hand, people who suffer from OSA were found to have reduced sleep apnea episodes when they sleep on their side. This is also true for people who dont suffer from OSA but are loud snorers.
How Can An Oral Appliance Help With Osa
A sleep apnea appliance is considered a highly effective treatment option for OSA. The device is worn during sleep and is reminiscent of a sports mouth guard or orthodontic retainer. It moves your jaw forward slightly to maintain an open airway. This prevents your tongue and throat tissue from blocking your airway during sleep.
Many patients prefer oral appliance therapy compared to CPAP because theyre:
- Comfortable and easy to wear
- Much quieter than CPAP machines
- Portable and convenient for traveling
There are various models and styles of oral appliances available for the treatment of OSA. Dr. Pak uses digital imaging or physical impressions to ensure the correct dimensions are used in creating your appliance. These measurements are sent to a lab and the oral appliance is then custom-made to fit your mouth. This helps significantly with comfort and ease of use.
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Sleep Apnea Treatment Options
Each has its own pros and cons. While the CPAP machine is safe and effective, it is noisy and inconvenient. The mouthguard, on the other hand, is easy to use but can cause pain.
What Are The Symptoms Of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
When your body isnt receiving the oxygen it needs during sleep, it sends signals that wake up the brain to remind it you need to breathe. People with obstructive sleep apnea can experience hundreds of apneic episodes in a night. This severely disrupts sleep patterns. These waking episodes are often accompanied by loud gasping, choking, or snorting sounds as your body attempts to fight past the obstruction.
Other symptoms that may indicate youre having problems with OSA include:
- Night sweats
- Lack of focus and short attention span
- Excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue
- Morning headaches caused by decreased oxygen in the blood flowing to your brain during sleep
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Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome Is A Combination Of Osa And Central Sleep Apnea
Doctors have recently identified a third type of sleep apnea called complex sleep apnea, which is a combination of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Patients with this type of sleep apnea may at first seem to have obstructive sleep apnea, but unlike typical patients with obstructive sleep apnea, these patients symptoms are not fully addressed with the use of CPAP.
In patients with complex sleep apnea syndrome, breathing problems persist even after the airway obstruction is addressed and treated, which means something besides the collapsing throat muscles are also contributing to the apnea.
The problem is that there is still a lot of debate among sleep medicine specialists about whatexactly is going on in complex sleep apnea, or what the key characteristics that define it are.
In a study published in March 2014 in the journal Sleep Medicine Clinics, doctors conducted a review of 223 patients referred to the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center over one month, as well as 20 patients diagnosed with central sleep apnea. 00122-7/abstract” rel=”nofollow”> 11) They found that 15 percent of all sleep apnea patients had complex sleep apnea. As many as 84 percent were found to have obstructive sleep apnea, and 0.4 percent had central sleep apnea.
What Is The Worst Sleep Position For Sleep Apnea
The worst sleep position for Sleep Apnea is sleeping on your back. When you are in this position, it causes the airway to collapse and make breathing difficult. This can also lead to snoring since the tongue falls backward blocking off your throat which makes any sound that may come out of our nose become muffled or silenced completely. If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea then its important to be aware of what kind of positions help alleviate these symptoms as well as being mindful about not going into them during those times when we feel exhausted or sleepy.
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