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How Your Sleep Position Can Influence Your CPAP Therapy

How Your Sleep Position Can Influence Your CPAP Therapy

We all have our preferred way to sleep. Some like to sleep curled up on their side, while others lie flat on their back. But regardless of your preferred sleep position, an obstructive sleep apnea diagnosis is bound to bring about some changes.

Understanding how your sleep position affects sleep apnea — as well as how it can affect your use of a CPAP mask — is an important part of enjoying effective therapy. Here’s a closer look at what you should know about how different sleep positions influence sleep apnea and the effectiveness of your CPAP therapy.

The Relationship Between Your Sleep Position and Sleep Apnea

couple wearing CPAP masks

First, it’s worth noting that your sleep position can actually influence the severity of your sleep apnea. In fact, for some people, simply changing the position that they sleep in can drastically reduce how many breathing interruptions they experience during the night. For people with very mild cases of sleep apnea, a change in sleeping positions could be enough to eliminate symptoms entirely.

As the Sleep Foundation explains, sleeping on your side is generally considered to be the best position for sleep apnea. Side sleeping reduces the likelihood of the soft tissues in the mouth and throat moving into a position where they restrict airflow. Sleeping on your stomach can have a similar effect, though studies are less conclusive on its ability to reduce sleep apnea symptoms. These positions can also improve central sleep apnea, though researchers aren’t entirely sure why.

Sleeping on your back is generally considered the worst choice for sleep apnea. The force of gravity pulls the soft tissues of the mouth and throat back in a way that makes them more likely to block the airways. It also makes the tongue more likely to move into a position that restricts airflow. Doctors often recommend that back sleepers try to sleep on their side instead or sleep with their head raised to reduce the severity of their symptoms.

That being said, most people who struggle with obstructive sleep apnea won’t be able to completely “solve” their problems just by changing their sleep position. Most people will still need the help of a CPAP machine to manage their symptoms and achieve restful sleep.

Which Sleep Position is Best For Using a CPAP Mask?

man wearing CPAP mask

While sleeping on your back is considered “bad” for sleep apnea in general, this isn’t necessarily the case when you’re using a CPAP mask. Some sleep positions are better suited for certain types of CPAP masks than others. When consulting with a sleep specialist about your CPAP therapy needs, your sleep position is an essential factor to consider.

Sleeping on your back: Sleeping on your back is generally the easiest sleep position for using a CPAP mask. This is because sleeping on your back keeps your mask away from the pillow. As a result, there is little risk of the mask getting knocked out of the proper position during the night. Whether you prefer a full face mask or nasal pillows, just about any CPAP mask option will work well for back sleepers.

Sleeping on your side: Sleeping on your side may be the best position for managing sleep apnea symptoms, but it’s more of a “second-best” choice for using a CPAP mask. The large profile of a full face mask can cause it to press into the pillow while sleeping on your side, which could cause it to get knocked loose.

On the other hand, nasal masks and nasal pillows generally work well for side sleepers, since they are less likely to get moved out of place by the pillow. Extra attention should be given to headgear straps to ensure the mask is firmly in place.

Sleeping on your stomach: Stomach sleeping is the worst option for CPAP users. This is because sleeping on your stomach usually results in your face being pressed against the pillow. The mask could get pressed uncomfortably tight against your skin, or it could get moved out of place. 

Nasal pillows are generally the best choice if you sleep on your stomach, since they are inserted into the nostrils. This makes them less likely to get pushed out of place during the night.

You’ll also need to consider other sleep needs. For example, people who breathe through their mouth at night need to use a full face mask. Nasal pillows are generally best suited for lower air pressure settings. Because of this, you might need additional sleep support to sleep in a “better” position for your mask. For example, a CPAP pillow will be more accommodating to larger masks for side and stomach sleepers, while a body pillow can make it easier to train yourself to sleep on your side.

Get the Right CPAP Supplies For Any Sleep Position

Your preferred sleep position can directly influence which type of CPAP mask is right for you. One thing that remains consistent for all individuals with obstructive sleep apnea, however, is the need for a quality CPAP machine to provide consistent air pressure throughout the night.

The one problem, of course, is that CPAP machines can be quite expensive, especially if you don’t have health insurance. This is where Help Medical Supplies comes in. We offer a wide range of quality CPAP and BiPAP machines at significant discounts off of MSRP — plus you can save even more with free shipping on orders of $99 or more! Combine that with available financing on large orders, and getting the CPAP equipment you need has never been more manageable.


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