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Sleeping Position Is An Important Aspect Of APNEA
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surferdude2 Offline

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Post: #1
Sleeping Position Is An Important Aspect Of APNEA
It's well accepted that side sleeping is infinitely better than back sleeping as far as reducing the effects of apnea is concerned. For some people, that's all that's needed and will allow them to forego using a CPAP machine. For the rest of us who are accustomed to sleeping on our backs, it's like getting a head start on attacking the problem so read on.

Here's the best way I have found to minimize my discomfort and maximize my CPAP therapy. I don't claim it will work for everyone but for those that it does, this can save you a lot of trial and error along with lots of sleepless hours.

Unfortunately, when I first tried side sleeping I had a great deal of shoulder pain. Being slightly broad shouldered and having a long standing rotator cuff problem, I expected all that to be a problem. I initially decided that side sleeping was out of the question for me. Fortunately, I found a way to work around the situation and allow me to get the side sleeping benefits and still have most of the back sleeping comfort. It's not rocket science but still worth sharing.

I place a large firm pillow against my back and in alignment with my torso, starting just above my hips and running up toward my shoulders. I place this pillow in such a way that when I roll over against it, it supports my torso comfortably in a mid-way position. That allows me to stretch my legs out just like I always enjoyed doing when sleeping on my back and not have the problem of leg crossing that side sleeping gives. It still allows me to keep the side of my head planted on my regular pillow and get the benefits of side sleeping as far as apnea is concerned. Although it amounts to an overall torque of 90° from my legs to my head, it's spread out over every possible joint so that no one joint bears enough torque to cause discomfort. It also spreads the weight between my shoulder and my back so that I no longer wake from a sore shoulder or an arm that is numb from lack of blood flow. I sleep in this modified position all night long and have not been bothered with having to reposition myself to get comfortable like I used to do when first trying to side sleep.

Although not necessary, I also use a 4" mattress topper that has a 2" layer of medium support on the bottom and a 2" layer of memory foam on top. That helped somewhat with the shoulder pain relief. I got that before I tried the modified sleep position and although it helped, it wasn't the total answer. I also tried a firm "side sleeper" pillow and it wasn't the answer either but is now used as the "large firm pillow" mentioned above. For me at least, it took all the elements working in concert to get me the comfort I need to deal with side sleeping. I actually now like this modified position better than my old favorite "back sleeper" position. It must be comfortable since I wake up in the morning in the same position I fell asleep in the night before.

If you're a back sleeper or even a "toss and turn" sleeper, trying this modified side sleeping position is well worth the effort if you want to maximize your therapy, minimize your pressure requirements (easily 2 cm wc less, making for less mask leaks and less strap tension) and get as much bodily comfort in the process as is possible.

I can understand that this may not work for everybody since various back, shoulder and neck conditions come into play but I just wanted to share my experience in case it might save a few people from some of the grief I had along the way.

Sleep-well
09-13-2014 10:53 AM
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justMongo Offline

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Post: #2
RE: Sleeping Position Is An Important Aspect Of APNEA
Side sleeping works for me as far a fewer apnea events and lower average pressure.
I do not know if your topper and memory foam would work for me. I'm rather a heavy person.

"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
William Pitt (1759-1806)

INFORMATION ON APNEA BOARD FORUMS OR ON APNEABOARD.COM SHOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED AS MEDICAL ADVICE. ALWAYS SEEK THE ADVICE OF A PHYSICIAN BEFORE SEEKING TREATMENT FOR MEDICAL CONDITIONS, INCLUDING SLEEP APNEA. INFORMATION POSTED ON THE APNEA BOARD WEB SITE AND FORUMS ARE PERSONAL OPINION ONLY AND NOT NECESSARILY A STATEMENT OF FACT.
09-13-2014 11:00 AM
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trish6hundred Offline

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Post: #3
RE: Sleeping Position Is An Important Aspect Of APNEA
Hi surferdude2,
Thank you for sharing this helpful information.
Good to hear that you've found a way to optimize your therapy..
Good goin', keep up the good work.

trish6hundred
09-13-2014 11:50 AM
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Clementine Offline

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Post: #4
RE: Sleeping Position Is An Important Aspect Of APNEA
As I read your description, I remember sleeping exactly the same way during my two pregnancies. LOL

So, works for sleep apnea and also works for pregnancy. Bonus.
Big Grin
09-13-2014 09:13 PM
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becker44a Offline

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Post: #5
RE: Sleeping Position Is An Important Aspect Of APNEA
(09-13-2014 10:53 AM)surferdude2 Wrote:  It's well accepted that side sleeping is infinitely better than back sleeping as far as reducing the effects of apnea is concerned. For some people, that's all that's needed and will allow them to forego using a CPAP machine.

Hi SurferDude,
I'm one who can confirm this tendency. I suspected fairly early that this was an issue for me, and set about getting the results of my sleep study. It showed that my OSA is nearly 20 times worse when on my back than on my side - supine 58.8, side 3.

Obviously I needed to avoid backsleeping to get this under control. I now use a backpack to avoid rolling on my back, and these days my AHI is rarely above 1. Also results in reduced pressures and leaks - much more comfortable now.

If I don't use the backpack, I roll on my back, start having events, and the pressure shoots up between 19 and 20, and it still isn't enough to control the events. When using the backpack, it is rare for my max pressure to go over 14. Last Sunday, my 7-day average 95% pressure was 13.0. This means that side-sleeping is reducing my pressure needs by about 7 Cm H2O.

At some point, I'll try your suggestion and see what happens. Thanks.

A.Becker
PAPing in NE Ohio, with a pack of Cairn terriers
09-13-2014 09:45 PM
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JimZZZ Offline

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Post: #6
RE: Sleeping Position Is An Important Aspect Of APNEA
When I roll onto my back, my mouth automatically falls open (regardless of chin strap) and I swallow air, awaken and roll back onto my side causing my shoulder and hip to hurt so that I roll on to my back....repeat. Last night I tried taking an ibuprofen at bedtime to lessen the shoulder/hip discomfort and slept through the night without awakening. Does anyone know whether a nightly ibuprofen is harmful?
09-14-2014 06:30 AM
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archangle Offline
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Post: #7
RE: Sleeping Position Is An Important Aspect Of APNEA
I think we need to be careful to not condemn back sleeping too strongly. With CPAP, I think a lot of people can still adequately treat their apnea, although it might require more pressure. If this works out better for the individual, more power to them.

Yet another reason a fully data capable CPAP is so necessary to properly treat apnea.

Get the free SleepyHead software here.
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If it's midnight and a DME tells you it's dark outside, go and check it yourself.
09-14-2014 07:14 AM
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OMyMyOHellYes Offline

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Post: #8
RE: Sleeping Position Is An Important Aspect Of APNEA
(09-14-2014 07:14 AM)archangle Wrote:  I think we need to be careful to not condemn back sleeping too strongly. With CPAP, I think a lot of people can still adequately treat their apnea, although it might require more pressure. If this works out better for the individual, more power to them.

Yet another reason a fully data capable CPAP is so necessary to properly treat apnea.

Yeah ... 'tis so.

OMM
09-14-2014 08:37 AM
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surferdude2 Offline

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Post: #9
RE: Sleeping Position Is An Important Aspect Of APNEA
Truly true and it is my ultimate goal to be able to return to my good old favorite back sleeping position as soon as I can pull it off. I find the bothersome effects of the CPAP back pressure when exhaling are diminishing as time passes and I have high hopes that I will someday be able to stand the higher pressure necessary for back sleeping. That still leaves me with the leakage problem but I think that can also be handled or tolerated in time.
09-14-2014 10:30 AM
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me50 Offline

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Post: #10
RE: Sleeping Position Is An Important Aspect Of APNEA
I sleep on my back and my AHI is low everynight. BUT, I prefer to sleep on my side but I cannot seem to fall asleep when I lay on my side. When I lay on my back, I can instantly fall asleep. I keep trying to sleep on my side but get tired of laying there awake so I eventually roll over on my back and go to sleep.
09-14-2014 10:48 AM
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