Positional Therapy for Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea syndrome is a disorder caused by the narrowing of the upper airway which causes repeated episodes of pauses or stops-and-start breathing. It is associated with snoring, sleep disruption and frequent awakenings. Sleep apnea is a dangerous disorder that increases the risk for hypertension, diabetes and heart disease as well as depression, daytime sleepiness and accidents.

One way to treat sleep apnea besides the commonly prescribed CPAP (mask) is Positional therapy. This is a goodtreatment option for those whose sleep apnea occurs mainly on their back (supine position).

This therapy involves training the individual to sleep in the lateral or side position. You can accomplish this through a couple of ways:


  • A special pillow (Sona pillow): you can purchase on line
  • Anti-snore shirt- also purchased on line.
  • You can sew a tennis ball on the back of your shirt to keep you from sleeping on your back.
  • Some patients might find benefit from sleeping at an elevation in a recliner; that is ok if you are taking an afternoon nap and your apnea is not very severe, but it cannot be the main treatment.
  • If you decide to pursue positional therapy for your sleep apnea, make sure to discuss it with your doctor. Severe sleep apnea with significant drop in oxygen during the night, for example, might require more aggressive treatment than positional therapy, i.e., CPAP, oral appliance, weight loss and/or surgery.