Depending on what kind of sleep disorder you have, positional sleep therapy may help. It can help you manage it, lessen symptoms and help you overcome the worst impacts of your sleep disorder. A good example of this is learning to not sleep on your back if you have obstructive sleep apnea (‘positional sleep apnea), as that promotes snoring, breathing disruptions and allows the airway to close.
Positional sleep therapy:
There are a number of recognised sleep positions. Most people favour a particular position. In general, people will tend to choose a sleep position that is comfortable for them, but entrenched sleep habits can mean that people with sleep disorders continue to favour sleep positions – even if they make their symptoms worse. This is most true in the case of positional obstructive sleep apnea – which is the most common sleep disorder among adults.
There are a number of physical aids that are used to prevent apnea sufferers rolling onto their backs, such as a ‘side-sleeping backpack’, bolster cushions, and things that will create discomfort if they roll on to their backs. Others help position heads at the best angle to keep the airway open.
The value of positional sleep therapy – including learning new sleep position habits:
Positional sleep therapy has immediate benefits. Over time, it also helps people to break their bad sleep position habits if they tend to turn on their backs while asleep.
Sleep positioning therapy can help people who don’t handle a CPAP device well, or who have mild positional sleep apnea – alleviating apnea episodes enough to reduce, or delay, the need for CPAP treatment.
However, it’s not a reliable intervention on its own and should not be relied on in severe cases. It’s also of no use in the case of central sleep apnea, which has nothing to do with your sleeping position.