You have likely heard it before: "I only snore when I sleep on my back." How does sleep position really impact your snoring? Is there a cure for it that might leave you sleeping better?
Sleep Position and Snoring
Snoring results when the upper airway, specifically the throat and the nasal passage, vibrate during breathing while asleep. If you sleep on your back, you may be more predisposed to snoring. This occurs because the airway is more subject to collapsing, both from internal factors as well as external influence (such as the weight of your chest pressing down).
Not only can sleeping on your back cause snoring, but it may also lead to complete airway collapse called sleep apnea. This can have significant and even deadly consequences, so it is important to address these problems.
Sleeping on your side may be just what you need to breathe and rest more comfortably. Research studies, including a study of 21 people who snored without sleep apnea, support that sleeping on your side can significantly reduce time spent snoring and the intensity of snoring.
How to Change Your Sleep Position
Suggesting that you just learn to sleep on your sides may seem pointless as you are, after all, asleep. However, about half of people who are encouraged to sleep on their sides will learn to do so and can maintain the positioning.
For those who need a little extra encouragement, there are a number of devices that may be helpful. These include postural alarms, special positioning pillows, and even modified nightshirts.
One inexpensive home remedy is to outfit a snug-fitting T-shirt with a pocket sewn over the spine and a tennis ball placed in the pocket. Therefore, whenever you roll onto your back while asleep, you will become uncomfortable and naturally shift back to your sides. In general, this discomfort won’t be enough to waken you. If you are significantly overweight or obese, you may need a firmer ball, like a baseball, to cause enough discomfort for you to shift off your back.
If your snoring is due to body positioning, simple interventions to get you to turn onto your side may be just the thing to leave you sleeping better.
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Cartwright, R et al. "A comparative study of treatments for positional sleep apnea." Sleep 1991;14:546.
Nakano, H et al. "Effects of body position on snoring in apneic and nonapneic snorers." Sleep 2003;26:169.