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Blog Feature

By: Kevin Asp on November 23rd, 2015

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How Your Sleeping Position Affects Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Sleep Technologist Advice

sleeping position affects obstructive sleep apnea

Your body position during sleep can affect the condition of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)

Learn how your sleeping position affects obstructive sleep apnea.

What is REM-related OSA anyway?

REM-related OSA is a sleep breathing abnormality in which apneas and hypopneas are confined to REM sleep periods. It's already been an extensively studied subject that body posture has a major effect on breathing abnormalities during sleep, and the supine body position has an even greater effect on severity of OSA during REM sleep.

A study looks at the effect of body posture on REM-related OSA

In a study published in The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, the effect of body position on REM-related obstructive sleep apnea was explored. In this retrospective analysis, researchers surveyed 100 adult REM-related-OSA patients and compared the data collected from these patients with data collected from non-REM-related OSA patients.

The study found that sleeping in supine position during REM sleep is associated with increased frequency but not duration of apneas and hypopneas. In other words, this study showed that body position has an important impact on breathing abnormalities during REM sleep. During this sleep stage, the supine posture has a worsening effect, facilitating the occurrence of breathing abnormalities, but the duration of these events is similar to duration of events occurring in the lateral posture. These body position effects are similar for REM-related and non–REM-related OSA patients.

The bottom line

We recommend that patients with REM-related OSA avoid sleeping in the supine position. 

Want to learn more about REM-related OSA?  Read our Case of The Month article on Supine Position and REM Stage Sleep. 

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