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Positional Therapy

Treating Sleep Apnea with Positional Therapy

Sleep apnea is a condition where you temporarily stop breathing while you sleep. It can stem from a number of causes, one of them being the position you sleep in. Sleep apnea is a problem because it results in interrupted sleep, resulting in increased fatigue at the least and serious health problems at the worst. Because there are numerous causes for sleep apnea, the treatment for this condition varies depending on the cause. If you suffer from sleep apnea stemming from your sleeping position, you might benefit from positional therapy.

What is positional therapy?

Positional therapy is used to train you to sleep on your side instead of on your back. When you are flat on your back in the supine position, it can place additional strain on your airway, resulting in a temporary inability to draw breath correctly. This is particularly true in patients who may be overweight, although it can affect even those who are of average or even light weight.

If you experience increased occurrences of sleep apnea when you are in the supine position, you may find positional therapy to be a useful tool. Positional therapy uses one or more different means to encourage you to sleep on your side instead of on your back.

What types of positional therapy are available?

One form of positional therapy involves the use of a specialized apparatus to encourage you to sleep on your side. This may be as simple as wearing a device constructed of pillows sewn onto a strap. The pillows prevent the wearer from turning during sleep, meaning that you are prevented from inadvertently rolling onto your back once you fall asleep.

Another device is not as obtrusive as the pillow-strap, consisting of a small device that vibrates when the wearer rolls onto his or her back. The vibration reminds him or her to turn back to a side sleeping position. While effective, this device may result in more disturbed sleep than the first, and may not be the best choice for people who are light sleepers.

Why would I consider positional therapy?

Frequently, people who suffer from sleep apnea only have a mild form of the condition. As such, they may not wish to pursue more traditional treatment methods such as the use of a CPAP machine. In addition, the treatment for positional therapy tends to be less expensive than other remedies. To this end, those people who are able to treat their sleep apnea successfully using only positional therapy tend to opt for it, moving on to other types of therapy if it does not work for them.

What else do I need to know?

Because there are a number of different causes for sleep apnea, you should talk with your healthcare provider to see if positional therapy would be best for you. He or she can examine you, evaluate the cause of your sleep apnea, and help you make the best informed decision for you and your family.

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