What is Prone Sleeping Position And How May It Help Sleep Apnea Patients? 

proning sleeping in prone position

Getting a good night’s rest is one of the best things we can do to ensure we maintain a good quality of life. 

Sleeping in the wrong position can leave you waking up feeling stiff and tired, making those early mornings that much more unbearable. If you suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea, your sleeping position may be a deciding factor in whether or not you successfully overcome these nocturnal disturbances. 

The prone sleeping position (also known as proning) is when a person lies flat on their stomach. This allows gravity to play a role in preventing the tongue and other soft tissue that can block the airway when a person sleeps on their back or in other positions.

Why is Sleep Important?

You may not realize that our sleeping positions contribute to our overall physical health, each position either helping or hindering your bodily capabilities the next day. 

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a concerning issue for many. Considered to be serious if left untreated, OSA is caused when the tongue and soft palate at the back of the mouth restrict airflow to the trachea, blocking oxygen intake and causing a loss of breath up to several times a night. 

This can result in constant unrest and serious future health problems if left untreated.

Receiving a full night’s rest can be difficult for those tackling the disorder, as work life, family commitments and personal endeavours all require much-needed energy. If sleep apnea is keeping you awake, these everyday tasks can become harder and harder to achieve after several nights of disturbance. 

Taking the correct preventative measures by ensuring your body is in the prone position while asleep may relieve some discomfort. 

How The Prone Position Helps Sleep Apnea

What is the prone position? Ever since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, doctors and medical professionals have adopted the prone position to help with respiratory issues caused by the virus. 

By lying flat on your stomach and allowing gravity to keep your soft palate and mouth tissue from blocking your airways, you can improve your current sleep state. The very best sleeping position for sleep apnea sufferers, however, is by sleeping on your left side. 

According to the Sleep Better Council, sleeping on your left side is the optimal position for those with OSA, as it stimulates blood flow and prevents restrictive conditions within the mouth. 

Apart from being ideal for pregnant women and helping relieve acid reflux, side sleeping has also been proven to be useful for tackling insomnia and aligning the spine. Using a thick pillow that can keep the neck and head in an elevated position is recommended, sleeping on the right side will also provide the same benefits, just marginally less.

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)

Distinctly different from Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) is another type of sleep apnea disorder that stems from neurological miscommunication between the brain and body. 

Unlike the physicality of OSA, CSA is caused when the brain fails to send signas to the respiratory system. Central Sleep Apnea can also result in serious health conditions if not treated properly, though it is much less prevalent than OSA. Whichever form of sleep apnea you suffer from, figuring out the various ways to tackle the issue remains a priority. 

Chronic nocturnal disturbances can interfere with vital REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which is crucial for leaving you feeling restored in the morning. 

Sleeping on your back is considered the worst position for those dealing with sleep apnea. By sleeping in the supine position, the soft palate and tongue are susceptible to gravity’s force on the respiratory tract. 

The jaw’s inability to keep airways clear can induce heavy snoring and lead to intermittent rest. If sleep apnea is a consistent problem for you, sleeping on your back is highly discouraged. The health problems that can arise from chronic sleep apnea is worrying. Losing multiple hours of sleep can leave you feeling unreplenished and exacerbate a decline in wellbeing. 

Health Concerns

Daytime irritability and fatigue are common for those dealing with sleep apnea, which can leave you tired, depressed and groggy. 

Motor performance is slower, accidents are more likely and sleepiness throughout the day usually occurs. High blood pressure and heart problems can also arise, with dramatic declines in blood oxygen levels while in and out of consciousness. Due to a resistance to insulin over time, sleep apnea patients are also prone to type 2 diabetes and a range of other health risks. 

Providing yourself with every chance of combating your condition by taking the needed precautions, sooner rather than later, will hopefully help to end the persistent stress of your nightly disturbances. 

Sleep deprivation for you and your partner, complications with certain medications are all to be avoided by seeking professional medical advice regarding your specific concerns. 

Signs and Symptoms

You’re considered two to three more times likely to experience sleep apnea if you’re a man. 

The rates for women go up, however, if you’re overweight or postmenopausal. Noticing what may put you at risk of exhibiting SA should be of major importance. Without awareness of our body and the ability to listen to what it tells us, we are left without adequate time to prepare and tackle the diagnosis. 

Several major factors can determine whether or not you could be at risk of exhibiting sleep apnea. Those who smoke are three times more likely to suffer from SA than those who don’t, alcohol and sedative medication should also be avoided. 

Tranquilizers and other muscle relaxants can cause restrictions to airflow, excess weight and obesity in both men and women can prove to be a factor also.

Are There Other Solutions?

Yes, there are several different approaches to tackling and overcoming the stresses of sleep apnea. 

For those with milder conditions of SA, simply staying active and keeping at a healthy weight may prove effective. Losing as little as 10% of your body weight can drastically reduce nightly disturbances for most. Nasal sprays and other respiratory relief agents can improve your condition further. 

Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) therapy is a common SA solution, where a pressurised air-blower pushes oxygen past the soft palate while you sleep. You can acquire specified PAP devices individualised to your breathing patterns. 

What Else

Surgery, sinuplasty and tonsillectomy are all potential problem-solvers for anyone dealing with SA. Yoga has been proven to strengthen respiratory abilities and heart health, taking at-home classes will increase energy levels and keep you fit. 

If for some reason you are in a situation you can’t use your CPAP, sleeping on your stomach can be a good short term fix to help you sleep until you are able to use CPAP again.

Or perhaps try a humidifier to clear congestion and bring moisture to your space, either way, we hope we gave you everything you need in this article to help you take the suitable steps in getting a peaceful sleep.


Dan was diagnosed with sleep apnea in 2017 when he was only 32 years old. He has been using a BIPAP machine for his treatment. He hopes to provide a patient's perspective on the sleep apnea experience. Dan lives in Tampa with his girlfriend and 2 dogs.

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