Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSA), also known as “sleep apnea“, is characterized by a partial or complete obstruction of the upper airway and occurs several times per hour during the night. Abnormal breathing or snoring can lead to frequent awakenings throughout the night. These awakenings can go unnoticed but may have serious health consequences.
In addition to the effects on sleep quality and nervous system function, obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSA) can also contribute to cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Positional sleep apnea syndrome
The posture adopted during sleep can alter the frequency and severity of apnea for people with sleep apnea syndrome. When sleeping on your back causes more than 50% of the apnea, it is known as “positional” OSA. When the obstruction occurs only happen when the patient sleeps on his back, it is known as “exclusive positional” OSA. These positional forms of sleep apnea are mostly found in young people with a low body mass index (BMI) and a limited occurrence of sleep apneas per hour.
Treatment choice depends on the severity of sleep apnea, the impact on the patient’s life, the medical conditions involved, and the patient’s preferences and expectations. CPAP (Continuous positive airway pressure) therapy is currently the most effective option for treating sleep apnea. The patient receives a mask connected to an electrical device providing continuous positive airway pressure. CPAP helps to reduce the obstruction of the patient’s airway.
Positional therapy for sleep apnea is an encouraging alternative and effective complement to CPAP or mouth guards. It is often recommended for mild to moderate apnea.
Positional therapy works to prevent the patient from sleeping on their back, which causes or aggravates hypopnea, apnea and snoring. Devices have been designed to make the position uncomfortable and thereby discourage the patient from sleeping on their back.
Here are some examples:
- Tennis ball: A tennis ball is attached with a belt to the patient’s back or inserted in a pocket on the back of a shirt.
- Bumper belt: A belt with 3 inflatable bumpers worn on the patient’s back
- Backpack: A backpack filled with a cushion, a big ball or a bulky item.
- Body pillow: placed alongside the patient’s body.
- Posture alarm: An alarm is triggered whenever a patient is on their back.
Positional therapy efficiency
Positional therapy is an alternative treatment for exclusive positional obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, however, CPAP is more effective. This therapy must therefore remain the first-line treatment. It is recommended to consult a specialist as soon as the first symptoms of sleep apnea are experienced.