Positional Therapy: Properly Treat Sleep Apnea

According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, an estimated 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder occurring when a person’s breathing is interrupted when they sleep. As you can imagine, this has a significant impact on your health! When sleep apnea is left untreated, there can be serious consequences such as stroke, heart attack, diabetes, headaches, depression, fatigue and high blood pressure.

There are two types of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea. OSA is caused when the airway is blocked, typically by soft tissue collapsing during sleep. This is the most common type of sleep apnea and the type I am referring to in this post. The other type, central sleep apnea, is a neurological issue when the brain doesn’t signal the muscles to breath.

The good news for sleep apnea sufferers is there are ways to treat it, including home treatments, medical aids and surgery. Though effective, surgery and medications should be used after simple modifications at home are made. By changing your sleep position and using an appropriate pillow, like a buckwheat pillow or millet pillow, you can improve or even cure your sleep apnea. The proper pillow can help open your airway and can be used with or without other medical aids like a CPAP machine.

If you or a loved one suffer from sleep apnea, your current pillow could be making your sleep apnea worse. To find out how a pillow can improve your sleep and breathing – keep reading!

How do you know if you have sleep apnea?

There are many signs that will indicate if you have sleep apnea. Most people already know they have it by the time they contact their doctor or sleep specialist. The symptoms of sleep apnea are very telling; if you are experiencing any of these symptoms you may suffer from it:


  • Snoring loudly
  • Dry throat
  • Restless sleep
  • Waking up from a gasping sensation

A sleep study will record your breathing and be able to officially determine if you have sleep apnea and whether is it obstructive sleep apnea or central sleep apnea.

How can your pillow improve sleep apnea?

Positional therapy strives to improve sleep apnea through your sleep position. Changing your body’s position to promote the opening of the airway can treat and potentially cure sleep apnea. For many individuals with sleep apnea, symptoms worsen when lying on their back and find sleep apnea stops or lessens when sleeping on their side. A firm, supportive pillow, like a buckwheat pilot or millet pillow, will help keep the airway opening by keeping the head and neck aligned. A buckwheat pillow, for example, is filled with organic buckwheat hulls and is adjustable to a person’s body. A larger individual can adjust their buckwheat pillow by adding more buckwheat hulls to get the right firmness and size. This will keep their neck, head and back aligned and in the proper position, preventing soft tissue from collapsing on the airway. Soft pillows like fiber fill or feather pillows are a bad choice for people with sleep apnea as the body does not remain aligned, causing the body to “scrunch up”, blocking the airway.

Positional therapy may be used in addition to a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. A CPAP machine has a hose and mask or nose piece that delivers constant air pressure to assist with breathing. A user will need an adjustable pillow like a millet pillow that can be adjusted for the mask and nose. Being able to adjust the pillows firmness and form will allow for a more comfortable sleep when wearing the mask.

Sleep apnea is a difficult condition to live with, as it greatly interrupts your sleep as well the person next to you. Fortunately, there are options to reduce or even cure it. If you or a loved one is experiencing sleep apnea, try positional therapy at home by getting a quality pillow like a buckwheat pillow or millet pillow that will align your head and neck opening your airway and giving you the quality nights sleep you deserve!

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