Suggested Mattresses and Sleeping Positions for Sleep Apnea

When you consider that more than 20 million Americans have some variation of moderate or severe obstructive sleep apnea, and the fact that 80% of those cases are not diagnosed, it’s pretty obvious that we’re dealing with a health crisis. 

Simply described, sleep apnea is a condition that causes an obstruction in the airway which impacts our ability to breath while we sleep. It can be extremely dangerous if left untreated, and can cause cardiovascular disease, weight gain, memory issues, headaches, even impotence.

Sleep apnea affects job performance, can be the cause of motor vehicle and industrial accidents, and impacts everyone around us. Snoring alone can impact relationships, creating sleep deficits for both partners and even children who are awakened by loud snoring.

Sleep Apnea, Snoring, And Sleep Position

Sleep position, regarding of what mattress you are using, plays an important role in our ability to secure enough oxygen through the night. Essentially, sleep apnea accompanies snoring, a phenomenon created when turbulent air flow causes the throat and nasal passages to vibrate, creating the often loud and intrusive noise. 

Generally, the vibration is worsened by the narrowing of these passages, and by the proximity of the soft palate and that little piece of tissue that hangs down from the roof of our throat, called the uvula. The tongue can also be an element in the obstructive mechanism that creates sleep apnea.

How an obstructed airway is formed, blocking the vital pathway for oxygen while we sleep.

Sleep apnea may be even more severe in individuals who have allergies, nasal congestion, and those who consume alcohol, since alcohol relaxes the muscles in the throat. Since snoring causes us to unconsciously breathe through the mouth, and sleeping on our back can cause the airway to collapse, there is  an increased likelihood of sudden death in certain individuals, especially obese people, or folks with underlying medical conditions. 

Snoring may be worsened in the context of nasal congestion, including with a cold or allergies. Mouth breathing will allow the jaw (and tongue) to shift backward. In addition, alcohol intake can exacerbate the sound. This occurs because alcohol is a muscle relaxant that may affect the muscular tissue lining the throat.

If you sleep on your back, you’re likely going to be far more predisposed to snoring and sleep apnea than if you slept on your side, because there is no weight in the throat or chest area to compress your airway. Gravity is probably the main force that creates reduction in airway size.

Essentially, the severity of sleep apnea you experience is a function of airway collapse, and the body’s response to inadequate airflow can be gasping, paused breathing, choking, and increased heart rate. These phenomenon can be deadly.

Sleeping On Your Side Can Save Your Life

A minor tweak in sleeping position could actually save your life. Studies have shown that sleeping on your side both reduces the amount of time spent snoring as well as well as the intensity, mostly due to the fact that we are changing the position of our throat anatomy in relation to gravity, and sleeping on your side can open up airways naturally, and there is less likelihood of collapse, paused breathing and the cascade of problems caused by this.

If you’ve ever tried making a change to your sleep position before, such as after surgery, pregnancy, or even because of a new kind of mattress, you may think it’s a tough thing to do.

The reality is, though, that 50% of people who are advised to step on their side can adapt and maintain the position. I have sleep apnea myself, and to get me comfortable with my new position, I instructed family members to check on me if I fell asleep on my back, the trick being to pull the pillow out from under my head and push me over with a nudge and a verbal command. After a week or two, I started falling asleep much easier on my side.

Get into the habit of shutting everything down, like your TV, cell phone, lights, and other distractions just prior to nodding off, and get on your side from the beginning. Once you work on adapting to to side sleeping, you’ll naturally be able to fall asleep that way. If you really want to do it right, you can change your entire bedroom into the perfect Z-Cave, or sleep sanctuary, which may help with the sleeping position change. You can check out our sleep sanctuary page here.

If you’re stubborn, here’s a trick we heard about, that may be able to help. Get a t-shirt with a pocket and sew a tennis ball into the opening, sealing it in place. Wear the t-shirt in reverse so that the tennis ball is on your back. You may need to trim the collar area if it is snug on your throat up front. When you roll onto your back, you will likely find the tennis ball to be very uncomfortable, and you’ll naturally roll onto your side. 

If you are are significantly overweight, you may want to try a fanny pack, or even a back pack. After a few uncomfortable initial nights, you’ll be surprised as to the efficiency of this little trick.

How An Adjustable Bed Can Greatly Reduce The Dangers Of Sleep Apnea

All of this being said, there is one solution that is helping to change the course of peoples lives who struggle with sleep apnea. Buying an adjustable base to go with your mattress is by far the best way to help reduce the effect of gravity and compression on your airway, since it allows you to elevate your head, while still allowing you to sleep on your back.

It is recommended to increase the angle of the head portion of an adjustable base so that it is elevated about 15-20% from flat position to be able to have a therapeutic effect on sleep apnea. 

Adjustable bases, which can be purchased online and shipped directly to your home, are equipped with remote controls that allow you to angle your mattress in an infinite number of positions including the foot section as well as the head section. This allows you to find the perfect “sweet spot” to reduce snoring, eliminate airway compression, and also allow for improved circulation and the reduction of back pain.

An adjustable base allows you to elevate your head, reducing constricted airways by decreasing the weight placed on your throat and chest.

You can visit our adjustable base page to see the brands that we recommend, and we provide links which get you to Trusted Dealers we have heavily vetted so you get a really great brand and a terrific price. We also offer a measuring guide, tips and pointers on what to look for in a quality unit, and other information.

We sold a full line of adjustable bases through our own online stores at one point, and many of our customers purchased an adjustable base for the specific purpose of reducing the effects of sleep apnea.

The Perfect Mattress For Sleep Apnea

Is there a perfect mattress for people suffering with sleep apnea? Turns out there is one particular kind of bed that is ideal. First of all, many sleep apnea sufferers have issues with allergies, chemical and fragrance sensitivities, so buying a mattress made with polyurethane foams or memory foams, which often have an odor, are not the best choice.

Stiffer mattresses like traditional innerspring mattresses, especially if you are using an adjustable base, don’t often have enough sink, which is important so that your body is cradled especially when sleeping on your side. A sumptuous and nest like mattress is the best option, one made without all of the petroleum based compounds found in most beds.

The ideal mattress for sleep apnea, as well as as allergy and asthma sufferers is a natural latex mattress, hands down. Not only does a natural latex mattress offer a chemical free surface since it is made with botanically derived liquid latex rubber that is converted to a highly elastic and super comfortable bed, it is ideal for adjustable beds as it can be folded or bent over on itself with ease, and does not get damaged in the process.

Milky latex extracted from natural rubber tree, Hevea Brasiliensis.

If you are either a back sleeper on an adjustable base, or a side sleeper on a flat base or foundation, natural latex provides buoyant and uplifting support and just enough settling, or sinking in to cradle and support your body while on its side without creating pressure points or feeling like you’ve fallen into a crevice.

Natural latex is anti-microbial, anti-mold and mildew, has virtually no odor, and is not photo-reactive, meaning it won’t slowly begin to pill and turn crusty brown like an old sofa cushion, when you remove the cover.

A natural latex “core”, before it is cut to size and covered with an exterior fabric.

They are heavier than a lot of conventional “bed in a box” type foam beds you can purchase online, but the quality is far superior to these inexpensive polyurethane foam options.We’ve carefully researched latex mattresses for years,

and when our owner, Marc Anderson was a CEO in the bedding industry busy designing and inventing his own lineup of latex mattresses, he became highly familiar with the techniques required to make the finest pure latex mattresses. Here’s out carefully vetted selection of Trusted Dealers that we recommend.

the best beds for sleep apnea: natural latex- who we recommend

An all latex mattress top to bottom. Sourced latex is high quality. Yielding and bouncy, excellent for side sleepers. 10” finished height, 100 night trial period, 25 year warranty, $1799 for a queen. Free shipping. CLICK HERE TO SAVE $1100 and to check them out. Marc’s comments: These guys were my competitors for years. They build the best latex beds I’ve seen. I’ve cut them apart, and love the way they build them, no glue is used. Squishy, scrunchy, silky, buoyant, and luxurious. Freaking awesome in my opinion.
Jul 18, 2018
This outstanding natural latex hybrid bed is stuffed with clean, chemical free ingredients and owners love them. You nest upon a breathable organic quilted top, and beneath you, your body floats on 4” of botanical Dunlop latex. Individually pocketed coils suspend and hover you above the base layer of medium high density foam that won’t break down. Delivered with 365 day no questions asked trial and FOREVER warranty! Get Free Pillows, Sheets, And Mattress Protector
Jan 11, 2020
An all natural latex mattress with a lively, buoyant yet medium firm level of support. 10” finished height, 100 night period, 10 year warranty, $949 for a queen. Free shipping. MBG Rating of 5. CLICK HERE TO GET $100 OFF and to check them out. Marc’s comments: The owner of My Green Mattress created this mattress for his daughters who suffered from severe skin disorders. I’d called it a healing bed. One note: it contains coils, which are slightly firmer, but I put in the latex category because of the sumptuous and buoyant feel that its owners love.
Jul 18, 2018
Pure botanical latex, GOTS certified, uses 100% natural cotton cover, 100% natural wool fire barrier, all at a reasonable price. The mattress is reversible offering two firmness options. Overall thickness is 9”, you’ll get a 120 night in home trial, a 20 year factory warranty, and their bed is completely made in the USA. CLICK HERE FOR EXCLUSIVE DEALMarc’s comments: They focus on delivering top drawer latex at controlled pricing. Flippable, so two beds in one. Good call on this no frills, but super low pricing option.
Oct 25, 2018
Probably the cleanest, greenest, and safest bed you could buy. Made using only the finest natural and organic materials, including GOLS organic certified latex from tree-tapped sources, 100% GOTS organic certified wool and 100% GOTS organic certified cotton. To you, that means no-off gassing, or chemical textiles. Made in California in their own factories, a purely American company. The latex used is imported from India, collected by hand, and is the silkiest and smoothest botanical latex available. Click here to explore and to purchase.
Aug 5, 2019
Shipped with three individual layers, allowing you to assemble the mattress in soft, medium, or firm. Organic outer cover, no glue, wool pad pillowtop. Solid 10 year warranty, 365 day no questions asked trial period. Pure dunlop, no synthetic SBR rubber. $220 off if you click here.
Jan 31, 2020