How a Backpack Might Prevent Snoring and Sleep Apnea with Positioning

Sleep Position Can Affect Your Breathing

Sleeping on your sides with the help of a backpack may help to relieve snoring and sleep apnea worsened by sleeping on the back
Sleeping on your sides with the help of a backpack may help to relieve snoring and sleep apnea worsened by sleeping on the back. Justin Case/The Image Bank/Getty Images

It may sound a little odd, but why might some people choose to wear a backpack to bed? Learn how this positional therapy may be an effective treatment to preventĀ snoring or obstructive sleep apnea that is worse when you sleep on your back.

Sleep Position Contributes to Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Not all sleep positions are created equal. In fact, sleep-disordered breathing in all its various forms is often worse when sleeping on your back.

Though the spectrum may run from snoring to significant obstructive sleep apnea, why might this be so dependent on sleep position?

The main factor that worsens breathing when we are on our backs is a constant: gravity. This causes the soft tissues of our upper airway to collapse, falling backward to block the passageway for breathing. Most commonly, this will be due to the movement of the soft palate, tongue, and even the lower jaw (called the mandible). These structures are not fixed in place by our skeleton, and gravity can easily cause them to shift.

When we lie on our backs, gravity works against us. As we fall asleep, the muscles of the airway relax. This makes the muscular part of the tube collapsible. As a result, vibration of these tissues may result in audible snoring. In addition, the airway may partially or completely collapse, resulting in hypopnea or apnea events. If it happens often enough, generally defined as occurring more than 5 times per hour, the condition is called sleep apnea.

For many people, sleep apnea is worsened by sleep position. Depending on the factors that contribute, it may be significantly impacted solely by how you are sleeping. Unfortunately, sleep position can be difficult to control. Though you may fall asleep lying on your side, or even prone (on your stomach), we naturally change positions as we sleep.

We may even shift unconsciously and move onto our backs.

Positional Therapy Promotes Sleeping on Sides

In order to reduce snoring or sleep apnea that is worsened by being in the supine sleep position, positional therapy is meant to keep us off our backs. This can be accomplished by using specialized devices like one from Zzoma, carefully stacked pillows, a t-shirt with a tennis ball sewn into the back, or even by wearing a backpack to bed.

By slipping a backpack over your shoulders, often with a ball or another bulky item strategically placed in it, if you do roll onto your back at night the discomfort of lying on the object will cause you unconsciously to shift onto your side or stomach. As a result, this can reduce your risk of snoring or sleep apnea.

How to Learn If Sleeping with a Backpack Will Help You

How do you know if a backpack will help you? Well, you might simply rely on the observations of your bed partner. If your breathing is worse when you lie on your back, it may be helpful. In addition, a sleep study may provide additional guidance. These studies will often distinguish events by sleep position, and if yours are predominately while supine, it could be an attractive treatment option.

Beyond sleep position, there are other factors that might worsen your risk of snoring and sleep apnea. For instance, weight gain often exacerbates these conditions. The use of alcohol, especially in the hours preceding bedtime, can likewise contribute. The muscles of the airway may relax during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. In addition, aging might contribute and women may be at higher risk after menopause.

The use of a backpack at night may be an inexpensive intervention that could be just the thing you need to breathe and sleep better. If your difficulties persist, speak with your doctor about other treatment options including the use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or an oral appliance.

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