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Doctor is suspecting sleep apnea. Setting up a sleep test. Sleep on stomach or side. Should I be worried?

May 2014
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Practicing since : 2002
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My pulmonologist suspects sleep apnea and is setting up a sleep test. I sleep on my stomach or side and this seems at odds with sleep apnea. Is it?
A study showed an oxygen level of 80 at night!
Posted Sun, 3 Nov 2013 in Lung and Chest disorders
Answered by Dr. Vivek Chail 3 hours later
Brief Answer:
Please find detailed answer below

Detailed Answer:
Thanks for writing in to us.

I have read through your query in detail.

Sleep apnea does occur in people who usually sleep on their back (supine) position.

There have been research papers published on the topic highlighted by you. I would like to share some of the information with you.

1. From research done on 4 patients in 1985:
Four patients who were evaluated for hypersomnia-sleep apnea syndrome were found in all-night sleep studies to have obstructive or mixed apneas related to their sleeping positions. All four were available for comprehensive follow-up and were subsequently restudied while avoiding the supine position. Supine, prone, and lateral decubitus apnea indices were calculated for each patient for each night. The supine sleeping position was associated with significantly more apneas than the non-supine positions. Keeping these patients off their backs when they slept was effective treatment.

*please note that supine is lying on your back, prone is lying on your stomach, lateral decubitus is lying on your sides.

So here there is more sleep apnea in patients lying on their back position.

2. Reasearch done on a patient in 1995:
It describes a patient with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) whose apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) improved remarkably in the prone position accompanied by an improved sleep quality, despite a higher AHI in the supine position and even in the lateral position. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed the most dilated upper airway in the prone position, which suggests the role of anatomical narrowing of the upper airway as an important component in the pathophysiology of positional apnea patients.

3. Research done in 2011:
It says Pure prone positioning (PPP) consisted of a pillow mounted on a table designed to keep the subjects sleeping prone and hence reduce the gravity effect. Efficacy of PPP treatment in improving apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) and nocturnal oxygen saturation was investigated in mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea syndrome OSAS.

From the above three researches, we can see that sleeping prone may help in patients especially in mild to moderate sleep apnea.

Your sleep apnea needs to be evaluated in detail because its showing 80 oxygen level. Also not all patients may have desired results, especially in severe problems.

Hope your query is answered.
Do write back in case of doubts.

Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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