Best Sleep Position for Sleep Apnea to Reduce Heart Disease by 68%

Written by: Ed Salazar



Time to read 10 min

Discover the chilling truth about sleep apnea and the life-threatening risks it poses. Did you know that a simple change in sleep position could be the key to saving your health or the lives of your loved ones?

In this gripping article, we unveil the best sleep position for sleep apnea and safeguarding your heart health. But that's not all – we'll also equip you with invaluable tips for maintaining a side sleeping position and reveal five healthy secrets to enhance your sleep when you have OSA. 

Don't wait until it's too late – learn when to seek professional help and take control of your well-being. Your future depends on it.

Understanding Sleep Apnea and Heart Disease

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a common but often underdiagnosed condition affecting 9% to 38% of people. It is estimated that severe OSA affects 6% to 7% of the population (Senaratna 2017). Over the past two decades, OSA has been on the rise. It is estimated to have increased by 14% (Peppard 2013).

OSA severity is often measured by the Apnea-Hypopnea Index (AHI). It calculates the average number of apnea and hypopnea events per hour of sleep. A higher AHI indicates more severe sleep apnea.

  1. Mild: 5 to 15 events per hour
  2. Moderate: >15 to 30 events per hour
  3. Severe: greater than 30 events per hour

These events are often triggered by repeated episodes of pharyngeal collapse leading to intermittent hypoxemia (abnormally low oxygen level in the blood) and consequent sleep disruption and fragmentation. The result is non‐refreshing sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness, especially in moderate to severe cases. Other symptoms include fatigue, insomnia, loud snoring, gasping, choking, and breath holding during sleep. Studies suggest that OSA can cause oxidative stress and increase inflammation in the body (Chen 2015; Lavie 2015; Schulz 2000; Shamsuzzaman 2002; Vgontzas 1997).

SnoreLessNow Snoring Diagram

In a study of 1,927 men aged 40 or above, researchers examined the impact of obstructive sleep apnea on coronary heart disease and heart failure over a median of 8.7 years. They discovered that obstructive sleep apnea was a significant predictor of incident coronary heart disease (heart attack, revascularization, or coronary heart disease death) in men aged 70 or below.

Among men aged 40 to 70, those with an apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) of 30 or higher were 68% more likely to develop coronary heart disease compared to those with an AHI below 5. Additionally, obstructive sleep apnea was associated with an increased likelihood of incident heart failure in men. 

Men with an AHI of 30 or higher had a 58% higher risk of developing heart failure compared to those with an AHI below 5. These findings highlight the specific impact of obstructive sleep apnea on cardiovascular outcomes in men and underscore the importance of managing sleep apnea for heart health in this population (Malhotra 2021).

The Sleep Heart Health Study

The Importance of Sleep Position for Sleep Apnea

One of the crucial factors in managing sleep apnea is finding the best sleep position. The way we position ourselves during sleep can have a significant impact on the obstruction of the airway and the frequency of apnea and hypopnea events. The position of the head and neck influences the position of the tongue and soft tissues in the throat, which can either contribute to or alleviate airway blockage.

Research has demonstrated the effectiveness of changing sleep position in reducing sleep apnea. In a study, participants who slept on their side experienced a remarkable 50% decrease in the Apnoea-Hypopnoea Index (AHI) compared to those who slept on their back (Cartwright 1984). Sleeping on the back tends to cause the tongue to fall back, obstructing the airway, while sleeping on the side helps maintain the stability of the tongue and throat tissues, reducing the risk of apnea and hypopnea events.

The Best Sleep Position for Sleep Apnea and Heart Health

Therefore, the most beneficial sleep position for sleep apnea is sleeping on the side, specifically the left side. Not only does this position assist in keeping the airway open, but it also enhances circulation by allowing blood to flow more freely from the heart to the rest of the body.

When you sleep on your left side, gravity aids in preventing the collapse of the tongue and soft tissues into the airway. This leads to a reduction in the occurrence of apnea and hypopnea events, ultimately improving the quality of sleep. Additionally, the improved circulation resulting from left side sleeping can lessen the strain on the heart and reduce its workload.

Tips for Maintaining a Side Sleeping Position

If you have sleep apnea, it is important to try to maintain a side sleeping position to reduce the number of apnea and hypopnea events. Here are some tips to help you maintain a side sleeping position:

Maintain a symmetrical position

  1. Lie on your side with your head resting on the pillow.
  2. Ensure that your chin and neck are aligned at the center of your shoulders, while keeping your shoulders in line with your hips.
  3. Keep your head facing forward, avoiding any downward tilting or twisting to the side.
  4. Align your arms and hands with each other, either by your sides or slightly in front of you.
  5. For added support and to relieve pressure on the hips, consider placing a small pillow between your knees. This prevents your knees from collapsing onto each other.

Use a body pillow

Using a body pillow can help to keep you in a side sleeping position throughout the night. Place the pillow between your knees and hug it with your arms to stay in a comfortable position.

Get a Pillow Designed for Side Sleepers

A sleep positioning pillow is specifically designed to promote side sleeping and provide optimal support for proper spinal alignment. Our Anti-Snore Pillow offers a revolutionary solution that ensures your head remains tilted to the side, effectively preventing you from rolling onto your back during sleep.

By maintaining a side sleeping position, this pillow helps alleviate the common issue of snoring and promotes better airflow, reducing the risk of interruptions in breathing. Its patented design not only encourages side sleeping but also offers the ideal level of support to keep your spine properly aligned throughout the night.

Choose the Right Mattress

For side sleepers, medium-firm mattresses are recommended as they strike a balance between contouring and support. Extremely soft mattresses can cause body parts to sink too deeply, leading to spinal misalignment and discomfort. Conversely, overly firm mattresses lack adequate cushioning for pressure points, resulting in gaps and potential discomfort. By selecting a medium-firm mattress, you can ensure proper alignment and comfortable sleep. Take advantage of trial periods offered by mattress companies to find the perfect fit for your side sleeping needs.

Bonus - 5 Healthy Tips for Better Sleep When You Have OSA

In addition to improving sleep position, there are other lifestyle changes you can make to improve sleep apnea and reduce the risk of heart disease. Here are some tips:

Maintain a consistent sleep schedule

A consistent sleep schedule is scientifically significant in managing obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). It helps regulate the body's circadian rhythm, which influences respiratory stability and upper airway muscle function (Wheaton et al., 2016). By aligning with the natural sleep-wake cycles, a regular sleep routine reduces the likelihood of apnea episodes and promotes better respiratory control. Additionally, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule ensures sufficient restorative sleep stages and supports overall cardiovascular health (Kendzerska et al., 2014).

Consider a dental appliance

Oral appliances are non-invasive devices worn during sleep to treat obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). These custom-made devices reposition the jaw and tongue, keeping the airway open and reducing apnea and snoring. They are comfortable, easy to use, and suitable for mild to moderate OSA or CPAP-intolerant individuals. Portable and convenient, oral appliances offer an effective solution for improving sleep quality and managing OSA without the need for invasive procedures. Regular follow-ups ensure their effectiveness and patient comfort. Overall, oral appliances provide a convenient and successful option for OSA treatment.

Humidify your bedroom

Humidifying the bedroom can be beneficial for individuals with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Dry air can irritate the airways and exacerbate OSA symptoms, such as snoring and breathing difficulties. By adding moisture to the air, a humidifier helps to keep the respiratory passages lubricated and reduces airway inflammation. This can result in improved breathing patterns, reduced snoring, and enhanced comfort during sleep. However, it is important to maintain proper humidity levels and regularly clean the humidifier to prevent the growth of mold or bacteria.

Essential diet and lifestyle changes

  1. Lose Weight: Combining healthy eating and exercise aids weight loss, crucial for OSA and heart health. Obesity is a major risk factor for both conditions.
  2. Exercise Regularly: Engage in moderate-intensity activity for at least 30 minutes most days to improve sleep apnea and lower heart disease risk.

  3. Quit Smoking: Essential for reducing inflammation, protecting arteries, and decreasing heart-related complications in OSA.

  4. Manage Stress: Employ relaxation techniques (meditation, deep breathing, yoga) to minimize sleep disruptions and mitigate risks of OSA and heart disease.

Use continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy

CPAP therapy effectively treats obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) by delivering a continuous flow of pressurized air through a mask, keeping the airway open and preventing apnea episodes. It improves sleep quality, reduces snoring, and alleviates daytime sleepiness. CPAP is a widely used and proven treatment option for OSA, ensuring consistent oxygen levels and promoting overall well-being. Adherence to CPAP therapy with proper mask fit and maintenance is crucial for optimal results in managing OSA symptoms.

When to Seek Professional Help for Sleep Apnea and Heart Health

If you are experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea or have been diagnosed with the condition, it is important to seek professional help to reduce the risk of heart disease and other complications. Talk to your doctor about treatment options and lifestyle changes you can make to improve sleep apnea and heart health.

SnoreLessNow Image Symptoms of Sleep Apnea


Sleep apnea is a common condition that can increase the risk of heart disease and other complications. Improving sleep position by sleeping on the side, specifically the left side, can help to reduce the number of apnea and hypopnea events and improve heart health. Left-side sleeping is widely considered the best sleep position for sleep apnea. In addition to improving sleep position, there are other lifestyle changes you can make to reduce the risk of sleep apnea and heart disease, including losing weight, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking. By making these changes and seeking professional help when necessary, you can improve your sleep and reduce the risk of heart disease.

About the Author:

Ed Salazar Sleep Consultant and CEO

Ed Salazar

With over 20 years of experience in healthcare, Ed Salazar is a trusted sleep consultant and esteemed writer for the Good Night Blog. His medically-reviewed work and profound expertise make him a go-to resource for achieving quality sleep. Let Ed Salazar guide you on a transformative journey to restful nights and rejuvenation. 

Popular Questions:

Is sleeping upright good for sleep apnea?

While it offers benefits, be mindful of excessive use, which may heighten the risk of blood clotting and back pain. Optimize your sleep while sitting up by aiming for a 60-degree angle and providing essential back support with a pillow

Can you be skinny and have sleep apnea?

While excess body weight is a known risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), it is important to note that this condition can affect individuals of all body types. Even thin people can develop OSA without the influence of weight as a contributing factor.

Can stress cause sleep apnea?

The relationship between stress and sleep apnea is complex and varies among individuals. While there is an indirect connection between the two, it is important to note that the impact of stress on sleep apnea differs from person to person. For example, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been associated with an increased risk of sleep apnea.


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