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A TMJ and Sleep Therapy Centre of St. Louis patient experiencing great sleep after their diagnosis and treatment.

Educational Resources About Sleep Apnea and TMJ

  • TMJ Sleep Therapy Centre of St. Louis

The Best Sleep Positions for Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea interferes with proper breathing at night. The condition results in airway constriction, and this condition can be severe. Sleep apnea causes vary; some individuals are born with thicker tissue near their throat, and this excess tissue inhibits breathing. Additional contributors to this condition include obesity, larger tonsils and adenoids, and hormonal fluctuations. 

Proper treatment alleviates the condition, and sleep positions can also aid breathing for those awaiting treatment or in the midst of therapy. Find out about the best sleeping positions for sleep apnea, the worst sleeping positions for the conditions, and the healthiest sleep positions post-treatment. 

Table of Contents: 

About the Different Sleep Positions 

Best Sleep Position for Sleep Apnea 

Best Head Position for Sleep Apnea 

How to Use a Sleep Apnea Position Pillow 

Best Position to Sleep (after Treatment) 

What is the Best Mattress for Sleep Apnea? 

Sleep Positions FAQ


Proper sleep positions optimize comfort, align the spine, and support proper airflow. Certain sleep positions help maximize airflow and keep airways open for those who suffer from sleep apnea. 

About the Different Sleep Positions 

Every individual likely prefers a certain sleep position. While a specific position might feel comfortable, it also could exacerbate health issues like sleep apnea, back problems, neck pain, etc. The common sleep positions include: 

Fetal. Knees are near or against the chest, and arms are to the sides.

Supine. Lying flat on the back, with arms on the side of the body. 

Stomach. Lying on the stomach with the head turned to the side.

Left side (lateral). The body rests on the left side, with the right side facing upwards. 

Right side (lateral). The body rests on the right side. 

Starfish. Sleeping on the back with arms and legs spread out (like the starfish). 

The Benefits of Sleeping in the Fetal Position 

The Sleep Foundation explains that sleeping in the fetal position could mitigate snoring, but it might not be ideal for individuals with back pain. As sleeping in this position offers no support for the spine, back pain might worsen. 

The Benefits of Sleeping on Your Back 

Back sleeping is one of the best positions, especially for individuals with back or shoulder discomfort. However, this position could exacerbate breathing issues or snoring. The Sleep Foundation also notes that this sleep position does not cause wrinkles! 

Are There Benefits to Sleeping on Your Stomach? 

Stomach sleeping keeps airways open for individuals with sleep apnea or snoring issues! However, those with back or shoulder pain should avoid this sleep position. Sleeping on your stomach also can lead to facial wrinkles. 

Side-Sleeping Benefits

Sleeping on either the right or left side benefits those with breathing issues. This position could help with snoring and sleep apnea. In addition, pregnant women are instructed to sleep on their left side as this aids blood flow. 

What is the Best Sleep Position for Sleep Apnea?

Sleeping on the stomach helps open the airways and improves breathing for those who snore or have sleep apnea. Unfortunately, this position also has many detrimental health effects. Sleeping on the stomach does not properly support the neck and spine; this lack of support can lead to aches and pains in the morning. 

Sleeping on the side offers similar benefits and offers more postural support. Not only can patients improve their breathing, but they also can better support their back, neck, and shoulders. The Sleep Foundation estimates that most individuals (60 percent) are side sleepers. 

Individuals with sleep apnea should sleep on their side to support restful sleep and proper posture. In addition, sleeping on the stomach also opens the airway and is a good ‘second option.’ 

Best Head Position for Sleep Apnea 

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) published research that explored the head’s posture while sleeping and how it impacted obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). However, this study only focused on back sleeping, which is the ideal sleep position (in general). For individuals who are most comfortable sleeping on their back, this study offers a suggestion for improving sleep apnea symptoms. 

The study discovered that turning the head to the side while sleeping on the back helped alleviate breathing issues. According to the study, “OSA severity with the trunk in the supine position decreased significantly when the head rotated from supine to lateral….” 

Benefits of a Sleep Apnea Pillow 

Not every patient feels comfortable sleeping on their side. If you’re used to sleeping on your back or stomach, adjusting to a different position takes time. However, a sleep apnea pillow helps train the body (and the head) to stay in a specific position for ideal airflow. These pillows also can elevate the body for those who prefer to sleep on their backs. TMJ and Sleep Therapy Centre patients can find these sleep apnea or CPAP pillows online or via specialty retailers. 

Best Position to Sleep After Apnea Treatment

At the TMJ and Sleep Therapy Centre of St. Louis, the goal is to remediate the cause of sleep apnea. Dr. Frith might recommend laser treatments to remove excess tissue or specialty mouth guards to remediate improper jaw positioning that could lead to breathing issues. 

What is the best sleeping position to aid breathing after sleep apnea treatment? Side-sleeping is the ideal position for sleep apnea; however, once Dr. Frith remediates the underlying cause of the sleep apnea, patients can choose the most comfortable position. 

Some patients might continue to sleep on their side if this position aided their breathing. Using a sleep apnea pillow could also make you feel more comfortable post-treatment. Habits become ingrained, and sleeping positions might be a difficult habit to break. Changing the sleep position might be unnecessary as long as the sleep position doesn’t cause pain or other issues. 

What Is the Best Mattress for Sleep Apnea? 

While sleep position can improve breathing and reduce snoring by opening the airways, the mattress also can improve sleep for sleep apnea sufferers. There are six types of mattresses: coil, foam, memory foam, air, waterbed, and latex. 

Consumers might recognize brand over mattress type but be wary of focusing on brand. Instead, individuals with sleep apnea or other concerns should research which mattress suits their needs and comfort. Use the chart to understand the benefits of these mattress types better.

Mattress Type




Coil or innerspring

These mattresses

include bouncy coils that help support the body. These mattresses offer durability, but coils also can ‘pop’ and poke through the


They can provide good support and don't trap heat like memory foam.


Memory foam

Layers of foam mold to the body to provide optimum support.

Memory foam

molds to each body and best supports pressure points. These mattresses don’t squeak or ‘move’ when partners roll over or change position. The

downside is that

some foam

materials trap heat, which could impact sleep.

Budget-friendly in



Water provides the

support for the

body. These

mattresses were

once very ‘mobile’

but are now


A unique sleep

experience that

might enhance

comfort and


Waterbeds range in price from


affordable to more

than $1K. These


mattresses are

making a comeback.

Air Mattress (better known as a “Smart Bed”)

Selecting a different level of inflation changes the sleep experience. Sleep

Number makes one of the more popular air mattresses.

The ability to

customize the sleep experience is the air mattress’ biggest selling point.

Expect to spend

more than $1K for a smart bed.

However, these

beds can be

positioned upright

to enhance

breathing, and this

feature might make them very appealing for individuals who

suffer from sleep



These mattresses

are comprised of

layers of cushiony

latex. They are

similar to memory


The Mattress

Advisor explains

that latex

mattresses are

durable and

hypoallergenic. Like memory foam, they also mitigate motion from partners that

might disrupt sleep.

Higher priced than

memory foam.

Sleep Apnea and Sleeping Positions FAQ 

What is the best position to sleep with sleep apnea? 

Try to sleep on your side if possible! 

Do sleep positions improve sleep apnea? 

Yes, sleeping on the stomach or on the side helps open up the airway. 

Is sitting up a good sleep position for sleep apnea? 

Choosing a pillow that helps a back sleeper elevate their trunk in an upright position could help alleviate snoring and improve sleep apnea symptoms.


What is the best pillow for sleep apnea? 

Research sleep apnea pillows to understand options; there are a number of pillows that can help position the head properly and open up the airway. 

What is the best head position for sleeping with sleep apnea? 

The head should rest to the side when sleeping on the back or stomach; this position helps open up the airway. When sleeping on the side, the head is already turned.

What is the best mattress for sleep apnea? 

It’s best to research all the mattress options to find the mattress type that is most comfortable. Use our chart for guidance! 

How does a wedge pillow help with sleep apnea? 

A wedge pillow can be used to elevate the head when sleeping on the back. This pillow could help aid breathing by opening the airway.


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