Can Sleeping in a Recliner Help with Sleep Apnea?

March 5, 2023
Man leaning back in recliner, sleeping

The vast majority of people sleep in a bed. After all, there are few things as comforting as snuggling up on a cozy mattress after a long day. But did you know that sleeping in a recliner could actually be better for your health? This blog post delves into how sleeping in a recliner could reduce the severity of your obstructive sleep apnea.

Sleeping at an Incline Can Reduce Disordered Breathing

Research from 2017 found that sleeping at a 7.5 degree angle reduced symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea without compromising sleep quality. Older studies found that sleeping at a 30 or 60 degree angle also offered significant breathing benefits. (30 and 60 degree angles are easier to achieve in a recliner than a 7.5 degree angle.)

Why does sleeping at an angle help with breathing? Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition that causes pauses in breathing throughout the night. Those pauses occur when tissues in the throat block the free flow of oxygen. Often, the tissues collapse due to gravity. Therefore, sleeping with your head somewhat elevated could make gravity work for, rather than against, you.

Sleeping in a recliner could offer other benefits as well. For example, it may reduce acid reflux, a problem that commonly afflicts individuals with OSA.

Tips for Sleeping in a Recliner

If you would like to try sleeping in a recliner, these tips may make your experience as comfortable as possible:

  • If necessary, use a pillow for your neck and lower back.
  • Use compression socks or keep your feet properly elevated to prevent blood from pooling in your legs.
  • If your recliner is leather, cover it with a sheet so you do not stick to the material.
  • Make sure you use enough blankets to keep your body at a comfortable temperature.

What if Sleeping in a Recliner Is Not for You?

Of course, there are valid reasons why you may not want to sleep in a recliner. You might hesitate to be separated from your partner, or you might not have space in your bedroom to place a recliner in it. Here are some suggestions that might help:

  • Purchase an adjustable mattress that can keep your head elevated at night.
  • Sleep with an extra pillow to adjust the angle at which you are resting.
  • Sleep on your side (similar to sleeping at an incline, side-sleeping has been known to reduce OSA symptoms).

Are you struggling with OSA? Changing your sleeping position might help!

Meet the Sleep Apnea Expert

Dr. Kenneth Mogell is double board-certified in dental sleep medicine. He specializes in helping patients conquer sleep apnea through the use of custom-made oral appliances. If you would like his personal advice on how you can improve the quality of your nighttime rest, contact any of our locations or call our Vero Beach office at 772-882-6800.