The pain of sleep deprivation may be felt by even the occasional insomniac. Imagine for a minute if you awoke every morning feeling sluggish and exhausted. For the up to one in three adults who are estimated to have obstructive sleep apnea, a condition in which the patient briefly stops breathing at intervals throughout the night, daytime sleepiness and brain fog are constant reminders that even though you may be going to bed and staying in bed for the recommended amount of time, you aren’t getting good quality rest. And it’s all due to the fact that those who have sleep apnea are unable to breathe regularly when they are asleep.

What is sleep apnea, exactly?

Sleep apnea is one common sleeping disorder. According to a 2016 study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, sleep apnea affects 29.4 million people, or 14% of the population. 80 percent of these go unnoticed. Age and obesity are two major risk factors for the condition’s onset. As obesity rates continue to climb and the American population ages, it is projected that the incidence of sleep apnea will increase.

  • Constant, loud snoring that is sometimes broken up by gasps, pauses, and snorts.
  • Sleep deprivation or daytime sleepiness.
  • Waking up with a dry tongue and a heavy sensation.
  • Consistent waking up throughout the night.
  • When you wake up, you may be gasping for oxygen or feel as if you are suffocating.

As a consequence of sleep apnea, you often only briefly awaken in order to resume breathing. You may not even be conscious of being there. These incidents are known as arousals, and, in the words of Dr. Peter A. Fotinakes, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange County, California, “it’s equivalent to someone shaking you up,” These arousals cause fragmented, non-restorative sleep, which, according to studies, “leads to daytime somnolence, which may become as severe as a narcoleptic’s lethargy.”

Significant Sleep Disruption 

Obstructive sleep apnea causes frequent dips in oxygen saturation while you sleep, according to Dr. Sheila Tsai, pulmonologist and head of the sleep medicine section at National Jewish Health in Denver. Untreated sleep apnea patients may have difficulty getting asleep, frequent awakenings while they sleep, and/or a lack of sleep after waking up. Since sleep apnea interferes with sleep and leaves you feeling exhausted and unrested all day, it may exacerbate other sleep disorders like sleep walking or restless legs syndrome.

A person with severe sleep apnea may have 500 awakenings in the course of an eight-hour sleep cycle, according to Fotinakes. In “milder” circumstances, you may have 15 arousals per hour, which suggests the patient is still waking up every four minutes while they are asleep and causes a significant degree of fragmented sleep. Think imagine sleeping for eight hours and waking up 120 times, according to him.

According to Fotinakes, arousals are more common and sleep apnea is often worse during REM sleep phases. Rapid eye movement is a term used to describe how fast your eyes move when you are sleeping in REM. When you are in this deep sleep stage, you dream. We get REM cycles every 70 to 120 minutes. The duration of each REM phase increases with each cycle. Thus, the bulk of REM sleep takes place in the last few hours before awakening.

Sleep apnea may cause a delay in the onset of REM slumber as well as the length of time you spend in that deep, restorative sleep. Sleep apnea “results in a large degree of fragmentation during REM periods,” claims Fotinakes.


A variety of methods may be used to treat sleep apnea. The most popular and often most effective of them is continuous positive airway pressure. To do this, you must go to bed wearing a mask that covers your mouth and nose. The mask is attached to a device that uses a tube to pump air into the throat to inflate it and prevent it from collapsing.

Other options for certain individuals can include surgery or dental devices. Obese or overweight people are commonly advised to lose weight in order to reduce stress on their airways.

When you finally receive sleep apnea therapy, says Fotinakes, your brain will try to make up for the subpar sleep you’ve been having for months or years.

It’s not unusual for someone to have hours-long REM episodes after beginning sleep apnea treatment. Since their brains are practically starved for REM sleep, when the sleep apnea-related disturbance to REM sleep is eliminated, the brain recovers.

The Four Sleeping Positions That Are Best

You may greatly lessen the severity of your sleep apnea by making a few changes to your daily routine in addition to obtaining treatment from a CPAP machine or other equipment. Although everyone has a favored sleeping position, changing it may help with the symptoms of sleep apnea and stop snoring.

The greatest positions for minimizing sleep apnea are the four listed below:

1. On your left-hand side.

2. On your right-hand side.

3. While supine.

4. Only lie on your back with your head up.

Tsai claims that while you’re supine (sleeping on your back), gravity exacerbates sleep apnea.

Since the tongue falls back and obstructs the airway while you sleep on your side, the symptoms of sleep apnea can be less severe. In many cases, sleeping on your side or in a prone position (on your stomach) may reduce or even entirely eliminate snoring and sleep apnea, says Fotinakes.

Sleeping on your stomach may be difficult, and some individuals who try it report having stiff necks in the morning. Using a very thin cushion or a pillow made specifically for stomach sleepers when lying face down may help reduce neck stress.

To support your head and neck when you sleep on your side, you should definitely use a larger pillow. Some people like to cuddle up to a large body cushion in order to keep their posture correct. To choose a pillow that feels cozy to you, do some research and try out a few. There are a number of pillows available that are offered specifically to address sleep apnea issues.

If you must sleep on your back, Tsai advises, try elevating the head of the bed since some people with sleep apnea also have acid reflux, and doing so is often recommended to alleviate the symptoms of that sickness. “Sleeping with the head as high and upright as possible, such as on an adjustable bed or on a chair, may help sleep apnea symptoms.” It is possible to acquire the correct position that preserves a more open airway by using wedge-shaped pillows made of foam as opposed to a squishier material. Some people even elevate the head of a standard bed with bricks or a bed riser to the right height to reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea.

It could take some trial and error to find the finest, most comfortable position that lessens pain. Keep testing until you figure out what works for you.

When we set out to ask experts how to sleep better, we anticipated receiving a lot of advice on things like shutting off devices after a certain time, refraining from drinking water after a certain time, and maintaining a certain temperature range.

We didn’t anticipate that over 25% of respondents would pay attention to something more profound than finger-wagging regulations and creative life hacks: that in order to sleep well, we must prioritize getting enough sleep.

This demonstrates how crucial our mental connection with sleep is; in other words, no number of life hacks and top ten lists can improve our sleep if we don’t actually appreciate it.

If you ask successful individuals how they “made it,” they’ll likely give you advice that is very similar to this.

You won’t get a successful businessperson or a professional athlete saying, “Yeah, it was those shoes,” or even “You know, it was absolutely this briefcase.”

No, they’ll use phrases like “drive” and “perseverance.” In other words, they prioritized their work or their sport.

The same is true with sleep.

Why do we concentrate over the newest tricks, techniques, and fashions in the hopes of discovering something that would “finally do the trick”?

Check out what these three professionals have to say about prioritizing sleep:

McGinn Alanna

We must prioritize getting enough sleep and stop seeing sleep deprivation as a badge of pride. Understanding the value of sleep and the need of good sleep hygiene is the first step in reducing our chronic sleep debt. As a result of our 24/7 culture and excessive schedules, sleep is the first thing we take for granted and omit from our plans. If we give up our sleep to work longer hours, we become better employees. In the long run, we aren’t doing ourselves, our workers, or most importantly, our family any favors if we give up our sleep to attend to every need of our children. Our routine needs to make sleep a priority again. Get it added to your Google and iCal calendars. Respect it as it demands to ensure your best health.

Brian Pierre

“Most people may improve their quality of sleep by prioritizing it. The greatest thing individuals can do after they resolve to sleep better is to establish a sleep schedule.

This entails making an effort to maintain a consistent sleep and wake-up time, switching off devices an hour before bed, avoiding coffee after midday, and intentionally de-stressing for five to ten minutes before bed.

Jeremy Walters

“Attend to your sleep well! We often focus on eating healthy and exercising, but we neglect to get enough sleep. Set objectives to sleep a specific number of hours each night or to go to bed at a given time, just as you would when scheduling your exercises. I vouch for the fact that you’ll feel better and perform better during exercises if you get more sleep of higher caliber.

Actionable suggestions to help prioritize sleep include:

Start small; don’t set the aim of getting 8.5 hours of sleep every night for a year if you have trouble sleeping. You will probably fail. Set a tiny step, such as “Every night after supper, I’ll change into my pajamas,” as an alternative. Not just any hocus pocus, either. Professor B.J. Fogg, a renowned specialist in behavior modification, has used this idea to assist over 26,000 individuals modify their behavior.

  • Consider a reward. 

Experts on habit also understand that we act in ways that reward us. We need fresh incentives in order to form new habits. Choose a prize for your latest baby step. “I can read my favorite __ if I change by 10 every night.”

  • Establish a sleep schedule.

Making a routine goes hand in hand with prioritizing sleep. In fact, Jay Ferruggia and Brian St. Pierre, who provide professional guidance in our other categories, both discuss the value of developing a routine.

Establishing a sleep schedule is undoubtedly one of the 20% of tactics that provide 80% of the effects.

What’s best? It is free and just has to be set up for a few minutes. Perhaps you can finish in two minutes or less.

See what our experts have to say, then follow the next steps listed below to get started right now.

Yang Sam

“I like to compare going to bed and crafting a great novel. The last act, the final few hours before I go to sleep, must lead up to the conclusion; otherwise, the audience (and, in this instance, your body) would be perplexed. So, I try to eat supper early, avoid exercising at night, finish off the dishes, stop reading emails and messages, start to lower the lights, steer clear of very interesting TV, and then go to my bedroom to sleep. I believe that healthy sleep needs its own place.

Makenna Jo “Creating a reliable nighttime routine and sleep schedule is my greatest practical recommendation for improving sleep. Your body will learn to slow down and relax with the support of a regular bedtime routine and sleep schedule, which will result in more tranquil sleep and allow your body to regenerate each night.

Manuel Dai

“Establish a routine. Try to get as close to an eight-hour night’s sleep as you can, and establish a habit of going to bed at the same time every night. Consistency is king (and queen). Your body will develop a rhythm on its own.

Steps you may take to establish your own sleep schedule:

  • Record your regimen in writing. 

Making a mental habit is one thing, but you’ll forget it the next day. Instead, spend two minutes sitting down and outlining your daily schedule.

  • Post your daily schedule wherever you can see it. 

Being reminded of your objectives on a regular basis is another essential step in taking action and carrying it through. Put a sticky note with your sleep objectives wherever you’ll see it every day, such next to your bed, on the wall, the door, the dresser, etc. It has amazing power.