Even if you don't think you know what positional therapy is, you actually do. It's the push or shove to your side you get from your spouse when you snore; it's the fancy $150 pillow at Brookstone which is promoted as a cure for snoring; and it's the old-fashioned snoring remedy of pinning tennis balls to the back of your nightshirt. Nevertheless, the term was an entirely new one to me, and one I still have never heard spoken by my sleep physician, or any other doctor for that matter. The reason, you might guess, is that positional therapy isn't an effective treatment for Sleep Apnea. But an ever expanding body of scientific research shows that certain forms of it can be.
Remember that pesky sleep study you had the pleasure to undergo when sleep technicians strapped you with enough scary looking equipment and leads to have you doing a double-take as to whether in a former life you were a suicide bomber? One of the things it measured was the position you were in when your apnea and hypopnea events occurred. A fair portion of the Sleep Apnea population, by some estimates a third to a half of all those with Sleep Apnea, experience events that can be "cured" by staying off one's back at night, and instead sleeping on one's side.
Scientists at Temple University have released a study (results of which attached below) that indicates that their new device, the ZZoma, pictured above, is as effective as is CPAP in normalizing the AHI of individuals suffering from positional obstructive sleep apnea.
So why don't we hear much about positional devices such as the ZZoma as an option from our doctors? It's a good question that each of us should ask our doctors. Putting their silence on this subject in the best light, positional remedies aren't appropriate for a vast number of Sleep Apnea patients, particularly those who have central or mixed apnea, or who have apnea/hypopnea events in all sleeping positions. More important, sending patients who have a chronic, life threatening disease away with a prescription to sleep on their sides, even if they have positional sleep apnea, is not as optimal a solution as prescribing a CPAP, which can give ongoing data about usage and effectiveness in a way that the ZZoma, Brookstone pillow and tennis ball cannot.
That said, we know that doctors, DMEs and patients don't always follow up on and scrutinize CPAP data. In fact, the CPAP machines often prescribed first do not even record data. We at SleepGuide believe that if doctors and DMEs are to justify the additional costs of a high caliber piece of technology such as a CPAP machine for their patients, that they must do a better job of monitoring compliance, including allowing patients to have as much access to their compliance data as possible. If they don't, maybe their patients would be just as well off as with a tennis ball pinned to their shirts.