Anti-Snore Pillows – Does Positional Therapy Effectively Stop Snoring?
A major cause of snoring is that the tongue slides back into the throat during sleep (so-called tongue snoring). Because of gravity, this only occurs when you sleep on the back. An anti-snore pillow (pillows that help with snoring), are considered the most important positional therapy product category, they promise to solve this issue by helping you to sleep on the side. We look into that and tell you for whom they are great – and for whom not.
Preventing A Supine Position – Helps Only Tongue Snorers
Snoring in a supine position (while sleeping on the back) is mostly attributed to tongue snoring (also called tongue-based snoring): When the tongue’s muscles relax, the rear part of the tongue – the base of the tongue – slides back into the throat. The main cause of this is gravity, the result: The tongue base narrows or obstructs the airways as it slides back. The flow of breathing air, however, has to pass through the constricted area. This results in turbulence ,which causes the surrounding tissue to vibrate . This produces the sound we perceive as snoring. Dr. Hartmut Grüger (somnologist and chief physician at the Medical Center Düsseldorf, Germany) estimates that approximately 30% of all snorers are tongue-based snorers, i.e. the cause of their snoring is that the tongue falls back into the throat.
Anti-Snore Pillow, Snoring Belt or Anti-Snore Backpack: Many Devices, One Approach
In such a case, positional therapy can help. It includes all products that promote the sleep in a lateral (on the side) or prone (on the stomach) position. In a supine position, gravity forces the base of the tongue to slide towards the throat – this is not the case when you sleep in a lateral or prone sleeping position. Important for you to know: Positional therapy only helps for tongue snoring, i. e. only when you snore in a supine position. If you are also affected by snoring when lying on your side, then positional therapy won’t help you. If you want to find out more about which product types might help you, then you should consider doing our anti-snore test.
The most popular positional therapy product is the anti-snore pillow, followed by snoring vests and anti-snore backpacks. Positional therapy products have a similar effect to your partner nudging you you to make you turn over. Just that with these sophisticated products, neither you nor your partner who sleeps next to you, will wake up. All these positional therapy products are based on the principle of “Princess on the Pea”. In other words, you should sleep as uncomfortably as possible when you lie on the pea (in this case: on your back).
How an Anti-Snore Pillow Works
A typical anti-snore pillow is elevated in the middle („looks a little bit like the Swiss Matterhorn”), which also makes it uncomfortable to sleep on in the supine position. Instead, the head automatically turns sideways, either to the left or the right so that you are forced to sleep in a lateral position. Pillows that help stop snoring support the head, relieve pressure on the neck and ensure that your nights remain free of snoring. Most anti-snore pillows are made of comfortable memory foam and have a nice, skin-friendly cover. One additional advantage of a anti-snore pillow (in contrast to other positional therapy devices like a snoring belt): It is absolutely inconspicuous – no noticeable wear on the back!
How Anti-Snore Backpacks and Anti-Snoring Positional Therapy Trainers Work
Anti-snoring position trainers, anti-snore backpacks or sleeping vests have in common that there is a resistance built into the back. This prevents you from sleeping on your back and keeps you gently on the side (you can roll over your stomach to switch sides). This resistance is provided either in the form of a cushion or a foam wedge.
With the help of waist and chest straps, these products can be individually adjusted to match the shape of your body. The straps are usually padded so that they are comfortable to wear and do not cut the skin. The material chosen ensures that there is no heat accumulation.
With positional therapy products, you can specifically alter your positional behavior during sleep. As a result, they have the same effect as positional exercises would have. If they are continuously worn over several months, the brain becomes accustomed to sleeping in a sideways position. In such case, you no longer need to wear a anti-snore backpack or a snoring belt, because you got used to sleeping in a lateral position and therefore automatically sleep that way.
The Notorious “Tennisball-Trick”
Various DIY tips go around on a number of websites. These sites mention, for instance, the tennisball-trick: You sew a tennis ball into the back of your pyjamas which – allegedly – hinders you from sleeping on your back. This does not only sound damn uncomfortable, it REALLY is uncomfortable! There is also the risk of sleeping comfortably on your back, despite the tennis ball being sewn in. The pyjamas are usually not cut so skintight that the part with the sewn-in ball cannot slip.
Positional Therapy – Great Treatment for Position-Dependent Sleep Apnea
Even in the treatment of pathological snoring (obstructive sleep apnea), positional therapy has its place. When you are suffering from a position-dependent sleep apnea (OSAS), then positional therapy can be an excellent first-line treatment (and a great alternative to CPAP). Please note that this is, however, only the case when your OSAS is position-dependent, i.e., it only occurs when you sleep on the back. When your breathing also stops when you sleep on the side, then a an anti-snore pillwo or a snoring belt will not help you.
One additional caveat: When you suffer from mild or moderately severe OSAS, these products usually have the same effect on the apnea-hypopnea-index (AHI) as CPAP-therapy has. The number of breathing pauses (apneic episodes) that occur per hour could be reduced to less than five. In case of severe OSAS, positional therapy will usually not reduce the AHI enough. We recommend to primarily use positional therapy training devices in sleep apnea cases. An anti-snoring pillow like the Posiform might also be suitable for the treatment of mild sleep apnea.