The undervalued potential of positional therapy in position-dependent snoring and obstructive sleep apnea-a review of the literature

Sleep Breath. 2013 Mar;17(1):39-49. doi: 10.1007/s11325-012-0683-5. Epub 2012 Mar 24.


Purpose: Research during the past 10-20 years shows that positional therapy (PT) has a significant influence on the apnea-hypopnea index. These studies are predominantly performed as case series on a comparably small number of patients. Still, results have not found their way into the daily diagnostic and treatment routine. An average of 56 % of patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have position-dependent OSA (POSA), commonly defined as a difference of 50 % or more in apnea index between supine and non-supine positions. A great deal could be gained in treating patients with POSA with PT. The aim of this paper was to perform a thorough review of the literature on positional sleep apnea and its therapy.

Methods: A broad search strategy was run electronically in the MEDLINE and EMBASE databases using synonyms for position and sleep apnea.

Results: Sixteen studies were found which examined the effect of PT on OSA. In this literature review, we discuss the various techniques, results, and compliance rates.

Conclusion: Long-term compliance for PT remains an issue, and although remarkable results have been shown using innovative treatment concepts for PT, there is room for both technical improvement of the devices and for further research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Polysomnography
  • Posture*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / diagnosis
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / epidemiology
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / therapy*
  • Snoring / therapy*
  • Supine Position
  • Treatment Outcome