Positional therapy in the management of positional obstructive sleep apnea-a review of the current literature

Sleep Breath. 2018 May;22(2):297-304. doi: 10.1007/s11325-017-1561-y. Epub 2017 Aug 29.


More than 50% of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) patients have worsening of their OSA in the supine position (positional obstructive sleep apnea [POSA], commonly defined as supine to non-supine apnea hypopnea index (AHI) ratio of ≥ 2). Positional therapy (PT) aims to prevent patients from sleeping in the supine position. One of the major limiting factors to the routine use of PT in clinical practice is the lack of validated tools to measure compliance objectively. Furthermore, there are no universal guidelines to determine if PT will be effective as standalone or as adjunctive therapy. This paper assesses recent literature on PT demonstrating its effectiveness in management of POSA. It also outlines the proposed subclassification systems for POSA. Electronic literature review was done on EMBASE. Since the last review of PT by Ravesloot et al. (2012), ten studies were identified which demonstrate effectiveness of PT in POSA. We found three publications proposing different subclassification systems for POSA. There were three studies validating different compliance monitoring tools for PT. One study showed the cost benefits of incorporating PT into OSA management. Positional therapy is an effective treatment for POSA and progress has been made in development of tools for measuring compliance. Creating a subclassification of POSA may help develop targeted therapy for patients and determine its use as standalone or adjunct therapy. The integration of PT into POSA management may be cost-effective when compared to the use of CPAP alone.

Keywords: Continuous positive airway pressure; Obstructive sleep apnea; Positional therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure / economics
  • Humans
  • Patient Compliance
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / economics
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / therapy*
  • Supine Position