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November 2020 | Reviewed by: Seema Khosla, MD and Rafael J. Sepulveda, MD

What is Positional Therapy?

Positional therapy is a behavioral strategy to treat sleep apnea. If your breathing is interrupted primarily when you are sleeping on your back, and normal when sleeping on your side or stomach, then your sleep doctor might recommend positional therapy for you.

Positional therapy typically involves wearing a device that will keep you from sleeping on your back.

Some devices used for positional therapy are worn around your waist or back and help keep you from turning over onto your back. Other positioning devices may be used, such as a backpack or tennis ball, that make it uncomfortable to sleep on your back.

Newer devices use vibration. They gently vibrate when they detect that you are starting to roll over onto your back. Without waking you, the vibration alerts your body to change positions. Some will increase the vibration intensity if you remain on your back. The vibration stops when the device detects you are on your side or stomach. These devices may be worn on the back of your neck or on your chest. They may also collect data that can be useful for your sleep doctor, such as information about your snoring and the frequency with which you change sleeping positions during sleep.

Positional therapy may be used alone or in combination with another treatment. Your medical provider will help you find the sleep apnea treatment that works best for you.