Is there a medically recommended sleep apnea mattress?
The short answer is no.
The causes of sleep apnea have nothing to do with your mattress. Merely switching to a different mattress isn't going to magically solve the problem.
However the one way your mattress can assist with sleep apnea is to ensure it is comfortable and supportive enough to allow you to sleep on your side.
Sleeping on your back worsens sleep apnea and, while sleeping on your side won't cure it, it can improve it. 1
The problem then, is figuring how to stay on your side once you are asleep.
Dr Steven Park has a variety of recommendations including sewing a tennis ball into the back of your pajamas, wearing an anti snore shirt with inflatable bumpers or using a special pillow.
But can the right choice of mattress help you sleep on your side?
Sleeping on your side is also known as positional therapy or positional treatment and is an alternative to CPAP.
However you need to have the right mattress for side sleeping to be comfortable enough for your body to want to stay there when you are asleep.
If your mattress is too firm side sleeping is uncomfortable and you naturall roll onto your back. That is because there is greater curvature in the body on your side, as your shoulder and pelvis need more give in the mattress in order for the side of your torso to be supported.
The same is true of a mattress that sags too much. The heavier shoulder and pelvis will sink too deep without support, causing an uncomfortable strain.
Innerspring mattresses in general are poor for side sleeping as they can create pressure points on those heavier shoulder and pelvis areas.
The best option is a medium firm mattress that has enough give for comfort, while also providing enough support. A bed made out of latex or memory foam is going to give you that body contoring comfort without the painful pressure points.
You also need to make sure that you have a pillow with enough loft. Sleeping on your side means your head is going to be higher off the surface of the mattress and needs a pillow that will support your head without letting it drop.
None of this guarantees you are going to stay on your side, but it gives you a better chance.
While a mattress specifically desgined to improve sleep apnea isn't widely available at the moment work is being done to make it a reality.
The Hunter Medical Research Institute in Australia and the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Sweden have been working together to develop a mattress that help improve sleep for those with mild to moderate sleep apnea.
The mattress angles in near the head, with a breathing recess and shoulder space. It encourages you to sleep either on your stomach or on your side.
The good news is that the results are encouraging. The bad news is that this mattress is only available in Sweden at the moment.
Hopefully in the future it becomes more widely available and can bring the relief that you need.
Unfortunately your sleep apnea cannot be cured by switching to the right mattress.
However the right choice in mattress can encourage you to sleep on your side and stay there through the night.
If you can achieve this then you are likely to see an improvement.
A medium firm latex or memory foam mattress is a good bet at the moment and hopefully in the near future a medically tested sleep apnea mattress will become commercially available around the world.