Do adjustable beds help with snoring? How about sleep apnea? The short answer is yes, but how? We’ll explore how adjustable beds can help with sleep apnea and even make snoring a thing of the past, so you and your partner can get a great night’s sleep.
Adjustable Beds, a Brief History
The first known adjustable bed was patented in 1874 by Andrew Wuest and Son’s. In reality, it was little more than a bed with a head that was hinged in order to adjust the head height. Fast forward a few more years and side rails were installed as well as wheels. But it wasn’t until 1909 that the modern adjustable bed was developed.
As you may know, adjustable beds were first introduced in hospitals. Dr. Willis Dew Gatch took notice of the need to save patients from severe infection from being left lying flat after surgery. In the flat position one was unable to move, and wounds stood the risk of not draining causing infection and slowing the healing process. In 1909 Gatch developed a bed system that would allow for one to sit up at rest to drain surgical lacerations properly.
Dr. Gatch’s bed is the basis for all modern adjustable beds. It was split into three sections, each of which could be adjusted independently. This allowed for positioning and repositioning of the patient as much as needed.
Since that time, a lot of additional benefits were discovered such as alleviating back, shoulder and neck pain. Reducing the incidence of bed sores. Better circulation, and better overall sleep. In fact, the benefits of sleeping on an adjustable bed were so great that they are now standard equipment at almost all hospitals.
Do Adjustable Beds Help Snoring and Sleep Apnea? Understanding the Problem
We’ve already hinted that the answer to this question is a resounding yes, but why do adjustable beds help with snoring and sleep apnea? For the answer to that question we need to understand what causes snoring and sleep apnea.
While snoring and sleep apnea are related, they are not the same. You can think of snoring as your local street thief. He’s not above robbing you at gunpoint and over time as he gets more dangerous, there’s a good chance that he’ll cause some real damage or even kill you.
Sleep apnea on the other hand is like the drug cartel boss. This is someone you don’t want to mess with. He’ll kill you without a second thought. You are in danger anytime he’s around. Your best bet for staying alive is to do whatever it takes to stay as far away from him as possible.
With that being said, snoring and sleep apnea are related. Both are caused by an obstruction of airflow during sleep. (Please note that in this article we are only discussing Obstructive Sleep Apnea).
These obstructions can occur in the mouth, nasal passages or throat. When the obstruction only partially blocks the airflow, it causes the tissues to vibrate making the snoring sound that we are all familiar with.
When the obstruction completely blocks off the airflow and breathing actually stops, that is called sleep apnea. People with sleep apnea may or may not snore, but they will often times wake up gasping for air several times per night.
The problem with both snoring and sleep apnea is that they interrupt both you and your partner’s normal sleep cycle. Each and every phase of sleep is important to our physical and mental health. In fact, snoring and sleep apnea have been linked to a number of serious health conditions such as:
- Heart Disease
- Congestive Heart Failure
- Peripheral Artery Disease
- Kidney Problems / Failure
- High Blood Pressure
You and your partner’s risk of developing these problems is greatly increased if one or both of you is a snorer or has sleep apnea.
How an Adjustable Bed Can Help
So, we now understand that both snoring and sleep apnea occur when tissues in the nose, mouth or throat blocks the airflow. But why do adjustable beds help snoring and sleep apnea? The reason is that an adjustable bed allows us to sleep in positions that are less likely to have the excess tissue fall into the airway and create a blockage in the first place.
What Happens as We Fall Asleep?
First, as our body relaxes, the muscles that normally hold all of that excess tissue in the nose, mouth or throat relax too. This allows the tissue to fall out of place creating the blockage.
Secondly, because most people sleep on their backs, gravity pulls the excess tissue down into the back of the mouth or throat. While some people will suffer from snoring or sleep apnea no matter what position they sleep in (in those cases, an adjustable bed will not help). Most of the time, snoring and sleep apnea is most pronounced when we sleep on our backs.
For mouth snorers, sleeping on your back means that when the tongue relaxes it falls to the back of the throat blocking the airway.
For throat snorers, excess tissue in and around the throat collapses into the throat when sleeping on your back.
These are the two most common ways that obstructions cause sleep apnea and snoring. For nasal blockage, changing position may help, depending on what is causing the blockage. But other treatment options are available for nasal snorers.
The major benefit of having an adjustable bed for both sleep apnea and snoring is that you can adjust your sleeping position. This allows you to find a position that is both comfortable and that prevents the tissue from falling into and blocking the airways.
The other big health benefit of having an adjustable bed is that it promotes better circulation during sleep. This also helps to reduce the risks of developing heart issues, stroke and PAD.
Do Adjustable Beds Help Snoring and Sleep Apnea? Picking the Right Adjustable Bed.
So, you like the idea of an adjustable bed. You figure that it will not only help with snoring and sleep apnea, but you like the idea that helps with back and neck pain as well as making it easy to watch TV or read in bed.
The market for adjustable beds has exploded in recent years, once only considered a medical device reserved for the elderly and those with mobility issues. The modern adjustable bed now includes features and options that fit into our modern lifestyle.
- A built-in massage feature
- Pre-Programmed settings for the most popular positions
- USB outlets for phone charging and tablet / computer power
- Wireless controls
- Under bed lighting
- A zero-gravity setting that eliminates pressure points
But wait, before you go out and buy a new bed, there are some things you need to consider first.
#1. Budget – Adjustable beds come in a wide range of price points. From the low end of a few hundred dollars all the way to beds costing thousands of dollars just for the frame. Keep in mind that the more bells and whistles you want, the more expensive it becomes. On the low end, beds costing a few hundred dollars are available, but they generally are not powered. With these beds you’ll need to adjust them manually before getting in the bed and if you want to change position in the middle of the night you’ll have to get up and manually adjust the position.
#2. How many people will be in the bed? – If it’s just you in the bed, then a standard adjustable bed is probably fine. However, if you’re sleeping with a partner you may want to look into getting a split king. In a regular adjustable bed, the entire bed adjusts as one unit. With a split king, each side of the bed adjusts independently. This allows you and your partner to each control their side of the bed minimizing arguments over position.
#3. Are you in a long-term living situation? – Do you tend to move often? Are you in a place that you plan on staying for a while? These are things you need to take into account. Most adjustable beds are very heavy and assembling them can take some time. You need to assess if it’s worth assembling, disassembling, and moving a major piece of furniture.
#4. Be aware of safety issues. – Because adjustable beds move, it is possible to pinch yourself if you get too close to the moving parts. Although this is normally not a big issue. The other safety concern is with small children and pets. Adjusting the bed while a child or pet is underneath the bed can potentially trap and harm them.
As we learn more and more about the importance of sleep and sleep hygiene, the in-home use of adjustable beds will continue to rise. The health benefits are indisputable. Adjustable beds have been shown to help a wide range of chronic health conditions including; Snoring, Sleep Apnea, Fibromyalgia, Neck and Back Pain, Pinched Nerves, Circulation Issues and more.
If you would like more information on adjustable beds and well as our review of some of the most popular ones, check out our article “What is the Best Adjustable Bed“.
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