As the Veterans’ Administration (VA) is struggling with a huge increase in the number of sleep apnea related claims, it is also struggling with a challenging reality of the condition. Although CPAP is the most commonly prescribed treatment for sleep apnea, and it can be very effective, it is also not well tolerated. In an attempt to get veterans treatment for their condition, they are issuing free sleep apnea pillows that can help when CPAP is ineffective.

Positional Therapy Pillow

Man sleeping in bed on a whiteIn an initiative by the VA in Chickasaw County, IA veterans with sleep apnea are being issued pillows as part of their treatment.

The sleep apnea pillows are described as being positional therapy pillows. Basically, we know that sleeping on the side is the best position for reducing sleep apnea. However, with optimal positioning of the head and neck, the advantage of side sleeping can be even greater.

This type of treatment is generally used only in people who have what is known as “positional sleep apnea,” in which they have sleep apnea that is only present or is much more serious when they sleep in a certain position.

The particular pillow that is being issued by the VA in some areas is a large wedge that is designed to support not just the head, but also the neck and the shoulder to ensure that a person is able to comfortably achieve the optimal position for treating sleep apnea. The pillow is made out of memory foam and comes with a free pillow case.

The VA is also issuing pillows for people with tinnitus. These pillows have an mp3 player in them that uses noise to counteract the internal ringing in the ears.

Is Positional Therapy Effective?

But the big question is: does positional therapy work. The answer is, yes, when it’s used. In one study comparing positional therapy to CPAP, positional therapy didn’t do as good a job maintaining oxygen saturation, but it did do as good a job in terms of keeping people asleep. Positional therapy allowed people with sleep apnea to get a full night’s sleep.

Positional therapy has another benefit: good compliance. Although patients prescribed the tennis ball technique (sewing a tennis ball into the back of your pajamas) were not happy with the treatment, those who had an actual positional therapy device used it  nearly 80% of the time, which is a much better compliance rate than CPAP.

It is important to understand that many different treatment options exist for people with sleep apnea. If you don’t tolerate CPAP, oral appliances, positional therapy, and more are options for you. To learn which treatment option will work best for you, please call (402) 493-4175 for an appointment with an Omaha sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.