Does Sleeping in a Recliner Help Sleep Apnea

“Does sleep in a recliner help sleep apnea?” is a common question that people with sleep apnea will ask. Anyone who suffers from this health issue will understand how difficult it is to sleep well. That’s why they are always on the way to improving their sleep quality.

Simply put, sleeping in a recliner could help sleep apnea in some cases. But we highly recommend checking the information below to know more details about this subject.

What is sleep apnea?

what is sleep apnea

Sleep apnea refers to a severe sleep disorder in which your breathing is repeatedly interrupted. Many people don’t realize that they have sleep apnea as they can’t observe themselves while sleeping.

If you feel exhausted and groggy when waking up or your partner complains about your snoring noise, it is possible that you already have sleep apnea. In fact, about 30 million Americans have some kind of sleep apnea.

There are 3 types of sleep apnea:

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): the muscles that support soft tissues in the back of the throat relax while sleeping. These relaxed muscles could narrow or close the airway, causing the breathing to stop from time to time. The majority of people have this type of sleep apnea.

Central sleep apnea occurs when your brain fails to send signals to the muscles that control breathing. The airway is not closed, but you can’t breathe properly.

Complex sleep apnea syndrome happens when someone has obstructive sleep apnea syndrome and central sleep apnea syndrome.

How does sleep apnea affect your health?

the effect of sleep apnea

If you think sleep apnea is something that affects a night of sleep, you are wrong. It will cause a series of problems to your health over time. 

Sleep apnea will make you wake up a few times an hour during the night and tear your sleep into pieces.  It will be hard for you to have some deep sleep which is important for recovery. With that said, you will feel tired even after a 10-hours sleep.

The lack of sleep could lead to a few problems in your life. You may find yourself can’t be concentrate and feel anxious or depressed all the time.  You start to forget things and can’t think about anything thoroughly. It will also increase blood pressure and blood sugar level, which are not great for your health. 

You may wonder, can sleep apnea cause death? Yes, it is possible. Untreated sleep apnea could affect the heart and lungs’ functions and raise the risk of heart diseases. 

However, don’t worry too much! Sleep apnea is a treatable condition, and sometimes, changing a sleep position can effectively improve the situation.

How to treat sleep apnea?

CPAP therapy

The method that proved to be most effective is continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP). You need to wear a mask, and the device connected to the mask will pump the air into the throat while you are sleeping. However, wearing a mask while sleeping is not comfortable for some people.

You could also opt for wearing snoring mouths or using a pillow. For those who have severe sleep apnea symptoms, surgery is possible occasionally.

Don’t buy these devices on your own. You should always consult with your doctor or sleep specialists.  In some cases, you don’t need any devices.

Can sleeping position affect sleep apnea?

Yes. A lot of OSA patients are position-dependent. Changing a sleeping position can play a role in the conditions of sleep apnea. This is also known as positional therapy. 

Generally speaking, sleeping on the back could worsen the situation as gravity will result in more blockage in the throat. 

Therefore, it is recommended to rest on your side as it will keep the airway stay open. Some studies also proved that sleeping with the head elevated can help treat mild to moderate sleep apnea.

You can keep your head elevated by applying an elevation pillow in the bed or sleeping in a recliner.

Does sleeping in a chair help sleep apnea?

As we said, sleeping with the head elevated works for people with mild to moderate sleep apnea. The study shows that a 7.5-degree angle could lead to a 30% decrease apnea-hypopnea index (AHI). 

Therefore, it is reasonable to know that sleeping in a chair, especially a recliner chair, can help sleep apnea as it could quickly help you achieve this position. 

However, this is not directly tested on a recliner, and you have to consult with your doctor before making this decision.

Some recliners can recliner all the way to flat, and you can adjust it by pressing the buttons on the remote control. You could either lay mostly flat with your head slightly elevated or sleep on the side as you do in the bed.

Some patients with sleep apnea also suffer from acid reflux. They may try a bit more upright position, which helps prevent the acid from traveling back to the esophagus simultaneously. 

For people with severe sleep apnea, this may not work and could be dangerous. You are likely to get CPAP or surgery treatment.

What to do when you sleep in a recliner with sleep apnea?

Except for finding a comfortable position to sleep in, there are a few things that need to be taken into consideration for people with sleep apnea.

Observing how you feel after waking up from a recliner is essential. If you think your situation gets worse, such as feeling even more tired, sleeping in a recliner may not be a good idea for your sleep apnea condition, or you have to make some adjustments.

Besides, don’t forget to do some stretching exercises, as sleeping in a recliner for too long could cause joint stiffness and blood blots.

Get yourself some blankets and keep your body warm throughout the night. Once you get a cold, it will make sleep apnea worse. The stuffy nose will make you breathe even more difficult.


A lot of people try to treat sleep apnea by sleeping in a recliner. Is it right to do it? Technically yes, especially for people with mild to moderate sleep apnea.

We don’t find studies directly conducted on a recliner, but some studies showed that sleeping with an elevated head could be helpful.

Hence, we assume that sleeping in a recliner with the head slightly elevated may help alleviate the syndrome. You could also choose to rest on your side while sleeping in a recliner as it is proven to help keep your airway open. To achieve these purposes, you may need a multi-position power recliner

I hope the information in this post can help you somewhat, but we suggest you talk to your doctor before taking action.

Photo of author
Rachelle is the founder of Best Chair Finder. She is a fanatic of home improvement, and as an engineer, she knows well about each chair's mechanism. You can find her story on the About page.