Forum · Tennis Ball Technique: effective?

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[-] McMike +0 points · 9 months ago

It seems to be a common recommendation to attach one or more tennis balls to your back to treat mild sleep apnea, but I'm not finding a lot of detail on how well it actually works.

I'd be interested in hearing about the experience of anyone who's tried it. Does the pain of rolling onto your back wake you up? Is it true that your sleeping body somehow learns to stay off your back and you can eventually stop using the tennis balls?

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[-] wiredgeorge +0 points · 9 months ago Sleep Enthusiast

Not heard this. I sleep flat on my back and don't wake once during the night. I do find it more comfortable to prop up a bit using two pillows as I have some damage to my back in two places and arthritis from playing football and this keeps my lower back from getting sore. Never heard anyone else complain of a sore back from sleeping on their back but you have to find what works for you.

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[-] DanM +1 point · 9 months ago Sleep Enthusiast

Hi McMike. It is not uncommon for people who have mild sleep apnea that is positional (usually occurring when laying on the back) to use positional therapy. You can do a quick internet search for "sleep apnea positional therapy" and see that there are devices actually produced to help keep patients from sleeping on their backs. It was more common before these devices became available to use tennis balls that were sewn into a pocket on the back of a t-shirt. For patients with mild sleep apnea or primary snoring that occurs when laying on the back, the therapy can be very effective. If you adjust over time to not sleeping on your back, it might be possible to stop using the tennis balls or positional therapy devices. Best wishes, and hope this helps!

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[-] McMike +0 points · 9 months ago

Thanks. I'm actually using a SlumberBump at the moment, which easily forces my body to stay on the side but doesn't actually cause the kind of pain I expect a tennis ball would provide from an attempt to roll to the back. I'm a little curious if the lack of pain makes it less likely that my body could be trained? Is there any evidence that a tennis ball can actually train the body to stay off the back?

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[-] ResourcefulRedMouse0789 +0 points · 9 months ago

Never been studies. Physical Therapy techniques. If you actually did not rollover using a ball reason would dictate you would be injured by this method.

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[-] DanM +0 points · 8 months ago Sleep Enthusiast

Hi McMike. I haven't seen any data that says the body can be trained. I think it is more that people who wear the various devices or use the tennis balls simply find it uncomfortable when the roll in their sleep and simply turn back to a lateral position.

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[-] EasygoingRedGiantPanda5155 +0 points · 8 months ago

I was able to train myself to be a side sleeper by using a wedge pillow behind my back. I don't know if I'm just easily trained (you'd have to ask my wife about that <grin>), but I've been a side sleeper now for many years. On the rare occasion that I do move to my back, she "gently" reminds me with an elbow to get back on my side. ;-)

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[-] McMike +0 points · 8 months ago

If the body can't be trained, then it seems a tennis ball would just periodically wake you up throughout the night. Unless I find some data, I guess I'll be using the SlumberBump (or something similar) indefinitely to physically prevent rolling to the back.

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[-] barbz +0 points · 8 months ago

Like @wiredgeorge, I have to sleep on my back. I used to use a wedge to raise my head, plus I put a pillow under my knees. Since then, I have invested in an adjustable bed. I also learned that by having my head higher, my pressure can be a few points lower. I once tried to use that tennis ball technique, but found being on my side created too many other painful problems.

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