As we’ve noted before, people who like to get outdoors to enjoy the Colorado high country have trouble with sleep apnea because CPAP is not easy to use outdoors. In general, oral appliances are the best way to deal with this problem, but some people may wonder whether sleeping in a hammock might also be a good choice to reduce or eliminate sleep apnea when camping. That’s a hard question to answer.
Retailers’ Claims and Anecdotal Evidence
Of course, if you listen to people selling hammocks, this question is already settled in blogs and videos they claim confidently that, yes, sleeping in a hammock helps with sleep apnea. Although it’s true that sleeping with your head elevated (what is called a semi-Fowler’s position) is recommended to minimize postoperative risks for sleep apnea sufferers, there’s no scientific evidence that sleeping in a hammock actually reduces sleep apnea at all. There just have been no studies performed on the question.
In the absence of science, we can fall back on rationalization: it makes sense that the position a hammock puts you in might help, but, then again, it might not. Another piece of evidence we might consider in the absence of studies is anecdotal experience. An online forum of hammock sleepers talking about snoring shows mixed results for sleeping in a hammock. Some snore less. Some snore more. Others snore about the same. This is about the same as people sleeping with their head elevated.
Will It Work for You?
When it comes to sleep apnea, you don’t want to be relying on an unproven or uncertain solution. Remember, the consequences of the condition are potentially deadly, and even if you go a few days with a poor solution or no treatment at all, it can certainly ruin your trip.
The only real way to know if your sleep apnea might be improved by sleeping in a hammock is to test it. Most sleep centers probably don’t have hammocks for testing, but they have adjustable beds that can be used to see if elevating your head and/or feet might improve your sleep apnea. If you have your own hammock, a take-home test can also be used to gauge whether it helps.