Covid: Simple sleeping position you can try at home to reduce risk of hospitalisation

Sleep posture expert on the benefits of 'proning' on Covid patients

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Proning is an established medical technique, for which patients are positioned on their fronts. Prior to the pandemic it was most commonly used for unconscious and ventilated patients suffering from a range of respiratory conditions. Speaking exclusively with, James Leinhardt – the CEO and sleep posture expert for Levitex – explained: “Proning is a therapy where you put a patient onto their stomach because when you put patients onto their stomach their lungs ventilate in a different way.

“Gravity helps pull oxygen-rich blood through the lungs when they’re struggling because they are spongy due to something like Covid, pneumonia or other respiratory diseases.”

Levitex worked with a hospital trust and university in Lancashire during the pandemic to find a way to help conscious patients safely and comfortably lie on their fronts.

This involved the creation of a self-proning pillow kit, as well as a self-proning guide that is available to the public.

James said: “In wave one it (proning) was literally saving lives.

“In wave one there were a lot of patients being ventilated – there was at one point a shortage of ventilators and very quickly the intensivists were using the therapy of proning, which had been used 20-odd years ago with SARS and found the effects were significant.”

“With the proning of Covid patients the results were in a matter of hours, patient’s oxygenation levels were going up, the saturation levels were going up and their oxygen support was going down.

“I would argue it was the most significant intervention save for of course the booster jabs and the vaccines.”

He recommended trying proning at home if you are suffering from any of the breathing issues that come with Covid – if it is not at a bad enough stage where you need to go to hospital.

“The conscious patient proning guide shows how to best support yourself at home before indeed you have to go to hospital and hopefully with the benefits of proning maybe you won’t,” he said.

“For sure the intensivist said at the time that if we could have got this right and made it more readily available to the public we might have been able to reduce the number of hospitalisations in those first two waves.”

According to the guide, the best way to prone is to “support the chest and pelvis with firm pillows and leave the tummy free to move in and out as you breathe”.

Step one: Place two pillows in the middle of your bed in position to support your chest and pelvis.

Step two: Separate the pillows so your stomach will be able to lie in between them – at least a hand’s width apart.

Step three: Lie face down on top of the pillows ensuring your chest and pelvis are supported with your stomach in between to allow you to breathe. If you feel an increased strain on your lower back bring the two pillows closer together.

Step four: Position your head comfortably below your chest level, your head may rest on either side.

However, he did not recommend trying proning unless you are suffering from a “critical” respiratory condition.

James added: “If it’s not something that’s critical, like someone suffering with corona, as an everyday thing to sleep on your stomach is an absolute ‘no no’ due to the impact it has on your spine.

“We wouldn’t advocate proning as an everyday healthy lifestyle choice.”

Considering our posture while sleeping is “more important” than sitting properly at a desk, James argued.

The semi-foetal side lying position is the best for our spines when we sleep, he said.

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