According to a new study, wearing compression stockings throughout the day can help improve sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder in which the sleeper briefly stops breathing several times throughout the night. It disrupts one’s sleep, making it less restful, and therefore increases tiredness and fatigue throughout the day. Sleep apnea also increases the risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, and stroke. Those with moderate to severe sleep apnea usually treat it with a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) device, which helps keep the sleeper’s airways open throughout the night.

Now, after the results of the study, sleep apnea patients might try wearing compression stockings as well. However, the results of this particular study are suspect. First of all, it was a very small study with only 45 participants. Secondly, those who wore the stockings only had a 27% decrease in the frequency of their sleep apnea compared to those who didn’t. 27% may be an improvement, but it’s far from solving the problem.

But even if the study results don’t help patients treat sleep apnea, they could still help us better understand how sleep apnea works. There are numerous ways in which one’s airways can be blocked during sleep, causing sleep apnea. The study indicates another potential way-- fluid from the legs moving into the neck at night, and restricting oxygen flow.

By exerting pressure on the legs throughout the day, compression stockings reduce fluid movement. This is likely what’s causing the decline in sleep apnea for patients who wear compression stockings throughout their day.