Journal of Applied Physiology, 1987
Authors: J. M. Fouke and K. P. Strohl
Conclusion: “The occurrence of upper airway obstruction during sleep and with anesthesia suggests the possibility that upper airway size might be compromised by the gravitational effects of the supine position.
We used an acoustic reflection technique to image airway geometry and made 180 estimates of effective cross-sectional area as a function of distance along the airway in 10 healthy volunteers while they were supine and also while they were seated upright.
We calculated z-scores along the airway and found that pharyngeal cross-sectional area was smaller in the supine than in the upright position in 9 of the 10 subjects.”
“We conclude that pharyngeal cross-sectional area decreases as a result of a change from the upright to the supine position and that the mechanism of this change is independent of the change in functional residual capacity.”