Sleep Apnea: Choosing the Right Pillow for You

Do you suffer from sleep apnea? Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that occurs when breathing stops for a few seconds several times during sleep. Because breathing is disrupted, the cells are not getting enough energy and as a result, you feel tired, sluggish, and mentally drained in the morning.

Sleep apnea is considered as a serious health problem so if you suspect that you’re suffering from this condition, it’s best to have yourself checked immediately.

While sleep apnea has no known cure, there are several treatments and sleeping aids that could reduce the occurrence of obstructed breathing during sleep, one of which is a sleep apnea pillow.

How Sleep Apnea Pillows Work

Unlike ordinary pillows, sleep apnea pillows are ergonomically designed to support the neck and reduce stress in the throat and soft palate, preventing the soft tissues from collapsing during sleep. These pillows could also accommodate an oxygen mask and reduce air leaks.

A sleep apnea pillow also comes in different lengths to elevate the body and distribute body weight evenly to reduce obstructed breathing. The pillow does not strain the arms, shoulders, or neck so the spine is properly aligned. Apart from easing obstructed breathing at night, sleep apnea pillows reduce snoring and back/neck pain too.

Image used under Creative Commons from Jacob Stewart

Sleep Apnea Pillows by Type

Butterfly-Shaped Pillow

As the name suggests, this pillow is shaped like a butterfly to ease breathing during sleep. The shape is also designed for people who are undergoing CPAP therapy for sleep apnea.

This pillow is typically made from memory foam, a dense foam-like material that conforms to the body’s unique shape. This material keeps the spine aligned so the airways are always open.

Wedge-Shaped Pillow

Wedge-shaped pillows make an excellent remedy for sleep apnea because it puts the head at the right angle to open up the airways and keep the jaws shut, reducing the chances of breathing through the mouth. Wedge-shaped pillows are designed for side sleepers.

Cervical Pillow

Cervical pillows are designed for a different purpose altogether but that doesn’t mean it’s not helpful in terms of reducing obstructed breathing during sleep.

This pillow has an indented center that cradles the head at a perfect angle, preventing the soft tissues from collapsing during sleep. This pillow comes in an array of materials to choose from and is best for back sleepers.

Factors to Consider When Buying a Sleep Apnea Pillow

Shoulder Width

Your shoulder width will affect the comfort level of the pillow. The right pillow for you must fill in the gap between the head and shoulders to promote proper spine alignment. The wider your shoulder is, the bigger the pillow should be.

Firmness

A too-soft pillow may not stop the soft tissues in the throat from collapsing so it won’t stop sleep apnea. A pillow that’s too firm may cause muscle stiffness or misalignment in the neck area. Ideally, you want to invest in a sleep apnea pillow with medium firmness.

Material

The material for the pillow is a matter of preference but for those who live in hot, humid areas, avoid materials made from synthetic fabrics like nylon or polyester. Opt for pillows covered in soft, cotton fabric. But if say, cotton is out of the question, opt for a pillow made from hypoallergenic materials.

Thickness

A pillow that’s too thick may only aggravate your condition and even cause excessive stress on the head and neck. A pillow that’s too thin might cause your airways to collapse, which causes obstructed breathing. To determine the right pillow thickness, you’ll need to test the pillow in person.

Top Sleep Apnea Pillows

Contour Products CPAP Sleep Aid Pillow


Pros

  • Excellent quality
  • Ergonomic design
  • Affordable
  • Soft, luxe cotton cover

Cons

  • Too firm for some users

A CPAP pillow like this bestselling one from Contours Products is meant to provide a comfortable sleep for people who are undergoing CPAP therapy for sleep apnea. Contour Products’ CPAP sleep aid pillow features an ergonomic design to accommodate side sleepers who use an oxygen mask and other facial sleep appliance.

The pillow is made from dense, molded cotton covered in soft cotton cover that’s machine washable. This is a fantastic pillow for people who are suffering from severe cases of sleep apnea. However, the texture of the pillow is on the firmer side due to the denseness of the foam.

Pur-Sleep CPAPfit CPAP Pillow

Pros

  • Excellent design and construction
  • Made from shredded foam and natural buckwheat
  • Cool and comfortable
  • Ideal for stomach and back sleepers

Cons

  • Sloshing sound
  • Too firm for some users

This sleep apnea pillow by Pur-Sleep is specially designed to prevent air leaks. The pillow is made from a combination of shredded foam and natural buckwheat hulls so it’s quite cool and comfortable to use even on hot humid nights. The thickness can be adjusted along with the shape and softness. According to the brand, this pillow will never go flat and it’s adjustable for stomach and back sleepers too.

As for the downsides, the filling does make a sloshing sound, which can be a deal breaker for light sleepers. Also, the texture of the pillow might be too firm for some.

LinenSpa® Wedge Pillow

Pros

  • Angled design keeps the airways open
  • Made from quality polyurethane foam
  • Reduces pressure points and promotes better sleep
  • Promotes proper alignment of the spine

Cons

  • Dense material causes heat spots

LinenSpa®’s wedge pillow is an angled orthopedic pillow designed for people who suffer from sleep apnea as well as heavy snorers and patients afflicted with acid reflux or congestion. This pillow is made from dense polyurethane foam, which adjusts to the body’s unique curves, reducing pressure points and promoting better sleep. Thanks to its angled shape, this pillow keeps the spine aligned, ensuring that the airways are open during sleep.

However, this pillow might not appeal to most people because of the material, which isn’t ideal for warm weather. The polyester cover also develops heat spots during sleep.

Conclusion

An estimated 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea but not only a few seek treatment. Don’t wait until your condition worsens, use the right pillow to ease sleep apnea symptoms. We hope that this in-depth has helped you find the right pillow for your needs.

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