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Did you know that sleep apnea affects over 22 million Americans? Unfortunately, as little as 20% have been diagnosed, and the rest are trying to cope alone or don't even realize the problem exists.
Considering sleep apnea describes blocked or obstructed airways during sleep, it's a serious problem right across the country. According to experts, our health is dramatically affected whenever breathing pauses 30 times an hour or more, so sleep apnea needs to be addressed. Depending on the severity of your condition, there are a few things to try.
Many people start treating their sleep apnea with nose strips and nasal sprays since they are cheap and effective tools in mild cases. For those with severe sleep apnea, more serious solutions are required, such as CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines and specialized pillows. In recent times, more and more people are turning towards the latter since it's an effective and affordable way to get a peaceful, deep, undisturbed sleep.
Ultimately, each case is unique. Some patients will use sleep apnea pillows alone, and others will pair it with a CPAP machine. Although there are many different designs, they all have the same goal of keeping your airway open during sleep to accommodate breathing.
Today, we've compiled a list of the best pillows for sleep apnea to help your purchasing decision. From here, we'll delve into the different types of sleep apnea pillows as well as their advantages, potential drawbacks, and other buying considerations.
Table of Contents
The Best Pillows For Sleep Apnea Comparison Table
- Uses high-quality memory foam
- Elevates the body to keep the airways open
- Extra ventilation with perforation
- Certified with GREENGUARD Gold & CertiPUR-US
- Reduced mask interference and shifting at night
The Best Pillows For Sleep Apnea Reviews
EnduriMed: The Best Pillow for CPAP Machines
While a lot of the other pillows are designed to resolve a number of problems including joint pain and acid reflux, EnduriMed is specifically designed for sleep apnea sufferers. Therefore, it's perfect when used alongside CPAP machines. If you've tried other pillows that haven't considered the use of a mask, you'll know how uncomfortable they can be. Offering high-quality memory foam for support and comfort, you can get a good night's sleep with this sleep apnea pillow no matter what style of sleeper you are. Back, side or stomach sleepers can all find a space to lay where their mask is out of the way.
There are also two levels of thickness as a result of the dual-density design. Not only is this great for small and large sleepers, but the cooling effect is also ideal for warmer climates and for body temperature regulation. Although only a small feature, we love the fact that the pillow can also be used with regular pillowcases. There's no need to go out and buy specific ones in awkward shapes when the time comes to replace the pillowcase, so this is efficient.
MedSlant: The Best Wedge Sleep Apnea Pillow
For those who want firm support from a wedge pillow, we decided to go for MedSlant. It's mainly designed for people with acid reflux, but it elevates the upper body well enough for anybody with sleep apnea to benefit. When we lay flat, the neck closes, and breathing is restricted. With this MedSlant pillow, the upper body is elevated at an angle, and this should reduce snoring while maintaining constant support. Especially for back sleepers, you'll love this sleep apnea pillow and should wake up rested and ready to take on the day.
Made in the US, the foam is CertiPUR-US certified and offers an ISOFresh, hypoallergenic overlay. This way, all pressure on the shoulders, head, and neck is reduced. Often, people worry about the space they have on wedge pillows, but this one is 28" wide and 31" long. Whether you sleep on the side or back, you should still have room to spread out and find comfort without an issue.
We love the fact that the microfiber cover is stain resistant; even if an accident does occur, it's washable too. The fabric will hold its shape even after numerous washes and stays soft against your skin. All things considered, it's a fantastic pillow for sleep apnea.
Visco Love: The Best Therapeutic Sleep Apnea Pillow
Next up, we have the best option for the snorers out there; it also doubles as one of the best cervical pillows for sleep apnea. With a contoured shape and a dip in the center, this is also ideal for those who experience neck pain and other sleeping problems as well.
Using a soft, resilient 100% visco-elastic memory foam, the pillow actually reacts to heat and then molds perfectly to the body. With your shoulders and neck supported, it should relieve tension, pain, and stress in these key areas. As heat and pressure change, the pillow will adjust accordingly to keep the critical air passages open. Using smart material, the memory cells adjust to the exact contours of the neck and shoulders and then go back to their original shape in the morning.
With special air channels in the core, thermal regulation is one of the most advanced we've seen in the niche. As is nearly standard for the best pillows for sleep apnea, the cover is washable to make your life much easier. For patients with a CPAP mask, we think this is a great option because the malleable pillow will simply mold itself to the additional shape and remain comfortable even with a mask strapped around your head.
Coop Home Goods: The Best Memory Foam Pillow for Sleep Apnea
When it comes to memory foam pillows, you won't find too many better than Coop Home Goods. Depending on your needs, it's adjustable between 4 and 6 inches as you add/remove the shredded filling. Though a little smaller than the average pillow, the memory foam fill allows for the optimum support of the head and neck. Over a number of nights, you can keep adjusting until you find the right balance. As well as the foam in the pillow, the product arrives with extra fill just in case you need a higher elevation.
Unfortunately, Coop Home Goods isn't designed for stomach sleepers but will work well with side and back sleepers; this sleep apnea pillow allows room for a CPAP hose. Soft, breathable, and supportive from edge to edge, it will adjust to your unique size and sleep position so you can wake up feeling refreshed.
One of the best features is the gel infusion within the cross-cut memory foam; this will keep users cool and should prevent hours of uncomfortable tossing and turning. With the hypoallergenic and dust mite resistant case, the pillow has both softness and breathability thanks to the Lulltra fabric (a blend of polyester and bamboo-derived viscose rayon).
Coop Home Goods has been rigorously tested and certified by CertiPUR-US and GREENGUARD. With these, we can feel confident in the product's safety. On top of this, the pillow comes with a 100-day money-back guarantee, made in the US, and offers a five-year warranty.
Contour Products: The Best Contour Pillow for Sleep Apnea
Finally, we come across the CPAPMax Pillow 2.0, which contours to your body to provide maximum airflow and correct alignment. The cutouts for the shoulders help maintain a neutral sleeping position without putting pressure on your neck while the concave center gently cradles your head.
Ultimately, the pillow contains three different foam layers, and these are all removable so you can choose a loft that provides the right support. Whether you sleep on your back, side, or front, you'll find a height that keeps you comfortable through the night. The following layers are present;
- Top layer - Soft memory foam to cradle and support the face
- Middle layer - Highly resilient and installed to support the shoulders and neck
- Bottom layer - Designed to keep the whole pillow fresh and remove odors (infused with charcoal)
If you have a CPAP mask, there are pressure-free zones which means the mask will stay in place without interference that comes with a normal pillow. Suddenly, airflow is promoted, and you can sleep comfortably without having to stick with one position or continually readjust the mask. For those worried about their CPAP machine, this sleep apnea pillow actually comes with an extended hose tether which means that you'll have more freedom than ever before. Whenever you move, there will always be enough hose without pulling or tugging on your mask.
Depending on your preference, there are actually two different sleeping surfaces: a ventilated foam surface and a plush, traditional pillow surface. As the name suggests, the ventilated surface promotes air circulation, which is ideal for the warmer months when you need a cool sleep. Alternatively, just flip the pillow over, and you'll have more of a traditional experience. Rather than a 3D mesh memory foam, this is a soft, fiber-filled, and hypoallergenic side.
We've discussed comfort, but we should also mention durability. With high-quality memory foam and premium support, this CPAP pillow should last for many years (even with daily use!).
Sleep Apnea Pillow Buyer's Guide
How Does a Sleep Apnea Pillow Work?
As you may have noticed from the products we've suggested above, one of the main differences in sleep apnea pillows from standard pillows is in the overall design. With sleep apnea sufferers in mind, they focus on CPAP masks and the tubes that may come along with them. With clever designs, such pillows make sleeping with such equipment possible, and in some cases even comfortable.
Simultaneously, sleep apnea pillows encourage a strong sleeping position. Especially with OSA (obstructive sleep apnea), positioning is everything because, without support, the airway blocks and wakes the sleeper up during the night.
Originally, it was Colin Sullivan who started to treat chronic respiratory conditions with CPAP therapy in the 1980s. Around a decade later, sleep apnea pillows started making their way into the market. Many designers were attempting to accommodate the health condition, and a breakthrough finally came towards the end of the millennium.
Ever since more and more companies have invested in the industry, and this has led to a number of advancements. At the same time, scientists and researchers were learning more about sleep apnea. We've discovered, for example, that sleep apnea is not only prevalent in adults but also among children. Therefore, the market has welcomed toddler sleep apnea pillows, that help to manage this sleep disorder among children.
Benefits of Using a Sleep Apnea Pillow
Why should you consider a sleep apnea pillow over your standard one? Allow us to explain!
While you will spend a little more on these pillows than a standard pillow, it's certainly not anywhere near what you would pay for a CPAP machine. Another plus is that it will work for a considerable length of time as well.
Works well with CPAP machines
If you're currently using a CPAP machine, combining this with a medical pillow will work wonders for your deep sleep. Sleep apnea pillows keep the mask stable and relieve the overall pressure of the mask. Even while you sleep, the mask remains in position and doesn't rotate to another location and become useless. When looking for the best pillow for sleep apnea, we highly recommend considering these design features.
As long as you look after the pillow, there's no reason why it can't last a full decade. Memory foam is a very durable type of material. Alternatively, traditional pillows lose their shape faster as the filling gets deformed.
Although we're focusing on sleep apnea here, these pillows actually have a number of uses. For example, doctors often recommend wedge pillows for those suffering from acid reflux. Elsewhere, they're useful in the recovery from leg and back surgery. Finally, we can't forget nursing mothers who have also found a comfortable assistant in these pillows.
Encourages sleeping on the side
When first talking to a doctor about sleep apnea, they're likely to recommend sleeping on the side… something encouraged with special pillows. When on our side, the effects of sleep apnea are far less as the head is naturally elevated, and there is less weight pressing against the neck and throat. With the right pillow, you'll be kept off your back and into a healthier position.
When attempting to treat sleep apnea, the use of special pillows is one of the best measures that patients can take to help relieve the effects of their condition. Sleep apnea sufferers generally find such pillows much more comfortable and get used to them rather quickly.
As we know, lifestyle changes are the key to success in the long-term. By reducing weight and adopting a balanced diet, patients can reduce the problem significantly; however, sleep apnea pillows are a fantastic short-term solution while working on these changes.
Sleep is important for many reasons, and sleeping with a poor posture will lead to discomfort, and even neck and shoulder pain. With a sleep apnea pillow, the body has sufficient support but with enough flexibility to give a comfortable sleep. As the head is held in position, you shouldn't wake up with neck pain or strain.
Proper head and neck support
Sleep apnea pillows provide therapeutic support by distributing your torso weight evenly. A specific length makes sure your neck and shoulders can rest free from any tension. Meanwhile, the airway is open for the night, and the spine is aligned. As we've seen in the products above, these pillows are designed to enhance comfort (regardless of your sleeping position).
Since airway obstruction during sleep causes sleep apnea, the idea is that a slight lift of the upper body should result in improved breathing throughout the night. Thus, experts recommend choosing a design that keeps the shoulders, head, and neck elevated.
Potential Drawbacks of Sleep Apnea Pillows
Like any other product in the world, sleep apnea pillows aren't perfect. We recommend assessing the pros and cons in every single case because the following drawbacks may apply.
If you live in a warm climate, and your chosen memory foam pillow doesn't have a cooling gel layer, it's easy to spend the night sweating away. When we're too warm, it's difficult to drift off to sleep, and this is the main reason why some don't get along with sleep apnea pillows.
Of the five products we displayed earlier, only one used traditional pillow covers. Therefore, it's likely you'll have to invest in special covers that only have one purpose. If you force a traditional cover on a sleep apnea pillow that has a unique shape, it reduces the effectiveness of the pillow and can make everything more uncomfortable.
Tough Transition Period
Even if you eventually fall in love with the pillow, there's still likely to be a tough transition period. When your new sleeping assistant first arrives, it might be a little firm, and you'll need to be patient as you adjust to this new way of sleeping.
Forced Sleeping Position
With positional pillows, we're forced into one certain position, and this can be a nightmare for those who normally toss and turn during the average night. In these cases, you might find help with a special mattress since to get more comfortable without moving too much.
No Help for Central Sleep Apnea
In this guide, we've been referring to 'sleep apnea' when what we really mean is 'obstructive sleep apnea.' Obstructive sleep apnea patients need their airways kept open through the night, which is what these pillows do. Unfortunately, central sleep apnea sufferers don't get the same positive experience.
Different Types of Sleep Apnea Pillows
Before we go into buying considerations, we first want to make the distinction between positional pillows and those designed to be used with a CPAP machine.
When using CPAP machines, one of the biggest problems that people have is getting comfortable on the pillow. Back, stomach, and side sleepers can benefit from some unique CPAP pillow designs.
Depending on the product you choose, it will either have a moldable design or a cutout feature. With the latter, the mask and hose fit nicely into the cutout section, and this style of a pillow can be used for all types sleepers. With a moldable design, the fill is buckwheat hulls or shredded memory foam, and this means you can create space for the mask. Especially for stomach sleepers, you can shape the pillow to whatever you need on any given night.
These pillows will position the neck to keep the airway open, and they're generally used without a CPAP machine. The two most common examples are as follows;
If you can't get comfortable in any other position than on your back, this is where wedge pillows come in. A wedge pillow elevates the upper body when it is in a reclining position. Now, gravity isn't pulling your tongue back into the throat, and you should sleep more comfortably (as should your partner!).
With cervical/contour pillows, they have the primary goal of keeping the airway open by keeping the head and neck in a certain position. However, they also relieve headaches and neck/shoulder pain. Some people have used them while sleeping on the back, but they're more suited towards side sleepers. As we've already discovered, sleep apnea symptoms are exacerbated when sleeping on our back.
Before investing your hard-earned money, there are some considerations to keep in mind. Once you understand the different features and what makes for a good pillow, it'll be much easier to make a decision. We'll cover shape and size, but there are other important features too, so keep reading!
With so many products on the market, it's critical to consider your own position before spending money. For example, people using a CPAP machine will have different requirements to those who don't. With a traditional pillow, it's difficult to get comfortable while wearing a mask because it can move around and dig into the face.
Fortunately, there are solutions in pillows that have been designed specifically to account for CPAP machines. They accommodate the mask as well as the contours of your face. With something like a wedge pillow, you don't get this same assistance.
When we say size, it isn't just about the dimensions of the pillow; we need to consider the size of the user too. While some manufacturers will attempt to create a product that suits everybody, others will create specific sizes for enhanced comfort. Based on your sleeping position, a good way to consider the size is by measuring the distance between your neck and the mattress (if possible, have somebody help!).
From here, you can consider the market, and the differences may surprise you. For example, cervical pillows are much smaller than wedge pillows. In fact, the latter is larger than a traditional pillow and the reason why a transition period is required. If you are looking to purchase a wedge style sleep apnea pillow, you'll come across different heights ranging from seven inches to twelve. The higher the elevation, the more suited it is towards more serious acid reflux or back-related issues. If you want something for sleep apnea alone, seven inches should be enough.
In our opinion, the third biggest consideration for sleep apnea pillows is the material both on the inside and outside. With materials, we need to think about our needs but also the cost and our preference when it comes to texture. These days, memory foam is a key material for many designs to some extent. While some have memory foam throughout, others have just a couple of inches on top.
In covers, you might find different types of materials such as bamboo. In recent years, manufacturers have seen the value of bamboo because it allows for flexibility, good quality, and affordability for the customer. What's more, we know that memory foam pillows can make us hot and even exacerbate sleep apnea. With bamboo, we have a breathable material with a comfortable cooling effect.
Next up, the shape is essential because sleep apnea pillows are all about putting your body into a different position/angle so that the airway is open, and you can breathe freely through the night. These pillows have a unique design when compared to a traditional pillow. As the name suggests, wedge pillows are triangular and sloped to keep the upper body upright. However, you will find different angles; many experts suggest 30 degrees for sleep apnea sufferers. Elsewhere, cervical pillows have a more traditional shape but with curves and waves on top. To support side and back sleepers, there's a dip in the middle of these designs; this is also useful with neck pain. With moldable CPAP pillows, the shape will adjust to your body and the mask. Therefore, your face is free and comfortable, which helps avoid nasty marks appearing from the mask.
Do you find yourself getting hot with traditional pillows? Well, this could be a problem with sleep apnea pillows because the memory foam has a reputation for holding and radiating warmth. If this is important to you, we recommend looking for products with gel layers, ventilation holes, and other cooling features.
Although it would be nice, we don't all have an unlimited budget, so the price is something else to consider. For sleep apnea treatments, pillows are one of the most affordable options, but this doesn't mean you should ignore pricing altogether. With the pillows we mentioned at the beginning of this guide, they generally come in between $25 and $70. For us, there's a balance between price and quality; don't go for the cheapest, but you also don't need to go above $100. Today, $50/$60 is a fair price for a high-quality sleep apnea pillow. Remember, companies choose a price based not just on the features alone but on the materials it is built with too.
With so many different products in the market, it's natural that some people will enjoy their experience more than others. You can't expect every shape to be comfortable for you, nor can we expect adjustable pillows to satisfy 100% of an audience. If you buy a pillow, test it, and if you feel disappointed, know that this is normal. Rather than giving up, keep testing different designs, and find the one that suits you and your sleeping habits. Of course, you always need to remember that sleep apnea pillows have one common goal; to open the airway and promote breathing during sleep. Subsequently, this feature will take precedence over all others.
You Might Need More Help
We're all for testing different designs, but there also comes a point where professional intervention is required. If you still suffer from the symptoms, get in touch with a sleep expert. Yes, you will pay more money, but professional help and a possible sleep study will allow you to find the root cause of the problem. From here, together, you can draw up a treatment plan and actively treat the problem for a brighter future.
To finish this guide, let's see if we can answer some of your most common questions!
How can I get a good night's sleep with sleep apnea?
This is a difficult question to answer since we don't know your case specifically, but we know that there are two steps that every individual should try; sleep apnea pillows and lifestyle changes. We've spoken heavily about pillows in this guide, so we'll talk more about lifestyle changes here.
Firstly, we advise staying away from alcohol because this will relax the soft tissues, lead to snoring, and exacerbate the breathing problems. From here, try to introduce a good sleeping pattern and stop smoking. Let's face it, there are no benefits to smoking, and researchers are only learning more drawbacks as time goes on. Sadly, people who smoke experience sleep apnea symptoms more severely.
After this, you can stick to a healthy diet and lose excess weight. By doing this, you're limiting the opportunities for the sleep apnea to take over. On this note, don't fall into the trap of relying on sleeping pills. Just like alcohol, they relax the muscles and cause blockages in the throat.
What's a sleep apnea pillow?
A sleep apnea pillow is a specially designed pillow which helps to open the airway and improve breathing (which lowers the incidences of sleep apnea). Coming in several different designs and shapes, the market has welcomed position pillows as well as CPAP pillows in recent years.
Should I consider a sleep apnea pillow?
When it comes to treating sleep apnea, sometimes it's the simple adjustments that have the biggest impact. With this, we highly recommend special pillows to all sleep apnea sufferers. Even if you use a CPAP machine, there are options that will help you accommodate the tubes and masks and sleep comfortably at the same time.
Can I clean a sleep apnea pillow?
With positional pillows, manufacturers advise using a mild antibacterial soap and sterile liquid once a week to wipe the pillow. Alternatively, choose a removable cover, and this can go in the machine every so often.
If you need a CPAP pillow, we recommend daily washing with warm, soapy water. Rinse it through and then allow it to dry while flat. Since our faces will rest on the pillow, you shouldn't use alcoholic substances which can irritate your nose.
What is the success rate of sleep apnea pillows?
Ultimately, as we discovered earlier, every single sleep apnea pillow has the same goal; to aid the breathing process while you sleep by lifting the head and adding a tilt. By doing this, we can minimize obstructions and remove the need for more extensive treatments (and even surgery!).
Will you see results? This depends, and we can't generalize. This being said, the majority of people who introduce such pillows are able to reduce sleep apnea episodes by 70% on a given night. This means higher energy levels the next day, and less of a risk of liver issues, diabetes, and heart disease.
In some cases, the obstruction will actually be a result of a physical deformity or growth, and this is where pillows cannot help. Instead, you should talk to a medical professional and discuss options to remove this obstruction (or at least limit its impact).
What if I don't have sleep apnea? Will the pillow have its uses?
In many cases, sleep apnea is chronic, and it needs a long-term treatment plan to limit the impact on not only the sufferer but their family members too. As you speak with a doctor, they will recommend lifestyle changes and pillows to prevent breathing problems and snoring.
Despite this, a special pillow might still come in handy for those without a sleep apnea diagnosis. For example, they can reduce snoring and help you breathe better at night. Even without sleep apnea, this leads to better sleep and translates into lower blood pressure, better concentration, and a reduced risk of health problems.
Additionally, one of the big features of such pillows is that they provide optimal support for the neck, back, and shoulders. If you're looking for additional support due to an injury, or have acid reflux, the inclined position allow for this. With an anti-snore pillow, you won't believe the difference.
Which angle is best with a sleep apnea pillow?
Ask this question a hundred times online, and you'll find dozens of different answers, so we'll be careful and say that 30 degrees is generally a good start when attempting to avoid blockages and open up the airways. Most commonly, this is achieved with a twelve-inch tall pillow.
Will I experience neck strain with a wedge pillow?
Although we recognize the odd shape, wedge pillows actually lead to a very natural sleeping position which makes neck strain very rare. When sleeping on your side or back, your posture may actually improve as a result of this pillow.
Can I wash my memory foam sleep apnea pillow?
This depends, and the best way to get an answer is to read the description of a product provided by the manufacturer. If you can't wash the whole thing, you should at least be able to clean the cover. More and more, covers are machine washable for a huge level of convenience.
There we have it, your complete guide to the best pillows for sleep apnea. With everything considered, we recommend keeping in mind your own comfort, sleeping position, and breathing during sleep. Sleep apnea pillows aren't born equal, and you may need to test a handful before you find the right option. Fortunately, finding one is incredibly rewarding and may just change your life for the better.
Of course, pillows should never replace medical advice, so this should always be a priority if you suspect sleep apnea. Pillows will relieve the symptoms and may form an important part of a treatment plan for mild and moderate cases, but more serious intervention could prove vital in extreme cases!