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5 Best Pillows for Sleep Apnea: How to Treat Sleep Apnea at Home

Published February 9th, 2022 by Erik Rivera
Fact Checked by
Jacqueline Hensler
Medically Reviewed:
Chris Riley

Sleep Apnea 101 | Symptoms | How do pillows work to treat sleep apnea

If you suffer from sleep apnea you know how disruptive the condition can be.

Not only can sleep apnea lead to poor sleep quality and daytime fatigue, but it can also increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Luckily, there are a number of things that you can do to help treat sleep apnea at home, including using a pillow to help with your sleep apnea.

In this article, we will discuss what sleep apnea is, the symptoms of sleep apnea, how pillows help treat sleep apnea, and the five best pillows for sleep apnea. 

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes you to stop breathing during sleep.

It happens due to the collapse of the soft tissue in the back of your throat that blocks your upper airway passage disrupting your ability to breathe.

It can also cause you to sleep poorly and sleep for less time than you normally should.

As a result, it affects how well-rested you are during daytime hours and is associated with sleepiness throughout the day which can be dangerous especially when driving or operating heavy machinery.

Left untreated, sleep apnea can increase your risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

There are three types of sleep apnea that can affect you.

The first type of sleep apnea is called obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, and is the most common form.

This happens when the airway collapses and becomes blocked when you sleep.

Central sleep apnea, or CSA, is a less common type of sleep apnea that happens when the brain fails to send the correct signals to your muscles that control breathing.

Mixed sleep apnea is a combination of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea and is also not very common.

Sleep apnea can be diagnosed with a sleep study called polysomnography.

This is a test where you spend the night in a sleep lab and your sleep is monitored by a sleep specialist.

At-home sleep tests are also now available where you monitor your sleep from the comfort of your home and the data is reviewed by a doctor.

If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor will likely recommend treatment options which may include lifestyle changes, mouthpieces, or devices that keep your airway open while you sleep, and/or surgery. There are some options, such as pillows, which can help you sleep and improve your quality of life.

sleep apnea pillow

What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?

The most common symptoms of sleep apnea are loud snoring, pauses in your breathing during sleep often accompanied by choking or gasping afterward, and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Other symptoms can include morning headaches, a dry mouth or sore throat when you wake up, difficulty staying asleep, restless sleep, and difficulty concentrating.

Due to your lack of quality sleep, you may also experience episodes of irritability or mood swings while awake too.

Lastly, your loud snoring may also affect your bed partner or other members of your household.

How do pillows help treat sleep apnea?

There is no one sleep apnea pillow that is right for everyone. You may find that one type of pillow works well for you.

However, there are a few things to look for when searching for the best sleep apnea pillow for you.

A good sleep apnea pillow should be firm enough to provide spinal alignment but also soft enough so that it doesn't put too much pressure on your neck.

It should also take into account whether you are sleeping with a positive airway pressure mask on as well.

Your sleeping position is also important, as some people find that sleeping on their side is the best position for them when using a sleep apnea pillow while others find that sleeping on their back is more comfortable.

All of these factors as well as pillow shape and the type of pillow should be taken into account when finding the most comfortable pillow for you.

What are the 5 best pillows available for sleep apnea?

Several different materials and styles of sleep pillows are used for sleep apnea including foam pillows and wedge pillows.

Foam pillows, also called memory foam pillows, are a good option because they come in different shapes and sizes, including contoured pillows that help keep your neck in line with your spine, and are available in both soft and firm options.

The foam also can provide support while also allowing your head to sink in for comfort.

Wedge pillows are another popular choice for sleep apnea sufferers because they help you sleep at an incline which helps keep your airways open while you sleep.

This prevents sleep apnea episodes from occurring and helps alleviate symptoms associated with sleep apnea like snoring.

There are also specialty pillows available that allow you to accommodate CPAP masks without pressing on them or causing discomfort while sleeping.

Contour CPAPMax Pillow 2.0

The Contour CPAPMax pillow is a popular choice for sleep apnea sufferers.

It is made of a more supportive memory foam and a soft pillow fiber filler, one on each side so you can choose for personal preference.

It also features a contoured shape and ergonomic design that minimizes CPAP mask or hose interference while you sleep.

The 2.0 version has some slight upgrades from the original including an ability to remove layers to adjust height and a mesh layer that facilitates cooling.

This pillow also allows you the comfort of sleeping on either your side or back.

>>>> Check Amazon Pricing for the Countour CPAPMax HERE

Lundberg CPAP Pillow

The Lundberg CPAP pillow is uniquely designed to help you sleep comfortably while using a CPAP machine and sleeping on your side.

It features four recesses at the corners of the pillow that allow for your mask to fit comfortably while you sleep on your side without pressing on it or causing discomfort.

These cutouts are also intended to make tossing and turning during sleep more comfortable by not interfering with your mask and hose.

This sleep apnea pillow is made of memory foam and also has an extra layer that can be removed to adjust its height.

Helix Wedge Pillow

The Helix sleep apnea pillow is a wedge pillow that helps you sleep at an incline for improved breathing.

The wedge design also helps keep your airways open while you sleep and reduces snoring by clearing the upper airway passage.

It is made of polyfoam and memory foam so it's both comfortable and supportive of the body.

The Helix Wedge Pillow is helpful if you are more comfortable sleeping on your back and can also be used for support when sitting up in bed reading. 

The Polysleep Pillow

The Polysleep pillow is a unique sleep apnea foam pillow that is filled with four different layers of a hybrid foam that can be removed to find the right height for you.

This pillow is used if you suffer from mild sleep apnea and are not using a CPAP or other positive airway pressure machine.

This sleep apnea pillow comes in two different sizes: standard or king, so you can find the best fit for your needs.

Pure Comfort Side Sleeping Pillow

The Pure Comfort Side Sleeping pillow is designed to help you sleep on your side without putting strain on your neck.

It is made of memory foam and has a contoured design that cradles your head and neck for added support.

For those practicing positional therapy, this pillow is useful to help you if you normally sleep on your back as you transition to sleeping on your side.

The design provides cutouts for the ear in the pillows that help alleviate pressure on the head. Like the above adjustable pillows, this one also features an adjustable height.

Which pillow for sleep apnea is right for me?

All sleep apnea pillows come in different shapes and materials, so it's important to choose one that works with your sleep habits.

For example, if you frequently sweat while sleeping you may want to find a pillow that provides cooling relief.

If you are already using a mask for a positive airway pressure machine, this could also influence your decision as some are specifically designed for comfort with a mask on.

If you're unsure of where to start, consider talking with a sleep physician or sleep specialist who can help guide you through the process.

Summary

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that has many side effects, but there are still things you can do to sleep better.

Using a sleep apnea pillow designed for your sleep position and using positive airway pressure therapy is a great place to start when looking to provide a more comfortable sleep.

There are several different types of pillows to choose from, so finding the right pillow type for you is important.

Consider your sleep position and if you are using a sleep apnea machine while you sleep when making your decision.

Please talk to a doctor or sleep specialist if you need more guidance in choosing the best pillow for your sleep apnea.

References and Sources:

Harvard Health Publishing 

NIH

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