Best Pillows for Sleep Apnea
The best pillows for sleep apnea help to keep your airway open at night, reducing snoring and allowing you to get a better night’s sleep.
Apr 21st, 2021 •
Millions of Americans struggle to get a good night’s sleep because they suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). When people with OSA fall asleep, soft tissues collapse, blocking their airway. When the brain signals that it isn’t getting enough oxygen, the result is arousal and repositioning to allow proper breathing to resume.
Chronically poor sleep, as a result of OSA, has short-term and long-term health consequences. In the short-term, daytime fatigue and low energy can make day-to-day life less enjoyable. In the long-run, insufficient sleep increases the risk of suffering from chronic illnesses, like diabetes and heart disease.
If you or your loved one has sleep apnea, using the best pillow can offer some level of relief. Sleep apnea pillows are designed to encourage an open airway, so you can breathe better.
For some, the right sleep apnea pillow will be enough on its own to improve breathing and reduce snoring. But for others, a pillow is one part of a multi-step process to help them and their partners sleep peacefully at night.
The Four Best Pillows for Sleep Apnea
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Best CPAP Pillow: EnduriMed Large CPAP Comfort Pillow
Sleeping on your side or your stomach with a breathing mask does not result in a comfortable sleep. Fortunately, there are contour pillows designed specifically to be used alongside CPAP therapy. Known as CPAP pillows, they allow for a better night’s sleep, no matter your sleep position.
Our favorite CPAP pillow is EnduriMed Large CPAP Comfort Pillow. It’s designed to accommodate different sizes of masks and people. And with two levels of thickness, you can choose the best side for you.
- Reduces pressure from CPAP mask
- Helps keep airway open
- Dual sided thickness is great for small and large people
- More expensive than many non-CPAP pillows
Best Wedge Pillow: FitPlus Premium Wedge Pillow
The FitPlus Premium Wedge Pillow is designed so you can sleep in a more upright position. For some OSA sufferers, simply sleeping partially upright helps to keep the airway open. The FitPlus pillow is sturdy yet comfortable thanks to a top layer of cushy memory foam.
- Also helps with acid reflux
- 24” width good for people with wide chests
- Not good for stomach sleepers
- Not designed for OSA
Best Orthopedic Pillow: EPABO Contour Memory Foam Orthopedic Sleeping Pillow
The EPACO Contour Memory Foam Orthopedic Sleeping Pillow earned our top spot for orthopedic pillows thanks to an ergonomic design that can be adjusted to support side, back, and stomach sleepers.
With medium-firm memory foam designed to cradle your head and neck, supporting proper alignment, this pillow relieves pain while reducing snoring by supporting the natural curve of the neck.
With a bamboo cover and breathable memory foam, this pillow is a good option for those who sleep hot.
- Good for back and neck pain
- Built for side, back, and stomach sleepers
- Natural bamboo cover and breathable memory foam sleeps cool
- Not ideal for use with CPAP machines
Best Adjustable Pillow: Coop Home Goods Premium Adjustable Loft Pillow
The Coop Home Goods Premium Adjustable Loft Pillow uses high-quality materials to create one of the best customizable pillows on the market.
Their memory foam is made in the USA, and their pillows are both CertiPUR-US and GREENGUARD Gold certified, allowing you to sleep easy knowing that the materials are non-toxic.
With a combination of quality memory foam and microfiber, this pillow is plush yet supportive. And with shredded memory foam and a breathable pillowcase, this pillow sleeps cool. The loft is adjustable; all you need to do is add or subtract memory foam fill. Plus, shredded memory foam is easy to manipulate, so you can shape the pillow to fit a mask if needed.
- Similar feel to traditional pillows
- Malleable foam allows you to manipulate its shape
- Comes with a 100-night sleep trial
- Not made for sleep apnea
- Pillow will change shape when you move, making it mediocre for use with a CPAP mask if you move around at night.
Can a Pillow Really Help with Sleep Apnea?
By properly aligning the neck and spine, sleep apnea pillows support an open airway. Additionally, some sleep apnea pillows have grooves where a mask can comfortably lay, which is helpful for side sleepers.
Not everyone will notice an improvement with a sleep apnea pillow alone. Work with your doctor to come up with a complete plan to treat your sleep apnea.
The Four Types of Sleep Apnea Pillows
1. CPAP Pillows
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is a valuable tool used by OSA patients to breathe properly throughout the night. However, a CPAP mask can be difficult to sleep with, particularly for anyone who doesn’t sleep on their backs.
Without a pillow that provides cutouts for the CPAP mask, some side sleepers will give up on using their CPAP machine altogether. And with practitioners often advising sleep apnea patients to sleep on their sides to relieve airway blockage, many OSA sufferers are side sleepers.
CPAP-friendly pillows are those designed specifically for use alongside a CPAP machine. They’re typically molded from medium-firm to firm memory foam to support proper neck and spine alignment while providing a spot for the mask to rest.
2. Wedge Pillows
Wedge pillows are wide foam pillows made in a triangular shape. The narrow part of the triangle should be positioned underneath your back, elevating your upper body.
Wedge pillows were not designed specifically for people with sleep apnea. Rather, the triangular wedge was made so users can sleep in a semi-upright position. With your head located above your heart, wedge pillows alleviate acid reflux as well as cold symptoms, like congestion and snoring.
However, some sleep apnea patients find that this upright position relieves their snoring and difficulty breathing. For some, the incline allows the airway to stay clear throughout the night. Wedge pillows are best used by side sleepers and back sleepers. But keep in mind that not everyone will respond to a wedge pillow.
3. Orthopedic Pillows
Orthopedic pillows are designed to properly align the neck and spine during sleep, reducing neck, back, and shoulder pain. For some, correct alignment minimizes airway collapse.
Related: How to stop snoring
Orthopedic pillows are a solid option if you don’t use a CPAP machine or if you sleep on your back. CPAP pillows are, in essence, orthopedic pillows designed with mask cut outs, making them a better option for most sleep apnea patients who use a CPAP machine.
4. Adjustable-Loft Pillows
Adjustable-loft pillows, typically made from shredded memory foam, are an option for patients who desire a pillow similar to what they’re already using. While typically not as effective as the types of pillows listed above, the benefits of an adjustable-loft pillow make them a step-up from your standard pillow. You can shape the pillow and increase or decrease the thickness until you find your correct pillow height.
Adjustable-loft pillows are best for those who have tried other sleep apnea pillows, but did not enjoy sleeping with them. Most OSA sufferers find moderate relief at best with this type of pillow.
What to Look for in a Sleep Apnea Pillow
When choosing the best sleep apnea pillow for you, be sure to take into consideration your sleep position and whether or not you use a CPAP machine. You want to pick the right type of pillow based on your needs. If you’re not sure which type of pillow to choose, talk to your doctor. They can help you identify which sleep apnea pillow best suits your needs.
Next, do your homework to find a high-quality pillow at a price point that you’re comfortable with. Sleep apnea pillows are more expensive than the average pillow, and you want to rest easily knowing that it will last you for at least two years.
Read over third-party and customer reviews to get a feel of what to expect. Additionally, look for companies that offer warranties or trial periods as this speaks to the quality of the product itself.
Related: Best Mattress for Sleep Apnea
Proper Care for Sleep Apnea Pillows
Most sleep apnea pillows are made from medium-to-firm foam, which is not easily laundered. The best thing to do is to ensure that your pillow is always covered with a high-quality pillowcase. Regularly wash the case and spot clean the pillow itself.
For most pillows, their efficacy will start to wane over time. Consider replacing your pillow if you notice your sleep quality decreasing, or once every two years.
Other Ways to Treat Sleep Apnea
Only in rare cases will a pillow provide 100% relief from OSA. Speak with your doctor to formulate a complete plan on how to best treat your sleep disorder.
A sleep apnea pillow is a simple way to find relief from sleep apnea symptoms. Whether used on its own or as a part of a treatment plan, a sleep apnea pillow might help you breathe more easily and stay comfortable throughout the night.
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