Sleep Apnea Pillows: Your Ultimate Guide

Sleep apnea sufferers know how important comfort is for a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, CPAP masks can irritate the skin and make it difficult to sleep through the night. Sleep position also plays a role in nighttime breathing, so people with sleep apnea need to find a comfortable position that does not make their symptoms worse. Manufacturers now make two products that can help sleep apnea patients improve their comfort: nasal pillows for sleep apnea and wedge pillows for sleep apnea. Use this guide to the best pillows for sleep apnea and learn how to get a comfortable night of quality sleep.

Sleep Apnea Nasal Pillows

Sleep apnea nasal pillows are a comfortable alternative to the triangular masks that accompany many sleep apnea machines. Instead of wearing a face mask, a sleep apnea patient may opt to insert two small, flexible pieces into the nostrils. These sleep apnea nose pillows are connected to an adapter that is hooked up to the plastic tubing of the CPAP machine. When using these nasal pillows, sleep apnea patients do not have to worry about skin irritation or allergic reactions to the traditional mask. Those who struggle with claustrophobia should also consider using these pillows for sleep apnea, as they do not make people like they are confined. These pillows may also be preferable for those who have facial hair and those who like to sleep on their sides.

Choosing Nasal Pillows

Nasal Sleep Apnea PillowsProper sizing is important when using nasal pillows with a sleep apnea mask. If they are too large, they will stretch the nostrils and reduce comfort. If nasal pillows are too small, air will leak out of the nose, reducing the effectiveness of the CPAP treatment. When trying out nasal pillows, make sure you are lying down when checking how they fit. Body position affects how the pillows fit inside of the nose, so lie down in the same position you sleep in each night and make sure they do not irritate the nostrils or cause discomfort. If you move a lot during the night, try several different positions to make sure the nasal pillows do not shift or cause irritation. You may have to try several different sets of nasal pillows to find the right set.

Drawbacks of Nasal Pillows

There are some drawbacks to using nasal pillows for some sleep apnea patients. Some people have reported irritation of the nostrils when using these pillows. The irritation is usually due to improper fit, so trying on the pillows before buying them can prevent this problem. Some people also develop pimples inside the nose from using these pillows. Cleaning the nasal pillows daily washes away dirt, oil, and dead skin cells, which reduces the risk that pimples will form. Air leaks are also a possibility, but a proper fit can also prevent this problem.

Wedge Pillows

The University of Maryland Medical Center says that sleep apnea patients experience at least twice as many interruptions in breathing when lying on their backs as they do when lying on their sides. This is because the throat narrows when a person lies on the back. Maintaining a lateral sleep position reduces sleep apnea episodes and lessens the symptoms of this condition. Wedge pillows can reduce narrowing of the throat and help sleep apnea sufferers maintain side sleeping positions during the night. There are several things you should look for when choosing one of these special pillows for sleep apnea.

Sizing

Sleep Apnea Wedge PillowThe size of the wedge pillow is important, as the wrong size will not ease sleep apnea symptoms. The length of the pillow should range from 25 to 30 inches. Shorter pillows do not elevate the head enough to prevent apnea episodes. The pillow should be approximately 24 inches wide, especially if you share your bed with a partner. Wider pillows take up more space and may disrupt your partner’s sleep. If you plan to use your wedge pillow for napping on the couch, choose a narrower pillow so that it does not slip off the edge of the couch cushions. The amount of elevation provided by a wedge pillow is also important. Most wedge pillows are anywhere from five to 12 inches, but the higher elevations may make it too uncomfortable to sleep. Seven to eight inches seems to be a good height for most sleep apnea patients.

Materials

These pillows come in a variety of materials, making it easy to find a comfortable pillow that does not cause irritation or sweating during sleep. The most common materials available include polyurethane foam, regular foam, feathers, and memory foam. Polyurethane foam is firmer than other types of foam. Regular foam is the least expensive type of wedge pillow for sleep apnea. These are ideal for everyday use, but some patients find that they do not last very long. Pillows made from feathers are not as effective as pillows made from foam, but they do improve comfort during sleep. Pillows made from memory foam are ideal for sleep apnea sufferers. These pillows conform to the shape of the head and the body, making them very comfortable. They also last for a long time, making them a cost-effective way to reduce sleep apnea symptoms. When shopping for a wedge pillow, consult reliable sleep apnea pillows review websites and publications for recommendations.

Do Sleep Apnea Pillows Work?

Scientists have determined that switching to a lateral sleep position is an effective way to manage sleep apnea. Those who sleep in lateral positions experience fewer episodes of interrupted breathing, less fatigue, and fewer daytime headaches than those who sleep on their backs. Using wedge pillows to elevate the head may prevent the throat from narrowing, increasing the effectiveness of the lateral sleep position.

Need Sleep Apnea Pillow Suggestions?

If you struggle with sleep apnea, talk to your doctor about using nasal pillows or wedge pillows to increase comfort and prevent episodes of interrupted breathing. A licensed health professional can help you select the right products for your specific circumstances. However, if you’d like to try out some of the pillows on your own and see how they feel you might try one of these:

Nasal Sleep Apnea Pillow: ResMed Swift FX Medium Nasal Pillows

Wedge Sleep Apnea Pillow: Bed Wedge – 7″ – Foam Wedge Pillow. Good for Acid Reflux, Snoring

Our Favorite Sleep Apnea Pillow: SONA FDA-Cleared Anti-Snore and Mild Sleep Apnea Pillow

About Leigh Ann Morgan

I write about all sorts of things but ever since I completely got rid of my constant neck pain by finding the perfect pillow, I've started to learn as much as I can about sleep quality and sleep disorders.