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The Best Sleep Apnea Pillow?

Pillow and harness (right). Two ways to encourage side sleeping.

Pillow and harness (right). Two ways to encourage side sleeping.

How does a sleep apnea pillow help you get a good nights sleep?

Well, the truth is, a pillow will not help everyone but it will help anyone who suffers with 'positional' sleep apnea.

When you sleep on your back, gravity pulls the tongue down into your throat. Your tongue can then help block the airways.

There are various ways to stop yourself from sleeping on your back and encourage side sleeping.

  • Some people sow a tennis ball into the back of a teeshirt.
  • You can buy a special harness that you wear at night (pictured above).
  • You can use a specially designed pillow.

Many studies have shown that sleeping with the upper body raised up a little helps keep airways open, too. A special pillow can help with this, as well.

Pilows to use with a CPAP Machine

For some people, side sleeping is the most comfortable way to sleep but this can be difficult if you are using a CPAP machine.

There are a range of pillows that make it easier to sleep on your side without the mask leaking air, or pressing into your face.

Side Sleeper Pillows

Inside a SleepRight Pillow

Inside a SleepRight Pillow

SleepRight Contour Pillow

The special memory foam in this pillow reacts to body heat, and weight distribution to provide the perfect support, evenly spread.

The overall design offers maximum support for side sleeping.

It holds the head up higher than most normal pillows to improve air flow in the throat. It also offers support to the shoulders and maintains a correct spinal alignment.

Channels in the surface of the pillow reduce any blockage of the mouth whilst cradling the head comfortably.

A pillow like this can be a genuine revelation for any suffering mild sleep apnea. It can transform the sleep experience allowing people to wake genuinely fresh.

On the downside, some people complain about the heat retention in the pillow. So if you sleep in a very warm room this might be an issue. It is also quite a heavy pillow and if you move about the bed at night it can be hard to move with you.

Adjustable, multlayered pillow

Adjustable, multlayered pillow

Adjustable Pillow

As with the product above, this pillow is designed to reduce shoulder and neck discomfort for side sleepers.

What makes it unusual is that it comes with four separate layers that can be added or removed to find the perfect height for each individual.

Memory foam means that pressure is spread evenly across your face and shoulders as you sleep.

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It is expensive at nearly a hundred dollars, but the adjustment options make it a good choice for people who are not an average size or for anyone who always struggles to get comfortable at night.

Layers in the pillow allow your to change the height.

Layers in the pillow allow your to change the height.

Sleep Joy Pillow

A less expensive, but very popular, alternative for side sleepers comes from Sleep Joy.

There is no way to adjust the height here, but if you are an average size this should be suitable.

Again there is memory foam and an open, well-aerated build to reduce moisture problems.

The green color comes from a natural, green tea, anti-bacterial treatment!

Design for CPAP and BIPAP users.

Design for CPAP and BIPAP users.

CPAP Pillow

This is a specially designed, medical-grade foam pillow with hollowed out channels that alleviate CPAP mask pressure and reduces the chance of leaks. It is ideal for side sleepers and supports your head and neck while correctly aligning the spine.

The accessory kit includes a 1” foam insert that offers support for broader shoulders, a built-in tether for hose control, a custom-tailored quilted cover and a 6 foot long zippered hose cover to reduce condensation.

Other Devices that Can Help

Positional Sleeper

Positional Sleeper

Zzoma Positional Sleeper

A harness holds a large foam block on your back as you sleep. This makes it impossible to sleep on your back and reduces or eliminates apneas in those who suffer from positional sleep apnea.

These devices are slowly growing in popularity as studies show the benefits of side sleeping in sleep apnea.

One issue with this harness is that it can lose its elasticity after 6 months or so. You might need to use a safety pin.

Sleep Apnea and Snoring Info

The products on this page can help with the milder kinds of sleep apnea but if you are having problems with day time exhaustion there are other possible causes.

The American Sleep Association provides information on all kinds of sleep problems:

It is well worth a visit.

If your problem is more related to snoring (perhaps bothering a sleep partner) this Web MD guide offers excellent advice to tackel the problem:


Will Apse (author) on January 24, 2010:

I don't think many people get a really good nights sleep with CPAP. Given the dangers of Sleep Apnea though, its certainly worth sticking with it and the right pillow can help. Best of luck with that donut thing if you make it!

Chef Jeff from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago. on January 22, 2010:

I suffer from this, so any new info is always greatly appreciated! I find my headgear is quite uncomfortable no matter how I sleep. And it's always working itself loose, so that annoying little CPAP machine beeping wakes me up more often than not!

I though about sleeping face down, making a pillow that resembles (sorry for the analogy!) one of those rings you sit on when you have rear-end aches. That way everything slides forward and down, and I can actually sleep very well that way.


Chef Jeff

Will Apse (author) on January 07, 2010:

Thx suziecat7 Sleep apnea is a serious issue I hope your friend benefits.I know someone who uses the contour CPAP pillow. He reckons it helps him sleep a lot better with a CPAP mask.

suziecat7 from Asheville, NC on January 07, 2010:

Nice detailed Hub - I emailed it to someone - thanks.

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