Sleep Apnea Pillow 101: Picking the Best Anti-Snoring design
- And one that's just not worth the cost

Sleep Apnea Pillow 101 - How to pick the best anti-snoring design for your needs.

There are a few different kinds of pillows for sleep apnea and snoring. They can be divided into two basic types: Positional and CPAP.

There's 6 different well rated ones reviewed here. Several of them have the added benefits of alleviating pain in the back, neck, shoulders, or hips, and reducing acid reflux. Some of them require getting used to, even “sleep training”, and others are comfy right off the bat. One, unfortunately is not worth the money.

Some of the different design options:

  • Keep your airway open by keeping your head, neck, and spine in the best alignment while sleeping on your back or on your side
  • Force or encourage you to sleep on your side
  • Make it more comfortable for you to sleep on your side
  • Accommodate sleeping with a CPAP mask

Materials

They vary. Sculpted foam, memory foam, regular foam, feathers and down, other natural fibers, polyester down alternative, or various combinations. The materials used affect support, comfort, durability, and cost. 

Hypoallergenic

Hypoallergenic pillows reduce allergens and repel microbes such as dust mites. Many cases of OSA are exacerbated by these irritants. Some natural hypoallergenic materials include Kapok, buckwheat hulls, wool, and natural latex. Avoid down unless it's been treated to be hypoallergenic.

The new synthetic down alternatives are a great alternative to down. They have the same comfort but are unlikely to cause an allergic reaction.

If your pillow is not made to suppress allergens, you can get a hypoallergenic pillow case and bedding. The higher the thread count the better. 

POSITIONAL PILLOWS

Cervical

The Therapeutica Cervical Sleeping Pillow is given 4.1 stars by Amazon buyers, and 59% of them gave it the highest possible rating.

Therapeutica-cervical/sleep apnea pillow

Cervical pillows position your head for proper alignment with your spine and for proper breathing. This is designed to do that whether you sleep on your back or your side.

In addition to helping you breathe better during the night, it can help alleviate or prevent neck or shoulder pain. It also has side cavities for jaw comfort, which makes it beneficial for people with TMJ. 

It’s made of solid foam (non-allergenic, non-toxic) which is more supportive than memory foam but too firm for some people, especially in the side sleeping position. Make sure you get your measurements exactly right so you can choose the right one from the 5 different sizes. The measurement is based on the distance between the side of your head and your shoulder.

Some people wish it had divots for their ears.

It comes with a washable cover and can use regular pillow cases. The pillow itself, you can only wipe. 

wedges

Wedge pillows can help you sleep on your side.

It is important to get the right size for you or it won’t help your breathing. It should be 25”-30” long. Shorter wedges don’t elevate your head enough. It should be about 2’ wide to avoid trespassing on your partner’s side of the bed. Narrower, if you want to use it on the couch.

Sleep apnea wedge pillow - 12 inches high is good.

An elevation of 7”-8” is best for most. Wedges are available from 5”-12” in elevation, which gives you a lot of choices.  

Wedges can be made of foam, polyurethane foam, memory foam, or feathers. These materials offer different degrees of comfort, durability, and cost-effectiveness.

One popular wedge is the InteVison Foam Wedge. The foam base provides support and maintains structural integrity. Memory foam over that provides comfort. Some users throw a down pillow into the mix.

Its design makes it great for sitting up in bed reading as well. And it can be used as a leg elevator.

Some people find the angle (27 degrees) a bit steep for sleeping but add that the steepness noticeably helps with their snoring and acid reflux.

It is less expensive than other options. It comes with a machine-washable cover and they have optional 400-count Egyptian cotton cases available. 

NoPap positional body pillow

NoPap stands for “No CPAP.” That may be an exaggeration, but it will work for some people. It certainly encourages side sleeping.

This is a body pillow in the shape of a giant U. One side is a polyurethane foam wedge for support, covered with softer stuff. The other side is filled with a synthetic down alternative. It is handmade in the USA of 100% cotton and hypoallergenic. On the NoPap website, it comes with a washable hypoallergenic pillow case, but on Amazon it does not. There an optional positional pad which is extra.

There is no learning curve for sleeping with this pillow and it is super-comfy. Some people find that the soft side is under-stuffed. It is rather expensive. Dry clean only. 

Body pillows

Original Body Pillow - click here to check for more reviews and for sales prices on Amazon

If you don’t actually need structure forcing you to sleep on your side, a regular-sized body pillow is a very cost-effective option. Hugging a body pillow improves body alignment, relaxes muscles, is calming and soothing, and keeps you from rolling onto your back.

The Original Shredded Memory Foam Body Pillow offers the support of memory foam but is plush and breathable like down. The pillow is constructed of fabric that doesn’t heat up and allows for air circulation. Size is 20" x 54".

The stuffing is soft like down but supportive. You can move the stuffing around to customize your comfort.

This pillow is hypoallergenic, dust mite resistant, made without using a huge list of toxins, and can be machine washed. You need to buy your own pillow case. 

SONA pillow - Costs too much for what you get

Unfortunately the Maniac doesn't feel this pillow is worth the relatively high cost.

The SONA pillow was developed by a neurologist for people whose snoring or sleep apnea is relieved by sleeping on their sides. This pillow is one of the few that has been FDA approved as a medical device. It has a raised center that forces you to sleep on your side. This design forces your head to face downward which moves your jaw forward.

Why Doesn't the Maniac Like It? At $42 it's a bit expensive for what you get compared to product like the Therapeutica.  And I notice that it was not getting good reviews on Amazon so it was dropped. Now I only find broken links going there for this product. 

The design also forces you to sleep on your arm. That is normal for some people, but others find it uncomfortable. So some sleepers end up with needles and pins in their arm or hand. It’s also quite firm (made of fiberfill), so some people suffer from sore necks when using this pillow. The pillow is washable. 

CPAP PILLOWs

A CPAP pillow is designed to help you sleep with your CPAP mask and may be what you need if you are having trouble with CPAP adherence. Other pillows may push your mask into your face, push it around your face, or block your exhale port.

It will reduce mask leaks and discomfort, reduce pressure on your face and on the mask, and improve body alignment and airway alignment.

If you sleep on your back, a CPAP pillow supports your head and neck and tilts your head forward a bit to avoid jaw pain. If you sleep on your side, a CPAP pillow doesn't interfere with the mask.

You can make a homemade CPAP pillow by tying a man’s tie 2/3 of the way down on a regular pillow. Use your pillow lengthwise. 

CPAP Sleep Aid Pillow

Contour CPAP Sleep Aid pillow - read more reviews and find best sales price on Amazon

The Contour Products CPAP Sleep Aid Pillow is reasonably priced. It’s got the necessary cutouts and contours to allow movement or sleeping in any position with your mask, and is made of cushiony medical grade foam that holds its shape. It’s for use with all models of CPAP, APAP, and BiPAP devices.

Dimensions are 19"x12"/3/12" and it comes with a washable quilted cover. You can buy pillow cases for it.

SLEEP APNEA AND PILLOWS

Using the right pillow may alleviate your mild to moderate sleep apnea symptoms enough to eliminate the need for more drastic treatments such as CPAP therapy or oral devices.

Your sleep study report will tell you if your apnea is mild, moderate, or severe, and whether your apnea events occur more or less often in a particular position. 

Studies have shown that many patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea experience fewer apnea events when they sleep on their sides rather than their backs. This can be thought of as a sub-type of OSA or “positional sleep apnea.”

Positional sleep apnea patients are often thinner and younger than "non-positional” patients and can benefit greatly from sleep positional therapy, which really means learning to sleep on your side (lateral position).

Positional therapy can also help those patients whose OSA is not primarily positional. Often, patients who use CPAP require a higher pressure if they sleep on their backs. Other than that, though, positional therapy isn’t much help for people with severe OSA.

A regular, cheap, or worn-out pillow can allow your chin to drop which reduces the size of your airway. The right therapeutic pillow or contour pillow supports your head and neck in a way that keeps your airway open. This reduces snoring even while lying on your back.

Other sleep apnea pillows encourage or force you to sleep on your side. If your sleep study had shown that you snore even while sleeping on your side, you need a pillow that prevents your lower jaw from receding while you sleep.

There are even sleep apnea pillows designed for patients wearing a CPAP mask. These can accommodate back and side sleepers while preventing the mask from getting moved around or leaking air. 

SLEEP POSITION AND SNORING

Sleeping position makes a difference for people who snore and for sleep apnea patients, studies have shown. Sleeping on the back (supine sleep position), is more likely to result in snoring or more frequent apneas than sleeping on the side (lateral sleep position).

This is probably because gravity increases the tendency for the soft palate and the back of tongue to fall into your throat while sleeping on your back. This causes airway narrowing or obstruction. During side sleep, the airway is less likely to narrow or collapse and breathing is more stable.

Side sleepers who do snore or experience sleep apnea, reportedly experience less severe episodes than their back-sleeping counterparts. 

Sleep Apnea Pillows

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