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You snore. Your partner complains. You try some nose strips, or you sleep on the couch, and nothing gets better. One doctor’s visit later and the problem has a name. Sleep Apnea.
Whether you use a CPAP machine or not, your pillow needs are changing. You need something that will support your head and encourage your airways to stay open. It’s probably one of the only times you’ll be encouraged to sleep on your side, so your pillow will need to be supportive of that difficult position.
We’ve put together a list of our top picks for Sleep Apnea pillows. They’re divided into two groups, one for the CPAP and one without. We’ve also answered some questions you may have about what your needs pillow needs are. Let’s take a look.
How Does Sleep Apnea Affect My Pillow Needs?
Sleep Apnea is a condition that causes the muscles in the back of your throat to relax enough that it prevents you from breathing clearly. In mild cases, it causes snoring. In the worst cases, it can interfere with your sleep so much it lowers your quality of life.
If your pillow doesn’t really support your sleep position, it collapses your airway and causes difficulty breathing. You may also need a pillow that helps you transition to side sleeping. If a CPAP is involved, you may need a compatible pillow for that.
What Kind Of Pillow Do I Need For Mild Sleep Apnea?
Mild cases of sleep apnea focus on opening and maintaining airways. If you’re a side sleeper, your pillow needs to be deep enough to keep your spine aligned, similar to the way you are when you’re upright. THere’s no compression across your shoulders, and the muscles of your neck relax more naturally.
If you sleep on your stomach, the pillow should be firm but without a lot of loft. It needs to mold to your head and neck to prevent pushing your head up at a strange angle. If you sleep on your back, this could be more difficult. A firmer pillow can push your head forward a bit to keep the muscles from relaxing into the back of your airway.
What Kind Of Pillow Do I Need For My CPAP?
Side sleeping with a CPAP machine can be challenging. If your pillow has too much loft, it can interfere with the placement of the mask, causing leaks. Some users sleep on their backs, but this isn’t a recommended position even with a CPAP.
CPAP pillows often have cutouts in the sides so that your mask can rest off the pillow while still giving you the type of support you need for your spine. These specialized pillows help reduce leaks and keep you from tossing and turning in your sleep. The less you change positions, the less likely you are to interfere with your mask.
I’m A Back Sleeper. How Do I Change To My Side?
One thing you can do is put a pillow between your knees to help relieve pressure on your hips. This can make the positioning of side sleeping a little more natural. More natural means more comfortable, and a more comfortable position reduces the chance you gravitate out of that position later.
A crucial piece of this puzzle is reducing the amount of pressure you feel when you’re on your side. Maybe you’ve upgraded your mattress already, but if you haven’t, we encourage you to do so. Your pillow can also reduce that pressure, so you’re less likely to toss and turn.
You may also need to prop yourself into position by placing a small pillow at the small of your back to encourage your body to stay in place. A small wedge pillow can work just fine without adding any bulk to your bedding.
It may take a few days or even a few weeks, but eventually, your body should adjust. You may have some restless nights at first, but once you get the hang of the position and (or) your new machine, you should find considerable improvement in the quality of your sleep.
We’ll break the list into two different groups. One group is for mild sufferers who need support for their airway, but don’t need the machine.
Best Non-CPAP Pillows
Non-CPAP users can get a lot of relief by changing the pillow support and by learning to sleep at least partially on their sides.
Nest Easy Breather Natural Pillow – Our Top Pick
The Nest Easy Breather helps keep your head and neck aligned, so your airways stay at the optimal position. It uses materials to create a breathable, lofty pillow that’s supportive and cool. None of the materials should cause any respiratory reactions or give off odors that could interfere with your breathing.
The outside material is a soft, natural cotton that gives off no odors and allows air to pass through freely. It stays cooler by wicking heat away from your head and face through that constant air flow. A cooler pillow means less shifting around.
The middle is shredded latex. Latex is bouncy and rebounds quickly. It’s dust mite resistant and antimicrobial. It’s breathable and supportive. The loft of the pillow keeps your head naturally aligned the way it would be if you were upright. As you sleep, you can mold the pillow around your neck and shoulders to get the perfect bit of support.
Nest gives you a 100-night sleep trial so you can try things out. It should help you sleep more soundly and relieve some of your snoring, so make sure you try it out for at least 30 days. You’ll get an excellent feel for if the pillow is working or not. If it doesn’t, initiate a return any time before the trial period is over for a full refund.
The pillow is covered by a lifetime warranty against defects. If you notice any sagging, loss of support, or abnormal wear and tear after the trial period is over, you can check with the company about replacing your pillow. The pillow should last two or three years without showing that kind of wear.
Honeydew Scrumptious Side Sleeper – Runner-Up
Honeydew’s side sleeper pillow is curved. This curve puts your neck and shoulders in a better position, so you minimize molding and stuffing. This keeps your head elevated to just the right position.
It uses a breathable, zippered cover filled with CertiPur-US gel foam. The foam is “virgin” gel, meaning it is created specifically for the pillow. Some companies use leftovers from mattress manufacturing in pillows, but Honeydew’s filler is designed for that sole purpose.
It feels a lot like expensive down but doesn’t have any of the allergens associated with down. The filling is much finer than typical poly-fill, so the pillow feels supportive without the billowing loft. It sleeps a lot cooler, too, so you’re less likely to toss and turn looking for cooler spots.
The cover materials wick away moisture and heat. All the materials in the pillow are proprietary materials, and you can even unzip the cover to adjust the fill yourself. The zipper is hidden and discrete, so you won’t feel it while you’re sleeping, but it does give you the flexibility to adjust the pillow to something more comfortable.
You can try the pillow out for 60 days. Give it at least a few weeks so that you can try the pillow out fully to decide if it’s actually solving your problem. You should see some relief from your snoring and other symptoms. If you don’t, send it back to the company for a refund any time before the trial period is over.
The pillow is covered by a three-year limited warranty. If you notice any abnormal wear and tear or loss of support, you can contact the company for a replacement. The pillow should last at least two to three years before showing that kind of wear, so if it doesn’t, you’re covered.
Langria Therapeutic Cervical Pillow – Best Budget Option
Langria’s pillow is a memory foam option with cutouts specifically designed to keep your head and neck in position. It’s antibacterial and naturally dust mite resistant. It uses breathable materials to keep it cool, so you spend less time tossing and turning.
The surface of the pillow is a knit fabric that encourages air flow throughout the pillow. Underneath, memory foam contours to your head and neck while raised portions on the edges fit into the curve of your shoulder.
If you’re a side sleeper, it keeps your head and neck at the optimum position to open airways. If you’re a back sleeper, it perfectly aligns your head and neck to encourage you to sleep just a little bit forward, opening your airway back up.
It’s CertiPur-US certified with very little off-gassing. Check with your individual seller to see about return policies and trial periods. This will be different from reseller to reseller. Also, check your reseller for the warranty information as well.
Best CPAP Pillows
CPAP pillows need a specialized shape to account for the bulk of the machine. You shouldn’t have anything that causes your machine to have leaks or gaps in the fit.
EnduriMed CPAP Pillow – Our Top CPAP Pick
EnduriMed’s pillow is highly contoured memory foam that allows your machine to rest comfortably without shifting or coming into contact with the mattress. It uses a series of channels to get both your machine and head in the right position.
It uses contoured memory foam in two different thicknesses, so you can choose based on your body size. It’s compatible with both nasal and full face masks, and it can accommodate a variety of sleep positions including back and stomach. It really shines if you sleep on your side, however.
The channels allow you to route the tubing away from your face, so you’re less likely to experience leaks and displacements. It also helps remove pressure from your face, so you don’t bruise from wearing the machine. The cover material is breathable, and you can remove it to wash.
You have 30 days to decide if you like the pillow. If you don’t, initiate a return, and they’ll refund your money. You must return it with proper packaging and print the shipping label. Warranty information is currently unavailable, but check with your specific reseller for individual guarantees.
Contour CPAP Max 2.0 – Runner-Up
The CPAP Max 2.0 uses contoured sides to direct the mask and hose. It reduces pressure on the user’s face and helps wrangle cumbersome machinery, so you get a little bit of your sleep freedom back.
The pillow is memory foam in three different layers. The top layer is memory foam to help contour to your head and face while underneath ventilated foam provides responsiveness and encourages air flow through the core of the pillow. The bottom layer is charcoal infused foam helps cut down on odor and provide support for the overall pillow.
The sides are cut out completely to allow the machine and hose to fall away from the face without pressure. There’s a hose tether to help keep everything in place, particularly useful if you don’t move much during the night.
The sides of the pillow use mesh and a soft microfiber fill to increase air flow. This keeps the pillow cooler overall, keeping you in position instead of tossing and turning. You can also choose between two different surfaces. There’s a mesh side for extra breathability, and a traditional side if you prefer the feel of a conventional pillow.
You can remove layers of foam to create the optimal depth for your body type and shape. You can adjust so that your mask stays in place and you get into a comfortable position and stay there.
You have 45 days to decide if it’s going to work out for you, so make sure you return it before that guarantee period if you’d like a refund. This should allow you to test the pillow out to see if it will work. The company also covers their pillows with a two-year warranty against defects. If you notice any abnormal wear and tear or loss of support, just contact the company to request a replacement.
Bonus! Best Pillow For Transitioning To Side Sleeping
Both of our CPAP pillows are highly affordable, so let’s look at a pillow that will help you ease from sleeping on your back to your side where you’ll experience fewer problems, CPAP or not.
Coop Home Goods Memory Foam Body Pillow
This pillow is a shredded memory foam body pillow that you can use placed against your back to help position you better for side sleeping. If you’re currently a back sleeper, having something against your back can be comforting and help keep you from turning to your back in the middle of the night.
It uses CertiPur-US certified memory foam for low emissions, and it uses no PBDE flame retardants, formaldehyde, or phthalates. Whether you use a machine or not, the pillow won’t trigger your allergies.
The cover material is a bamboo and viscose blend that’s highly breathable and keeps air flowing throughout the pillow. It prevents heat from building up in the core of the pillow. It is a bit large, so you’ll need to make sure you have space in your bed to add this pillow, but it should get you into a side position that you can live with.
You have 100 days to try the pillow out to see if it helps with your positioning and makes it easier for you to sleep on your side. If it doesn’t work out, you can return the pillow for a refund before the trial period is over.
Check with the seller for warranty information, but the pillow is an investment of less than $100. For that kind of investment, you get better quality sleep in a position that relieves your sleep apnea symptoms with minimal effort.
Sleep Apnea can be deadly. If you go without quality sleep for long periods of time, it affects your physical health just as much as your mental health. Changing your pillow to something that can relieve Sleep Apnea symptoms can be the simplest way to help get your sleep life back on track.
If you don’t have to use the machine, you need a pillow that encourages your airways to open. Preferably, you’re already transitioning from your back to your side (and our bonus pillow recommendation can be helpful for that if you’re a hopeless back sleeper).
If you’ve got a CPAP machine, your first priority is the integrity of the seal. Leaks during the night can prevent you from getting your sleep, and pressure on the mask can cause discomfort and bruising. You need a good position, so you don’t toss and turn with the mask on, so your pillow should safely and efficiently organize the mask and hose.
Your Sleep Apnea isn’t a desperate condition. With the right tools, you can get your life back.