Living with sleep apnea doesn’t mean you’ll always have to deal with discomfort when you sleep (and the next morning, too!).
There are several tools you can use to get a better night’s sleep that can also reduce the number of apneas you have throughout the night. One such tool is the sleep apnea pillow.
In this article we’ll discuss:
- What a sleep apnea pillow is, and how the two major types of pillows work
- Reviews of sleep apnea pillows that relieve sleep apnea symptoms
- Reviews of pillows that can be used when you’re wearing a CPAP mask
What is a Sleep Apnea Pillow?
Sleep apnea pillows fall into two categories:
(1) Pillow to reduce apnea: this pillow is specially designed to help a person who suffers from mild or moderate obstructive sleep apnea to adjust their sleeping position so they reduce the number of apneas during sleep. In other words, the pillow helps open the airway during sleep, allowing more oxygen to enter the body.
How does a sleep apnea pillow do this? Many sleep apnea patients worsen their situation by sleeping on their back. With sleep apnea pillows, though, you’re forced to sleep on your side, since this is the only comfortable position possible with the pillow. By lying on your side, your airway remains open, reducing (or eliminating) your sleep apnea.
(2) Pillow for CPAP mask wearers: this pillow helps a person who uses a CPAP mask to sleep comfortably even with the mask on.
Pillows for CPAP users have special holes cut out to accommodate comfortable wearing of the CPAP mask while sleeping. This not only makes wearing the CPAP mask bearable, but also serves a secondary function to keep pressure off the neck and throat.
The problem that many sleep apnea patients face is choosing among the bewildering array of sleep apnea pillow brands. In the two following sections we review the best brands of sleep apnea pillow and pillows for CPAP mask wearers.
Review of Popular Sleep Apnea Pillows to Relieve Sleep Apnea Symptoms
The sleep apnea pillows below are the best we could find among the dozens available. If you don’t wear a CPAP mask and have mild or moderate sleep apnea, consider using one of these pillows to reduce or eliminate your symptoms.
SONA FDA-Cleared Anti-Snore and Mild Sleep Apnea Pillow
The SONA pillow is a best-selling sleep apnea pillow that has been positively reviewed by many sufferers of mild sleep apnea. The pillow is FDA-approved, and is made of a special type of fiber known as Sofloft. The fiber makes the pillow firm but shapeable over time. The cover is made of 100% cotton, and both the pillow and its cover are machine-washable. The pillow is designed to be comfortable when the sleeper is on their side rather than on their back.
According to reviews, the SONA pillow is effective for many people. However, some reviewers feel the pillow is uncomfortable, since not everyone likes sleeping on their side with the pillow over their arm. The height of the pillow is also uncomfortable for some, but the height is necessary to give the desired effect for snoring and mild sleep apnea.
If you are looking for a FDA-approved pillow which can improve your mild sleep apnea/snoring, then trying this one may be a wise choice.
Here are testimonials for the SONA pillow from individual sleep apnea sufferers:
- “… I began waking up more alert and aware. I no longer have to take a nap during the day to survive (waking up from the nap even more sleepy and tired). Since the sleep study was able to identify my problem, I know that I am breathing better, sleeping deeper, especially since I am waking up more rested. For those buying this to reduce snoring … it does that too, by forcing you to lay in the correct position where your throat remains open. But the primary FDA approval is for Sleep Apnea – particularly the kind that I have, positional sleep apnea…”
- “… I think it does help me breathe a bit better at nite and am still using it. The only downside is an occasional sore neck if you sleep on it the wrong way. If you are a “light snorer” and have room in the bed for it, I would definitely suggest you try it….”
- “…I tried it out for two weeks and it did not really help my snoring problem (everyone has different issues as to why they snore). I would recommend this to people who are already side sleepers because for the times I did sleep on my side for a bit the pillow was comfortable yet did nothing much for my snoring…”
SnoreEzzz Snore Reduction Pillow
The SnoreEzzz Snore Reduction Pillow is one of the few FDA-approved pillows for snore relief, and some people have found that it also helps with mild sleep apnea.
The pillow is made of hypoallergenic polyfill and has a slightly raised top part and a curvy bottom part that cradles the head comfortably regardless of your sleeping position. The polyfill makes a good night’s sleep more possible because it does not make the sleeper feel hot, like when sleeping on heat-storing foam.
As with the Sona pillow, reviews are generally positive. Many people found that it helped their condition while making it comfortable to sleep. A few others, however, felt it was uncomfortable and ineffective.
Here are reviews from users who bought the SnoreEzzz pillow:
- “…The SnoreEzzz pillow is the best purchase I have made for my bed. What a help it has been for a restful night’s sleep! The pillow is well constructed and not only helps with my snoring, but has helped my scoliosis too. It’s the perfect size for my tossing and turning; and I just love the softness of the pillow case…”
- “…I am recently married and my wife is not thrilled with my snoring. I purchased the pillow, it arrived quickly and after my first night using it I was told by my wife that I did not snore. So, it works! I also sleep better as I am not awakened by my wife during the night telling me to “Stop snoring!”…”
- “…This is a great product. It worked for me from the very first night. My wife is as pleased as I am since she no longer has to be disturbed by my snoring. I have obstructive sleep apnea and it has helped with that as well. I would strongly recommend this product…”
The Snoreless Pillow elevates and opens the airway through its unique design. It is shaped like a regular pillow but has a lowered section in the middle of the pillow which functions to lower the head and elevate the back of the neck.
Other than that, it’s just like a regular pillow, and can be used with standard pillowcases. The Snoreless Pillow is designed for comfortable side- and back-sleeping positions.
Reviews of the Snoreless Pillow are hard to come by on unbiased review websites, but the Snoreless Pillow official website provides several reviews:
- “…My husband bought one for his snoring and I noticed on the brochure it may help with acid reflux so I had to try it. I slept on it one night and never gave it back. It knocked out my acid reflux and I ordered him a new one for his snoring issue….”
- “…I wake up and feel rested, my throat isn’t dry or sore from snoring and I’m refreshed. What’s best is my wife is still in bed with me….
Reviews of Popular Sleep Apnea Pillow Brands for CPAP Mask Wearers
If you wear a CPAP mask every night and aren’t sure which brand of pillow is right for your sleeping comfort, we’ve picked the best of the lot below:
Science Of Sleep Polar Foam Cool Foam Sleepap Pillow for CPAP Users
The Science of Sleep Pillow for CPAP Users is a specially-designed pillow made from memory foam and has cutouts at three corners to accommodate side sleepers who wear the CPAP mask. It is also designed for easy care since the cover can be removed and cleaned easily
According to customer reviews, this pillow does allow much more sleeping comfort for CPAP mask users compared to regular pillows. However, the drawback is that the pillow is very firm, and for those who don’t like overly firm pillows, this may not be the best choice. However, some customers reported being able to get used to the firmness after several nights.
Here are some customer reviews of the Science of Sleep Pillow for CPAP Users:
- “Generally I sleep on my back and works fine and when sleeping on my side the recessed indentation of the pillow works well so the tubing does not get hung up. Highly recommend for individuals that like or need firm pillow…”
- “The pillow case was difficult to put on and a poor fit to the basic pillow. I wish the pillow were a little smaller, but the cutout for the mask and the height of the pillow is perfect for side sleepers. A warning to purchasers – it is a FIRM pillow…”
- “This pillow looked so different and flat I thought it was never going to be comfortable. How wrong to just a pillow by its shape. I love it and have no difficulty sleeping with my CPAP. Amazing…”
CPAPmax Bed Pillow by Contour
If you are looking for a very high-quality pillow that is designed exclusively for CPAP mask users, then the CPAPmax Bed Pillow is definitely it.
The pillow comes with two sides; one side is filled with memory foam while the other is filled with fiber fill. You can choose whichever side is more comfortable to you. The pillow can be used in any sleeping position, be it on your side, on your back, or on your stomach. The pillow also has a mesh layer that reduces heat build-up (but this is only on the memory foam side of the pillow).
The only downside that reviews have reported is that for some people, the pillow may be slightly on the small side. If you are a big or heavy person, you may want to double check if the pillow’s dimensions are adequate for you to use it comfortably.
Here are some reviews of the CPAPmax Bed Pillow:
- “…After using the pillow for a while it has soften up quite a bit and it’s very comfortable now. It’s nowhere as hard or as tall as it was when I first got it. To all you folks out there who’re getting this pillow or thinking about it, give it some time and it’ll possibly be one of the most comfortable pillows you’ll ever use. I’m glad I stuck with it as it’s one of the best pillows I’ve ever used….”
- “…Bought this pillow for my sister. She is SUPER picky. She just loves it. She says it really makes wearing her CPAP at night more comfortable so she doesn’t take it off as much…”
- “…I thought that I would try this and I am glad that I did. It works well and fits my mask. It stops a lot of the side leaks from the mask hitting the standard pillow…”
BICOR Sleep Apnea Jumbo Pillow
Sleep apnea pillows can be pricey, but the BICOR Sleep Apnea Jumbo Pillow is one of the more affordable options on the market.
This pillow is large in size, making it suitable even for bigger sleep apnea patients. It can be comfortably used with a CPAP mask as it has special cutouts on the four edges of the pillow. It also has a dimple in the middle that wraps and supports the user’s head properly. The pillow is not as popular as the previously mentioned pillows, but is a good option if you don’t have a big budget for your sleep apnea pillow. Here are some Amazon review excerpts for this product:
- “…It’s also great because my mask isn’t scrunching my face and leaking air any longer when I’m on my side. Highly recommend this for anyone using any CPAP appliance for a more undisturbed sleep. I don’t think the price was bad either…”
- “…I bought this hoping to have an easier time sleeping with my CPAP mask. It does help but I wish it were a bit thicker. It is very comfy…”
The Scientific Evidence for Sleep Apnea Pillows
There haven’t been many trials conducted on the effectiveness of sleep apnea pillows, but one study in the journal Sleep and Breathing found a positive effect on obstructive sleep apnea.
The study was conducted by scientists from Florida Hospital on a group of 22 participants. The participants had different severities of sleep apnea, and they were asked to used a Sona Pillow for a set period of time. It was found that using the pillow did help reduce the number of apneas in patients with mild and moderate obstructive sleep apnea. You can read about the said study here.
Sleep apnea pillows can go a long way to reducing the severity of your sleep apnea, or make sleeping with a CPAP mask more comfortable for you. As a bonus, the best-quality pillows can also decrease – or eliminate – your snoring. So if you struggle with your pillow every night, consider switching to a pillow designed with sleep apnea patients in mind!