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It can be tough to sleep soundly when you have sleep apnea. Pauses in breathing can jerk you awake and otherwise interrupt your slumber.
While a pillow can’t cure sleep apnea — the condition requires treatment to prevent complications — it may help your quality of sleep.
You’ll find a few different kinds of pillows featured on this list, including:
- Foam pillows. There are different types of foam, the most popular being memory foam. Foam helps to cradle the neck and head by offering contouring pressure relief. Some pillows feature removable foam layers that allow you to adjust the firmness level to your personal taste.
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) pillows. These pillows are designed to accommodate a CPAP mask, a type of machine that continuously pumps air into a mask to keep your airway open through the night. Using a CPAP-specific pillow can help make sleeping with a mask more comfortable. The pillows have cut-outs to prevent the mask from pressing on your face and nose.
- Wedge pillows. These triangular-shaped pillows can elevate your body position and provide relief from obstructive sleep apnea and other conditions, like acid reflux.
When choosing pillows to feature on this list, we opted for pillows that:
- Are good for stomach and side sleeping. Research suggests that many cases of obstructive sleep apnea happen because of a person’s sleeping position. In these cases, a simple change to your stomach or side — rather than your back — can make a difference in symptoms.
- Can help elevate the head. Sleeping on your back can make sleep apnea
worse. However, if you can only fall asleep while resting on your back, elevating your upper body with something like a wedge pillow may help.
- Are CPAP machine compatible. If you have moderate or severe sleep apnea, you may have a difficult time sleeping while wearing a CPAP mask. Some pillows are designed to accommodate the bulky masks and prevent them from digging into your face.
- Have rave reviews. We checked customer feedback to make sure each pillow is rated highly.
- Are adjustable. If you’re lying on your stomach, a soft, thin pillow is usually most comfortable. For side sleepers, a firm or extra-firm pillow is key. That said, personal preference plays a part, too. That’s why we’ve included a couple of adjustable pillows that allow you to remove fill layers to accommodate your preferred sleeping position and pillow feel.
- $ = under $50
- $$ = $50–$70
- $$$ = over $70
Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Cloud Pillow
- Price: $$$
- Type: Memory foam
- Good for: People who sleep hot
If you sleep hot, chances are you’ve spent some time tossing and turning in bed — ending up in an incompatible position for your sleep apnea.
The TEMPUR-Cloud Pillow can be great for sleepers who tend to work up a sweat at night. The extra-soft feel is particularly well suited for stomach sleepers, but several side sleepers also report loving the pillow.
Reviewers say the pillow is comfortable, helps with neck pain, and provides just the right level of firmness.
Contour Living CPAP Pillow 2.0
- Price: $$$
- Type: Foam
- Good for: Side sleepers
Sleeping on your side can be challenging if you’re using a CPAP device and mask. The Contour Living CPAP Pillow 2.0 has center and side cut-outs that help accommodate a side sleeping position when you’re wearing a mask.
You can also adjust the pillow’s height (between 2 and 5.2 inches) and flip it over to reveal a cooling mesh design.
Side sleepers report having success with this pillow. They say they rarely have to readjust their mask during the night anymore.
Lunderg CPAP Pillow
- Price: $$
- Type: Adjustable memory foam
- Good for: Side sleepers using a CPAP machine
Anyone can use the Lunderg CPAP Pillow thanks to its two-side design. However, it’s especially suitable for side sleepers using a CPAP machine for sleep apnea.
Reviewers say the cut-outs accommodate their masks, allowing them to sleep a lot better than before they got the pillow. Side sleepers report not needing to adjust their mask while using the CPAP pillow.
A few people do complain that the pillow is too firm for their liking. However, you can adjust the firmness by inserting (or removing) a memory foam layer.
Relax Home Life Wedge Pillow
- Price: $
- Type: Memory foam
- Good for: Any sleeping style
This breathable wedge pillow can elevate your head and help with nighttime breathing troubles. You can use it alone or with your favorite pillow.
The cover is made of polyester and rayon from bamboo, and it’s machine-washable.
Reviewers say the soft memory foam surface helps minimize snoring. They also say it offers a gentle incline that doesn’t cause slippage.
Elite Rest Slim Sleeper Latex
- Price: $
- Type: Latex memory foam
- Good for: Stomach sleepers
This super slim pillow may be comfy if you tend to sleep with your arm under your pillow. Stomach sleepers who prefer a low-profile pillow say the Slim Sleeper provides just enough head elevation to keep their spine aligned.
However, it’s not as great for those who need extra neck support and want a fluffy pillow.
The Polysleep Pillow
- Price: $$$
- Type: Adjustable foam
- Good for: Any sleeping style
Changing sleeping positions might make all the difference for those with mild sleep apnea. The Polysleep Pillow is filled with multiple removable foam layers (all CertiPUR-US certified), so it can accommodate any sleeping position. You can customize the firmness level by removing or adding foam to fit your preference.
Reviewers explain that it can take some time to find the right combo of foam layers, but the result is ultimately very comfortable.
When shopping for a pillow for sleep apnea, your first consideration should be whether you need it to accommodate a CPAP mask or not. If the answer is yes, you’ll need a specialized pillow that has an indentation for your mask and its tubing.
If you don’t use a CPAP device, the next consideration is whether you prefer to sleep on your back, side, or stomach. Sleeping on your back can worsen sleep apnea symptoms, but some people simply can’t fall asleep in any other position. If this describes you, you might find relief with a pillow that elevates your head — like one with a wedge design.
Stomach sleepers should look for a soft pillow, while side sleepers need firmer support.
If possible, look for a company with in-home sleep trials, so you can test whether the pillow helps with your symptoms, fits with your mask, and lets you sleep comfortably.
A pillow won’t cure sleep apnea, so you should talk with your doctor if you suspect you’re struggling to breathe at night. Those with moderate to severe sleep apnea may need a CPAP machine to help them breathe continuously through the night.
Changing your sleeping position and swapping out your pillow might help sleep apnea. The American Sleep Apnea Association also recommends the following treatment options:
- Oral devices. CPAP machines are effective, but they can be hard to get used to. Some people might have more success with oral devices. These are worn in the mouth to help align the jaw and keep the airway open.
- Weight loss. It’s important to note that most of the evidence for this is anecdotal. But it suggests that losing weight may help curb snoring and sleep apnea symptoms.
- Cutting out alcohol. Skipping alcohol, especially before bedtime, may help prevent sleep apnea symptoms.
- Nasal decongestants. For people with mild symptoms, taking decongestants can help clear the airway, prevent snoring, and improve sleep quality.
Before trying any of these treatment options, talk with your doctor to see what they recommend. Not everyone will benefit from the same treatment.
A new pillow won’t solve your sleep apnea symptoms. Still, it can help provide some relief — especially if you’re finding it hard to adjust to a new sleeping position or CPAP device.
If you suspect your grogginess and irritability during the day have something to do with interrupted breathing at night, be sure to talk with your doctor.
Steph Coelho is a freelance writer with chronic migraine who has a particular interest in health and wellness. When she’s not click-clacking away on her keyboard, she’s probably nose-deep in a good book.