Adult female laying in bed contemplating which pillow would be best for her.

How to Choose a Pillow for Sleep Apnea

Last updated: October 2022

Sleep apnea is a common but serious sleep disorder where a person has brief interruptions in their breathing while asleep. Lifestyle changes such as losing weight, quitting smoking, and changing your sleep position are some common treatment strategies.1

Taking a small step like changing your pillow can also help improve symptoms. So what makes a good pillow for people with sleep apnea? We have compiled a list of things to look for when picking out the perfect pillow. When selecting a pillow for sleep apnea consider:

  • Your sleep position
  • Mask accommodation
  • Pillow shape
  • Materials and support
  • Pillow height
  • Reviews
  • Trial period and returns

What's your sleep position?

Research shows changing sleep position could be a possible treatment option for some people with sleep apnea. For example, switching from sleeping on your back to your side or stomach may improve your sleep apnea.2

Before buying any new pillows, determine your most comfortable sleep position and look for pillows that cater to side and stomach sleeping.

Do you need to accommodate a CPAP mask?

If you use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, consider a pillow that was made to accommodate CPAP mask and tubing. These pillows have space allotted so you can comfortably and confidently sleep with a mask on.

What shape pillow is best for you?

Besides your run-of-the-mill rectangular pillow, there are a variety of pillow shapes that can accommodate your sleep position while helping sleep apnea. Some pillow shapes include contour, wedge, and triangular.

Back sleepers may feel more comfortable with a wedge pillow that gives elevation. Side sleepers may be more comfortable with a contoured pillow that offers neck support.

Research shows that the specially designed Sona pillow can reduce snoring and the number of events in those who have mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. The Sona is a triangular pillow that has space for you to place your arm under your head while sleeping on your side.3

How do you choose pillow material and support?

A supportive pillow will help keep your neck and head supported while keeping your spine aligned. Certain materials like foam and memory foam are usually more supportive than others.

Feather pillows do not provide head and neck support, making them a poor choice for those with sleep apnea. Foam pillows can relieve pressure while providing head and neck support.

Most pillows designed for sleep apnea are made of foam, but you can find feather, bamboo, and latex pillows as well. Materials such as memory foam can sleep warmer than other materials. Whatever you prefer, consider selecting a pillow made from high-quality material to ensure comfort and durability.

What's your ideal pillow height?

Pillow height can determine the angle of your head and neck. That can impact breathing, comfort, and spinal alignment. Some pillows have removable layers, allowing you to adjust pillow height for maximum comfort. Side sleepers usually prefer a higher pitch, while stomach sleepers find comfort with a lower pitch.

What do the reviews say?

Community members can offer recommendations on what products did and did not work well for them. If you are shopping online, check out what other people have to say about comfort, quality, shape, and firmness. Reading articles, ratings, and reviews on Consumer Reports can help give you an idea of product value and quality.

Do you need a trial period?

If you are concerned about selecting the right pillow, look for companies that offer sleep trials. A sleep trial will give you a chance to test out a pillow to make sure it suits your needs, is comfortable, and if applicable, accommodates your mask. These trial periods usually allow returns or exchanges.

What kind of pillow do you prefer? How did you choose your pillow? Share with us in the comments below

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