Snoring can be a nuisance at night, waking your partner and affecting their sleep. But snoring has a more serious side when it’s a primary sign of sleep apnea. While not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, the majority of those with sleep apnea snore. This means that nightly snoring is not only bothersome but can also indicate the potential presence of a serious condition. A sleep apnea pillow can quiet the rattle in your throat to help everyone get a better night of rest.
What is sleep apnea?
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): The most common type of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the mouth and throat relax back and down, blocking your airway
- Central sleep apnea (CSA): Essentially, your central nervous system “forgets” to signal your body to breathe
- Complex sleep apnea: Fortunately very rare, complex sleep apnea combines both causes and symptoms of OSA and CSA
For all types of sleep apnea, the signs and symptoms are the same. The most common symptom is waking up exhausted every morning. Other symptoms include:
- Daytime fatigue
- Excessive sleepiness
- Fogginess and cognitive challenges
- Noticeable cessation of breath followed by a choking intake of air
- Dry mouth or sore throat, especially in the morning
- Morning headache or migraine
- Loss of sexual drive
- Nighttime sweating
- High blood pressure
The main risk factor of sleep apnea is obesity, but other risk factors include asthma, high blood pressure, and diabetes. There is some indication that sleep apnea may be hereditary, but that link has not been fully explored in the research.
What has been explored is the relationship between snoring and OSA, and a sleep apnea pillow may help with both.
How can a sleep apnea pillow help?
It is important to note that a sleep apnea pillow is not considered a primary treatment, especially for severe sleep apnea. Sleep apnea pillows can supplement other common treatments in the following ways but they should not be used alone without talking to your doctor first.
As part of a comprehensive treatment plan, sleep apnea pillows offer some tangible benefits to sleepers.
Helps keep the airway lifted and open
Because of the position of the head, the tongue and muscles of the throat may still relax down but without blocking the airway.
Increases compliance with CPAP machines
One of the main issues with CPAP machines is compliance. With an uncomfortable mask and the noise of the machine itself, many sleepers stop using their CPAP altogether.
While a sleep apnea pillow does not replace a CPAP machine, it can make it more comfortable to use. One study found that patients preferred a gel pillow with cutouts to accommodate the CPAP mask.
Provides more comfort for side sleeping
Positional sleep therapy works to get people with sleep apnea to sleep on their sides, the best position to manage sleep apnea.
A sleep apnea pillow can help. A special triangular pillow that accommodates a side sleeper’s arm under their head can make side sleeping more comfortable, as can a body pillow behind a sleeper’s back.
How to find the best pillow for sleep apnea
All of the benefits in the world don’t mean a thing if you don’t find the best sleep apnea pillow for you. When selected carefully and used along with other treatments (e.g., sleep apnea dental devices), a sleep apnea pillow can help you get a good night’s sleep.
Here are a few things to consider when looking for the best pillow for sleep apnea.
- Price: Let’s be honest – price is important. Expect to pay between $30 and $100 for a pillow. The good news is that there are plenty of good options at all price points.
- Reviews: Sleep apnea pillow reviews from actual people with sleep apnea are a goldmine. If you have a friend who uses a sleep apnea pillow, even better. If they have a spare, they might even let you try it out for a few nights!
- Type of pillow for your needs: There are all types of sleep apnea pillows. Two of the most popular are CPAP nasal pillows and a wedge pillow for sleep apnea. CPAP pillows allow you to move around without dislodging your CPAP mask (very important for those with severe sleep apnea). Wedge pillows raise your entire upper back, leaning you on an incline for more open airways (good for unrepentant back sleepers). Other sleep apnea pillows provide more cervical support behind the neck that allows the neck to stay extended (to keep the airway open).
- Materials: Some sleepers prefer memory foam, while others like a soft filling that still offers firm support. This is largely a matter of preference.
- Size: Not all pillows are properly sized for everyone. Children using an adult sleep apnea pillow may sleep worse! Pillows can be sized small through large. Pick what fits the curve of your neck and the size of your body.
Even with all of these considerations, it’s great if you can “try before you buy.” Some manufacturers offer a refund period where you can test out a sleep apnea pillow for 30 or 60 days to see if you like it. The more expensive pillows are more likely to have this type of money-back guarantee, but it never hurts to check before you purchase.
AZ Dentist knows sleep apnea pillows and can help suggest a good choice for more comfortable and healthy sleep. Our team of sleep apnea dentists can also fit you with a custom dental device to manage your symptoms at night.
Get in touch today for more information!