Sleep Better, Breathe Easier: How to Find the Best Sleep Apnea Pillow for You


5 min read SLEEP
Photo of a bedding and pillow store with assortment of pillows on display

The Main Point:

Sleep apnea is a widespread condition that, left untreated and unmitigated, can significantly disrupt sleep quality in patients of all ages. In addition to using a CPAP machine (short for continuous positive airway pressure machine), there are other remedies that may help to alleviate some of the symptoms in some people and enable them to relieve pressure and get more restful sleep.

One overlooked aspect of sleep apnea management is the role of specialized pillows designed to support better sleep, which make possible better quality sleep for various sleeping positions.

Why it matters for YOU:

Sleep apnea isn't just a nightly disturbance resulting in poor sleep quality. It can also have long-term health effects on your day-to-day well-being (because bad sleep leads to groggy days!). However, a specialized pillow (whether it be cervical pillow that's specifically a sleep apnea pillow or otherwise) tailored for individual sleeping preferences has been shown to be a major game-changer in improving overall health and sleep quality in many people suffering from sleep apnea, without the use of toxic shredded memory foam.

Stat Line:

Some intriguing research in the Sleep and Breathing journal from 2004 examined the effects of a specially designed sleep apnea pillow on obstructive sleep apnea in certain patients. The study included 22 people suffering from varying degrees of sleep apnea. The researchers found a significant reduction in sleep apnea severity, in respiratory disturbance index (or RDI for short) and snoring when using the sleep apnea pillows. The right pillow for sleep apnea alone, in other words, can give some sleep apnea patients a better chance to sleep comfortably and reduce sleep apnea symptoms.


"A uniquely designed pillow,” the sleep disorder researchers noted, “is effective in reducing the number of events in patients with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. Using this pillow also reduces snoring.” (Anything that can reduce snoring is a benefit for sleep partners everywhere!)

But how...?

Modified (aka, non-traditional) pillows, such as wedge pillows or sleep apnea pillows, are a common recommendation for those looking to improve overall sleep quality. This goes for those suffering from sleep-related conditions, including mild sleep apnea and severe sleep apnea, as well as those just generally wanting better sleep. These pillows can aid in maintaining an improved sleeping position throughout the night, which can provide a better and more consistent airway for breathing, whether combined with a CPAP mask or other sleeping apparatus.

And why...?

In general, sleep apnea, whether mild or more severe, tends to manifest as short interruptions in breathing during sleep. The central sleep apnea mechanisms for this are typically associated with airway obstruction of some kind. The good news is that specialized pillows, and specifically pillows for sleep apnea, can help some people to reduce their symptoms and get better sleep. While not exactly a replacement for CPAP masks, they have been shown clinically to improve sleep apnea severity.


“Think of the airway of the sleep apnea patient as a thin, flimsy straw and the airway of a person without sleep apnea as a thick rigid lead pipe. The [sleep apnea] patient has to “suck harder” to get air past the extra tissue and into the lungs. If you think of the straw analogy, what happens when you ‘suck hard’ on a paper straw? It collapses! This is a simple explanation of what happens to the airway of a sleep apnea patient when they go to sleep. When a patient stops breathing (because the airway is obstructed) the oxygen level drops, sometimes to very dangerous levels.” [Source]

One-Sentence Summary:

Finding a specialized pillow can significantly improve sleep quality and may assist in reducing sleep apnea symptoms, mitigating neck pain, allowing for pressure relief, and increasing sleep health for an apnea patient's preferred sleeping position, making the best pillows for sleep an essential part of managing this condition, for both CPAP users and non-CPAP users.

Case in Point:

The researchers found that the specialized pillow used in their study was effective and easily used in treating mild (RDI 5 to 19) and moderate (RDI 20 to 40) obstructive sleep apnea and snoring. The respiratory disturbance index decreased, on average, from 17 events per hour to fewer than 5 events per hour among the study participants. This indicates that a specialized pillow can indeed make a substantial difference in the sleep of people managing sleep apnea symptoms.

For the skeptics:

While pillows for sleep apnea aren't necessarily a complete treatment for the condition, many patients report improvement in symptoms and sleep quality, emphasizing that the benefits of using a pillow for sleep apnea to improve breathing is more than just anecdotal evidence, whether CPAP pillows or something else.

What to do:

  1. Try out a variety of specialized pillows to find what works best for you, given your condition and the best sleeping position. Back sleepers, side sleepers, stomach sleeping individuals, and combination sleepers should look into what is best for them (pillow height, pillow loft, etc.). (Side note: We highly recommend that you avoid a memory foam pillow, due to the toxic materials used to produce foam pillows.)

  2. The "best pillow" may vary from one individual to the next, based on sleep positions, the usage of CPAP machines, and other factors. A great place to start is the Organic Supta Cube Pillow from SLEEP365, an option that may help you with better head elevation and support through the night. We also offer adjustable bed bases, which can allow you to adjust head of bed elevation with ease, alleviating upper body and lower body aches and pains.

  3. Consult your doctor for personalized advice to see if a specialized pillow can assist even if you are already using a CPAP machine or a CPAP pillow in conjunction with CPAP therapy. Some other options you may learn about from your physician include cervical pillows or a wedge pillow, which can help keep the head elevated to assist with a variety of conditions, including acid reflux.

Next steps:

Visit us at SLEEP365® to find a variety of specialized pillows designed for better sleep, regardless of sleep position: stomach sleepers, side sleepers, hot sleepers, or all-over-the-place sleepers! We have a curated collection of pillows, from our adjustable pillow to a positioning pillow specifically made for side sleeping individuals. Sleep hot? No problem! We've also got bedding to help you sleep cool all night long. Positional sleep and the right bedding can make all the difference (especially for those with positional sleep apnea). Check our locations or schedule a Virtual Visit for a personalized consultation to find the best pillow for you today. 


This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a replacement for the advice of a medical professional. Consult your physician for diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea and any other medical conditions for you and your family.

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