What is a Wedge Pillow? How can it help your sleep apnea?

You may not think the shape of a pillow can make a difference to your ability to sleep but think again. Wedge pillows have a huge range of therapeutic benefits and can assist people with a variety of medical conditions to sleep more easily, including people with obstructive sleep apnea. 

Sleep is so important for our bodies. A good night's sleep allows our bodies to rest, repair and rejuvenate. Sometimes simple changes can make a huge difference in relieving sleep apnea symptoms. One simple change is to try a wedge pillow.

What is a Wedge Pillow?

A wedge pillow consists of a relatively firm foam, which like its name, creates a wedge-shaped pillow with an angle of around 20 to 40 degrees. Because of its shape, a wedge pillow can support and raise the head between 6-8 inches when a person is sleeping. 

For people whose condition is worse when lying down or on their back (like in sleep apnea), this elevated head position can often make a difference in the quality of sleep a person achieves and may help relieve symptoms. A wedge pillow can also reduce the loud snoring that usually accompanies sleep apnea.

Benefits of a Wedge Pillow

  • Head elevation: if you have sleep apnea, sleeping with your head and upper body in a more elevated position uses gravity to keep the airways open. If the airways remain open, then breathing can be maintained normally.
  • Head elevation with a wedge pillow  may allow someone with sleep apnea to sleep soundly without the usual interruptions when the body wakes itself up to restore adequate oxygen levels and resume normal breathing.
  • Cost-effective: a wedge pillow is a more affordable and practical way of increasing head elevation. Alternative solutions include using bed risers and purchasing expensive adjustable beds.
  • Portable: a wedge pillow is lightweight and can be easily transported. It means you can take it on holiday too!
  • Versatile health benefits: an elevated head position is also beneficial for people suffering from acid reflux, glaucoma and congestion. The elevated head position means that gravity keeps stomach acids down, reduces pressure in the eyes and allows sinuses to drain more freely.
  • Pain relief and swelling: wedge pillows can be used in a variety of ways – which can reduce neck or back pain, and help promote better sleep.

Choosing a Wedge Pillow

It's best to try out various wedge pillows to find the best angle and incline. Your healthcare provider may also have some specific recommendations based on your particular condition, size, weight and needs. 

  • A wedge pillow should be a minimum of 8 inches in height if used to elevate the head.
  • Foam wedge pillows can retain heat. If you are concerned about becoming too hot at night, look out for a temperature-regulated wedge pillow. These use a gel-infused foam which is designed to draw the heat away from the body.
  • If you have allergies, it is important to check the type of foam or foam content of the pillow and use a pillowcase. Although a latex foam wedge pillow can be cooler than a memory foam one, some people have latex allergies and will need to choose an alternative foam material.

Breathable wedge pillowcases are available too. These are designed to draw moisture and heat away from the head and upper body.

Final thoughts

Sleep apnea is a chronic condition and more serious than people realize. Apart from the debilitating daytime fatigue which can affect your safety, quality of life and mental wellbeing, the condition can increase the risk of other conditions including high blood pressure and heart failure. 

Not only that, but the condition can also have a serious toll on your relationship if constant snoring keeps the other partner awake, too. 

While it's really important to get sleep apnea diagnosed and treated by a healthcare professional, there are some simple lifestyle changes like losing weight and changing your sleeping position that may help reduce symptoms. 

Choosing to use a wedge pillow is just one simple and cost-effective change that you can try.

For more information about wedge pillows and their treatment use, please follow the links below: