My Magic Sleep Sofa-Pillow

Due to various reasons (my father visiting, and my 1 year old son sleeping in a Pack-And-Play crib in the living room), I ended up sleeping on our old leather sofa the other night. Although I only slept for 5 hours, I woke up much more refreshed than my usual night's sleep. I do remember that I had a similar experience a few months ago when I had a bad cold with severe cough, and I  felt better sleeping on the same sofa. Now I realize that it wasn't a coincidence. The curvature of the armrest is a low gentle slope, with my feet resting on the other side's armrest (preventing me from sliding down). 

What I realized was that due to the armrest lifting up my upper back/shoulders and tilting back my head slightly, my airway must have opened up. This is a normal situation for almost everyone. Whenever you tilt your head forward slightly, the space behind your tongue narrows, whereas tilting the head back opens the airway. This is also why in many cases, "Contour" pillows have this same effect: By lifting up your neck and cocking your head back slightly, you're opening up your airway. Most contour pillows, however, don't function the way they're meant to work, since as you slide down, the the lower part of the pillow that's raised ends up tilting your head slightly forward. 

As a result of this experience, since I like to sleep on my back, I added a bit of support using a rolled up towel, just below my Contour Pillow, slightly lifting up my shoulders. Not too surprisingly, I did seem to sleep better. Next, I'm going to add one more thing: Breathe Right strips. By artificially opening up my nasal passageways by using these nasal dilator strips, perhaps I can finally sleep more deeply and wake up much more refreshed in the morning.

Does sleeping in strange environment or bed make you sleep better or much worse than your normal nights' sleep? Please enter your answers in the comments box below.

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22 thoughts on “My Magic Sleep Sofa-Pillow

  1. OK, Dr. Park, forget about our sleeping habits for a minute. How about a sleep study and a CPAP for you???

  2. Great observations and suggestions. I too sleep on a contour pillow but will add the towel at your suggestion. I'll also try the Breathe Right strips to see if my sleep is improved. Thanks for all the suggestions.

  3. I've always felt sleeping on a couch gives me a better quality sleep – because it encourages sleeping on my side with my back against the couch. My breathing suffers most when I've rolled onto my back, which doesn't really happen with a couch.

  4. I too use a contour pillow, but, still have some stuffiness after two septoplasty.
    Nasal steroids and nasal antihistimines have limited effect. I shall try the towel trick,
    but, because I have some food allergies and intolerance (gluten) I was wondering
    if these could impact my nightime stuffiness?

  5. Steve,

    I usually sleep better in hotels as well. There are many different variables that contribute to sleep in a different environment. Less distractions, sleeping alone, the temperature, no pets or children, no snoring spouse, are other factors than can affect your sleep quality. One thing that’s always different is the pillow (unless you bring your own). However, people underestimate the effect that the pillow has on the airway and it’s effect on sleep.

  6. I was getting air in my stomach from the c pap. I realized it was from the position of my head. The same method of tilting the head back worked. When on my side, I found it best to wedge a pillow under my chin to prevent me from sleeping with my head tucked forward. Fetal position seems to really cut off my breathing.

  7. Dr Park, Not sure if you would recommend this, but I am a CPAP user and try different things to get me treatment to work, one thing I do to opening up my nasal passageways is instead of using a nasal spray I smear a small amount of Vicks Vapor Rub under my nose each night and as I use a Full Face Mask I breath in the vapors and it seems to keep my nasal passages open.

  8. Terry,

    That’s a common way of decongesting your nose. It’s similar to a mild version of Afrin. It may work in the short term, but you may need something more definitive in the future for your nasal congestion. Good luck.

  9. Dr. Park,

    How is it possible to sell your Magic Sleep Couch PiIllow on my website?

    I live in Dallas and we could talk at your convenience. My phone number is:


    Linkie Seltzer

  10. I sleep well when I visit my daughter in spite of an uncomfortable bed. Hotels, not so much. As for contour pillows, mine does what it’s supposed to do and I don’t find myself slipping anywhere, unless sitting up to read and falling asleep. :-)

  11. Most people breathe better if their torso is elevated so that their chest is higher than their abdomen. This is because breathing in requires diaphragm suction against the weight of the abdomen.
    A company called make a superb lateral sleep elevated torso pillow/mattress with its own linen that is placed on top of the normal linen of your bed. Works better than the tennis ball.

  12. I’ve got positional apnea and couldn’t tolerate cpap or dental plates. If I slightly open my mouth and totally relax and try to breathe I can figure out which positions make my throat close up. So now I sleep sitting up on a giant wedge with breathe right strips and one of those airline pillows to prevent my head from flopping around and prevent my mouth dropping open. I find keeping my mouth from opening is more important than tilting my head back. It all works great unless I fling it all off in my sleep!

  13. Diagnosed with sleep A-pnea, I tried 4 masks…since I am female, not over weight, the head gear to hold them on was toooooooooooo big as were several masks. No success after 2 months and a fabulous technician who keep me motivated to try and who tried everything she knew how to do. Suddenly , I remembered that I had a deviated septum. I ordered some nasal cones on the web; use one in the most affected nostril with the smallest mask and viola success!

  14. I always slept better on the couch growing up. I never knew I had sleep problems then however, only that my mom said she could never sleep in the same bed with me because it was like sleeping beside a fish out of water the way I moved around. I also knew I talked in my sleep and later on found out that I had to move the phone from beside my bed because I might answer it, have a whole conversation and not remember anything.
    Later on when I had a scary experience with my children telling me something while I was sleeping about not coming home after school (I never remembered them telling me or me saying ok) that they were never allowed to speak to me if I was sleeping unless I was sitting up with my eyes open.
    To get back to the couch, I slept better (not knowing why) but my mom would get really upset waking up to find me sleeping on the couch when I had a perfectly good bedroom. So I always tried not to fall asleep on one, but get up and go to my bed if I was tired.
    Unintentionally, I did the same thing to my younger son who I also think has problems (not diagnosed).
    My sleep issues have progressed, I have been diagnosed with mild sleep apnea after a lifetime of missing out on things because of being so tired. I have difficulties with the mask, have rhinitis, recessed lower jaw, had to have wisdom teeth pulled etc. wish I knew all this before I missed out on so much of my life.
    Nice to know now though I had a legitimate excuse for saying when I was younger that I slept better on the couch……

  15. My husband used to tease
    me about how I was sleeping on an artic shelf with the angle and all the pillows I was using. Turns out my neck was out which I didn’t know. Not sure which came first the neck being out or the pillow method but I went to see an upper cervical chiropractor who said it could be linked to the body pain and nerve issues I was having as the brain stem was being pinched. It’s always been an aspiration of mine to “have my head on straight.” Lol. What a difference that has made.

    I too find that I have also preferred the arm rest of the couch to prop me up but recently I bought a wedge pillow (Bed Bath and Beyond $30) and I love it. I got the idea and the courage to do it after listening to Doctor Parks. I use one fairly conforming pillow with moderate support on top of the wedge. It’s way better than trying to use multiple pillows. Before my my neck was out (which I didn’t realize). I think it’s helped my neck adjustments to hold in part to the new pillow system. If you are a couch sleeper and it interests you I’d recommend trying the wedge. Another suggestion someone made was to put blocks or lifts under the headboard offering a minor incline if that’s an option. Good luck with your sleep solutions.