The Best Pillow For Sleep Apnea?

At last night’s Manhattan AWAKE group, someone asked about pillows and sleep apnea. There were a number of good suggestions made by Mike, including the PAPillow and Oxygen Pillow. For some reason this issue came to mind this morning, and I had this thought:

Regardless of the type of pillow, your airway is greatly influenced by your head position. If you remember the ABCs of CPR, the first thing to address is the airway, Check the mouth and then tilt the head back with the chin lifted upwards. The reason you have to position the head like this is that by extending the head, you’re opening up the airway significantly. Whenever I look at patients’  airways with a fiberoptic camera, even with a little bit of head extension, the airway can open up dramatically. With a bit of flexion (chin towards chest), the airway closes significantly. The anatomy is such that with head flexion, the epiglottis and the tongue base pulls away from the back of the throat. I’ll look through my records to see if I have any photos of this.

This is why the contour pillows can help people sleep better, by supporting the neck but lowering the top of the head lower than the level of the neck. Of course, this only works if you’re lying on your back. Sometimes even side sleepers will contort their heads so that it’s coked back.

Some Asian cultures use buckwheat, log-roll type pillows which also mimic this effect. I think this also why I hate hotel pillows, which are the typical fluffy down pillows. Instead, I roll up a towel to the perfect height, and I usually sleep very well.

What kind of pillow do you use? Please enter you answer in the comments box below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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4 thoughts on “The Best Pillow For Sleep Apnea?

  1. I use a contoured pillow manufactured by Sleep Innovations similar to the PAPillow (lower in the front, then dips to cradle the head, rising toward the back of the pillow) and sleep on my side.  It was purchased at COSTCO.
    I found the most significant contribution to easier side sleeping to be the ability of the mattress or mattress pad to allow the shoulder to sink into it without "pushing back" causing discomfort over time.
    PS Thank you for the extended office consultation yesterday.  I ordered a bumper belt from Rematee and will see whether the positional sleeping improves.  FYI…I spoke with the originator/owner of the company.  He said the he believes that I was the 3rd person to order in the last day or two that mentioned your name.  I told him that the other two were probably based upon your referencing Rematee during the AWAKE group session.
    Best regards,
    Robert Greenbaum

  2. Correction:
    I was referring to Dr. Park's remarks at the  teleseminar which was held on Tuesday, January 5th, not the AWAKE group meeting.  My apologies.
    Robert Greenbaum

  3. “… your head position is greatly influenced by your head position. ”

    I suppose you meant to say the airway is influenced by head position?