What To Look For in a CPAP Pillow

young woman sleeping on side wearing CPAP mask

Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening and major sleep disorder that can be difficult to detect and manage; luckily, a CPAP pillow can make it much easier to sleep comfortably with clear airways and a CPAP machine. In this article, you'll find the top five CPAP pillows and learn about what a CPAP pillow does, as well as what makes one a good option for you.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a term that refers to one of two sleep apnea disorders that involve breathing issues during sleep. When you have sleep apnea, your breathing will stop and resume repeatedly while you are unconscious, which means you're getting less deep sleep. This will leave you feeling tired throughout the day, no matter how many hours you are sleeping at night. Sleep apnea can be a serious condition, which is why it is important to see a doctor if you suspect you have any of the symptoms. Many people with the condition aren't even aware that they have it. 

Symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring, gasping for air while you sleep, dry mouth, headaches in the morning, insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, and irritability. Usually, another person would point out if they notice your breathing stopping repeatedly during sleep since that would be difficult to notice on your own. If you have a snoring problem and are feeling very tired for no reason, it may be a good idea to see a doctor.

Illustration showing airway during obstructive sleep apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea. It happens as a result of your airways narrowing as your throat muscles relax, which slows or stops your breathing briefly. Your brain then senses it's not getting enough oxygen, so it quickly reopens your airways to gasp in air. While this happens, you actually wake up. However, the awakening is so fast you don't remember or notice it. This on/off cycle can continue throughout the night. 

Older males are at highest risk of obstructive sleep apnea, demographically. Having family history, narrowed airway, smoking problems, nasal congestion, obesity, or other medical conditions are other risk factors. However, anyone can develop obstructive sleep apnea. 

Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea is much rarer and is a result of a neurological problem, so it could signify an underlying condition. This type of apnea is when your brain cannot transmit signals to your muscles to remind them to breathe, so for very short periods of time you go without breathing. Being older, male, having heart problems, using narcotics, and having a stroke all increase the chance of having central sleep apnea. 

What Is a CPAP Machine?

The treatment for sleep apnea is known as CPAP therapy, which is done with a CPAP machine. A CPAP machine is the most common and efficient way to manage sleep apnea symptoms and ensure you are getting a normal supply of oxygen. A CPAP machine contains a mask that goes over your nose and mouth connected to a long tube that supplies oxygen. Some CPAP machines only cover the nose.

CPAP machines have motors that generate pressurized air which travels through the tube and goes through your mouth and nose into your airways. The stream is continuous so no blockages in your airways occur with the machine, and there are no pauses in your breathing. 

Two other similar alternatives of CPAP machines that may be prescribed include APAP and BiPAP machines. These are slightly different in the way they are programmed. APAP machines check your breathing and make sure the pressure stays constant. BiPAP machines ensure you are breathing and controls pressure for inhalation and exhalation during CPAP therapy. 

young man sleeping with apnea and CPAP machine

Types of CPAP Machine Masks

Whether it's recommended by a medical professional or personal preference, there is another thing you can potentially do to maximize comfort while sleeping with a CPAP machine. You might see a full face mask that covers the nose and mouth to be the most common, but there are really many types of CPAP masks. There isn't one 'best CPAP mask', as it all comes down to personal preference and the severity of the apnea.

Total face masks are rarely prescribed– these cover the entire face. With less coverage, a full face mask covers just the nose and mouth. It has the most coverage over any mask besides a total face mask, but may also result in high mask pressure. A nasal mask covers only the nose, and an oral mask (which is rare) covers only the mouth. The lightest type of mask is a nasal pillow, which rests over your nose but without much mask pressure. The CPAP pillows in the list below support every kind of CPAP mask, whether nasal pillow or total face.

Why Get a CPAP Pillow?

While a CPAP machine may help relieve your symptoms of sleep apnea, wearing one at night can be very uncomfortable and difficult to get used to. With such a bulky mask and tube you sleep connected to, many sleep positions you are used to may become uncomfortable with the machine. Luckily, it doesn't need to be that way. CPAP pillows are specifically shaped, contoured, and designed to keep you straight while you sleep from your spine to neck to head, and make room for the CPAP mask so you can sleep comfortably. 

The pillow is dimpled and has edges cut out on the sides to designate room for the mask. Note that most CPAP pillows are meant for side and stomach sleeping positions because sleeping on your back can worsen apnea symptoms. However, there are CPAP pillows made specifically for different positions, so if you insist on sleeping on your back, you can find a CPAP pillow for it.

CPAP Pillow Design

CPAP pillows feature many unique designs that you won't find on any old regular pillow. They have a curved bottom to keep your shoulders and neck aligned, keeping airways clear. The center indent on the pillow serves the same function. The cutouts on both ends of the pillow make room for the tube and mask and are on both sides so you can sleep on whichever side you want, or switch. Additionally, many CPAP pillows use memory foam, a high-quality material that stays firm and molds to the shape of your spine and head so that there are no awkward alignments that could exacerbate symptoms. 

Best CPAP Pillow in 2022 List

Your search to find the perfect CPAP pillow is simplified into this list of the top CPAP pillows available on the market, backed by customer ratings, company policies, material, quality, and more. 

2 in 1 Memory Foam Neck Support Pillow for Neck and Shoulder Pain
$39.19

by IKSTAR

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02/25/2024 04:24 pm GMT

#1:  IKSTAR 2 in 1 Memory Foam CPAP Pillow

The IKSTAR memory foam CPAP pillow is an Amazon best selling product featuring a cervical CPAP shape and high-quality memory foam. The pillow arrives in four color variations including white, black, blue, and grey, and ranges from $39.99 to $59.99 depending on the style. The pillow has c-shaped cutouts to accommodate a CPAP machine and has a 100 percent cotton cover for comfort and convenience in case of any stains. The ergonomic 2 in 1 design allows you to flip the pillow and use its cervical shape to sit up while watching TV or reading a book.

One of the best guarantees that IKSTAR promises its customers is a 100 night trial, or sleep trial. You can try this pillow out, and if after the trial period you realize it's not the pillow for you, that's not an issue– you can return it for a full refund. The IKSTAR CPAP pillow is patented and curated by Dr. Mark Ruoff, who specializes in treating spinal problems. Lastly, the pillow is odorless unlike many memory foam pillows, prevents mask leak, and is hypoallergenic. 

CPAP Pillow for Side Sleepers - Includes 2 Pillowcases
$79.00

by Lunderg 

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02/25/2024 04:20 pm GMT

#2: Lunderg CPAP Memory Foam Pillow + 2 Pillowcases

What makes the Lunderg CPAP pillow different than the rest is it's adjustable technology and pillowcases. The two cases include a comfort and cooling fabric case so you can pick whichever you want to use and switch it up as often as you want. You can unzip the bottom of the pillow and remove the base to adjust the height as well because it's made with a removable layer.

These features were implemented by Lunderg after taking into consideration the discomfort of sleeping with a CPAP machine, and will gladly offer a full refund in case your purchase isn't what you needed. The two dimpled sides of the pillow support side, back, and stomach sleepers. 

CPAPMax 2-in-1 Cooling Plush CPAP Comfort Pillow
$59.99

by Contour 

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02/25/2024 04:14 pm GMT

#3: Contour CPAPMax 2 in 1 Cooling CPAP Pillow

Looking for versatility? The Countor CPAPMax pillow is anything but your average, flat pillow. The double sided pillow features a cool, 3D mesh side to reduce heat and sweating during hot nights, an opposite fiberfill side that's made of hypoallergenic fiberfill for maximum comfort, and a hose tether to prevent tangles. The pillow itself sells on Amazon for $64.99, but you can purchase it with a white or navy pillowcase for 10 more dollars. 

The fill material of the pillow is quality memory foam for proper spinal and neck alignment and its cutout shape works with both nasal and face masks. In terms of maintenance, the pillow has a 3 layer adjustable height design– and one of those layers is charcoal for freshness. The zipper cover can be machine washed in case of any stains. Also, side, back, and stomach sleepers can all use this CPAP pillow. Rest assured when you purchase from Contour– they offer a 2 year Contour Customer Care Warranty that arrives with the CPAPMax pillow, and returns are always easy.

Side Sleeping Pillow | Height Adjustable | Ear Pain Relief
$79.99

by PureComfort 

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02/25/2024 04:09 pm GMT

#4: PureComfort Side Sleeping CPAP Pillow

What's unique about the PureComfort CPAP pillow? This side sleeping CPAP pillow has a bamboo cover and is an uncommon, crescent-like shape with dimples for your ears. This distinctive design also has face support on the edges, rounded cervical support on the bottom, and three foam inserts to adjust the height. The PureComfort pillow is designed specifically for side-sleepers of any side; a sleeping position preferred by many. It reworks to reduce pressure on the ear area with dimples in the structure and is made with certified memory foam for… pure comfort. 

The pillow sells at $79.99 in two options: standard and soft. Its bamboo cover is machine washable and hypoallergenic, and is tested to national standards for chemical safety. It doesn't use any flame retardants, mercury, lead, other heavy metals, PBDE's, and many  chemicals that are present in a lot of other sleep products that you simply just don't hear about. If you don't use a CPAP machine but have issues with TMJ or facial sensitivity, this pillow is still the perfect option for you because it doesn't need to be used with a machine since its focus is pressure relief. Refunds are free, and you have a 60 day window to return the product for a full refund. There's nothing to lose!

Memory Foam CPAP Pillow
$69.99 ($69.99 / Count)

by EnduriMed 

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02/26/2024 12:25 am GMT

#5: Adjustable Endurimed CPAP Pillow

The Endurimed CPAP Pillow, filled with quality memory foam, is built with four deep dimples to support back, stomach, and side sleepers. The product works best with full face and total face masks– the company says some nasal masks may be incompatible. However, it is designed for all types of CPAP machines: CPAP, BiPAP, and APAP. The pillow has two removable pads to adjust height, and you can turn the pillow to the large or small side based on the type of comfort you want. Endurimed has patented their adjustable technology in response to popular demand. 

This CPAP pillow's cover is soft white machine washable cotton, and arrives with the memory foam pillow for $74.99 on Amazon. Its unique contour and curves guarantee comfort and anti-leakage, no pressure, and no tangled tubing. In case you don't like it, Endurimed promises free returns. 

Summary: What to Look for in a CPAP Pillow

When it comes down to making your purchase, you'll need to know what makes a good CPAP pillow and what you are specifically looking for in your own pillow. Here's some questions to ask yourself: What type of sleeper are you? Back, side, stomach, or all of the above? What type of CPAP machine do you use– nasal pillow, nasal, full face, or total face? What shape or level of support are you looking for, do you have any material preferences, and do you trust the company you are purchasing from? 

If you're having trouble answering, here' a quick refresher. A CPAP pillow is used to manage symptoms of sleep apnea and make it easy and comfortable to sleep with a CPAP machine. Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where a person stops breathing in their sleep for brief moments. Obstructive sleep apnea is more common and is due to muscle relaxation and narrowed airways, while central sleep apnea is a symptom of a more complex neurological problem where your brain isn't transmitting signals to remind your body to breathe. 

The treatment for sleep apnea, called CPAP therapy, is more complex than taking medicine. You'll likely need a CPAP machine, a mask connected to a long tube that ensures you are getting a steady supply of oxygen while you sleep. You'll need to wear it every time you go to bed, which can feel uncomfortable. Luckily, CPAP pillows were designed to help relieve mask pressure and have dimples and cutouts to make room for the mask and properly align your neck and spine to reduce symptoms. There are many types of masks, including full face, total face, nasal pillow masks, and nasal masks which are available to most sleep apnea patients. 

CPAP therapy is most often used for obstructive sleep apnea— some central sleep apnea patients may benefit from it, but it is usually more complex to treat. 

The list in this article features the five best CPAP pillows. These are all made with high quality memory foam and feature removable covers, uniquely contoured cutouts and designs, have adjustable height with foam inserts, and most support back, side and stomach sleepers. It's important to take note of the company's return or sleep trial policy as well as the types of masks it is compatible with. Some CPAP pillows are only compatible with face masks, not nasal pillow or nasal masks. Additionally, the materials in the product may contain harmful chemicals or be allergenic, so look for a product that doesn't contain allergens or chemicals if this is a concern. 

At the end of the day, you just want to get a good night's sleep. There's no need to stress if you feel that a CPAP machine may hinder your ability to rest. With the right pillow for sleep apnea, you can manage your symptoms of sleep apnea as well as sleep comfortably with a mask, leaving you more well-rested than ever before.

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