Wedge pillows are sloping orthopedic pillows that enables sleepers to rest their head, shoulders, and torso at an inclined angle. This position can ease the symptoms of various medical issues, including acid reflux, sleep apnea, and poor circulation. Wedge pillows can also alleviate pressure points around the neck and spine. These pillows come in a wide range of sizes and thicknesses to accommodate different sleepers, and many models are available for less than $50.
This guide will look at wedge pillow designs and medical conditions they address, and will also include some helpful tips for first-time buyers and our picks for the best wedge pillows sold today.
Wedge pillows may be used alone, or as a base layer with a standard pillow on top (depending on the sleeper’s comfort preferences). Many different wedge pillow designs are available. Some common design features and characteristics include:
Shape: Because they are inclined, most wedge pillows are triangular in shape. Depending on the model, the pillow’s surface may be flat or contoured. Additionally, some wedge pillows consist of one piece while others are ‘pillow systems’ with multiple components, including detachable headrests.
Size: Wedge pillows also vary in terms of length, width, and height. Most measure at least 20 inches long and 20 inches wide, which is large enough to provide cushioning to head, neck, shoulders, and upper back. Likewise, these pillows will support the feet, calves, and knees when used at the foot of one’s bed. Smaller pillows are usually the best option for smaller mattresses (such as Twin and Full sizes), while larger wedge pillows will be more suitable for Queen and King sizes.
Inclination: The angle of inclination is usually seven inches or higher, with some models providing an incline of 10 to 12 inches. Generally, pillows with more gradual slopes are more suitable for sleeping, while higher-incline models are more suitable as headrests or backrests for reading or watching TV in bed.
Weight: On the lighter end, wedge pillows may weigh two to four pounds — but heavier models can weigh as much as 10 to 12 pounds. Heavier pillows tend to move less during the night, but may be more difficult to maneuver for some. Lighter pillows may not be as suitable for those who toss and turn, but they are light enough to move and maneuver for most adults.
Material Composition: With few exceptions, wedge pillows are made of high- or medium-density memory foam. Most have covers made of synthetic fabrics, such as rayon from bamboo or polyester.
Construction: Wedge pillows may consist of a single piece of foam or may include multiple layers, which usually consist of softer foam layers on top of firmer foam layers.
Lifespan: The durability of a wedge pillows often depends on the quality of the foam, as well as the frequency of use since some people sleep with a wedge pillow more frequently than others. Warranty coverage may or may not be included, depending on the manufacturer; most wedge pillow warranties cover defects in the product for one to three years.
Firmness: Wedge pillows are usually ‘Medium Firm’ or ‘Firm,’ although some models are softer. Wedge pillows may offer varying firmness settings on different sides, allowing sleepers to rotate the pillow to adjust the feel.
Storage: Many people like to travel with wedge pillows, and some can be disassembled or folded to fit more easily into suitcases or backpacks. A travel-size carrying case may be included with the pillow purchase.
Cleaning: Most wedge pillow covers can be removed and washed in a machine. The memory foam should never be machine or hand washed, as exposure to moisture can damage the foam and cause it to deteriorate. Light spot cleaning is usually the best method of caring for the foam components.
Cost: While some wedge pillows cost $100 or more, most models can be purchased for less than $50. When buying from online sellers and retailers, shipping costs should be taken into account. Also keep in mind that price-point is often tied to durability and material quality.
Wedge pillows alleviate pressure and symptoms of several medical conditions. Preferences vary by sleeper, but wedge pillows are often suitable for the following groups:
- Back sleepers: Wedge pillows with lower inclines (seven or eight inches) can be suitable for back sleepers who prefer to rest their head, neck, and shoulders at an angle. Higher inclines may not be as comfortable.
- Side sleepers: Contoured wedge pillows are often shaped to follow the natural curvature of the spine. These models are usually best for side sleepers because they provide support to areas of the body where side sleepers tend to develop pressure points, such as the neck and shoulders.
- People who snore: There is no cure for snoring, but elevating the head and neck can reduce snoring by a significant extent. Many wedge pillows are designed for people who snore, including those who snore due to medical conditions like obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) or central sleep apnea (CSA).
- People with acid reflux: The medical condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, causes stomach acid to flow into the stomach, which is connected to the throat and mouth. This issue is known as acid reflux. Elevating the head and neck can minimize acid reflux symptoms by hindering the upward flow of stomach acid. For this reason, wedge pillows can be very helpful to people with GERD.
- People with neck, shoulder, or back pain: Many adults experience chronic neck, shoulder, or back pain due to old injuries, diseases, and other medical conditions. Sleeping on unsupportive pillows that do not improve spinal alignment can exacerbate this pain and cause pressure points to develop. Wedge pillows help align the spine and alleviate pressure by providing targeted support to these areas.
- People with poor circulation: Adults may experience poor circulation in the upper and/or lower body. Wedge pillows — particularly those with higher inclines — can improve circulation in the shoulders and arms, as well as the knees and legs when placed beneath the sleeper’s feet.
- People who read or watch TV in bed: Higher-incline wedge pillows can serve as headrests or backrests for people who sit up in bed. And because they are lightweight and portable, owners can use them in on sofas or chairs as well.
When shopping for a new wedge pillow and comparing different brands and models, here are a few factors to take into account: