CPAP machines can be highly beneficial for sleepers with OSA. However, standard sleeping pillows may cause certain complications for individuals who rely on CPAP therapy. These include the following:
- Facial Discomfort: Because most CPAP users sleep on their sides, their mask may press into their pillow. As a result, they often experience discomfort around the nose, mouth, and other areas where the mask comes into contact with the face or headgear.
- Air Leaks: Standard pillows with even surfaces tend to press against the connective hose and/or face mask. This can create kinks in the hose and/or cause small openings to form around the mask seal; both issues may lead to air leakage.
- Neck Pain: Side sleepers require extra pillow support in order to keep their spine and pelvis aligned; otherwise pain and pressure points may develop. The face mask (and headgear if applicable) may hinder interfere with pillow support and hinder proper alignment.
For these reasons, CPAP bed pillows can be a highly beneficial alternative to standard pillows. In the next section we’ll look at the designs and features of CPAP bed pillows.
What Is a CPAP Bed Pillow?
The term ‘CPAP bed pillow’ refers to any pillow that is designed and shaped to specifically accommodate CPAP users. It’s important to note that many pillows are advertised as being ‘CPAP-friendly,’ but are not specially designed for these sleepers. This guide will focus on dedicated CPAP bed pillows.
CPAP bed pillows are designed for side sleepers, even though CPAP masks may be suitable for all sleep positions. This is because back sleeping can lead to more frequent apnea episodes; the tongue relaxes during sleep, and may impede airflow if it falls back into the throat (a common occurrence for back sleepers). Most CPAP users do not sleep on their stomachs due to mask interference; this position is also widely discouraged due to its high pain and pressure potential.
While designs vary by model, most CPAP bed pillows share the following features:
- Recessed Sides: CPAP bed pillows often have irregular shapes due to side cutouts, which provide space for the mask and hose. Most have cutouts on both sides to accommodate left- and right-side sleepers, as well as those who shift between the two positions.
- Recessed Bottom: Some CPAP bed pillows also have a bottom cutout for the sleeper’s shoulders; this helps keep the neck and shoulders properly aligned.
- Center Dimple: The midsection of the pillow may dip slightly for optimal neck alignment.
- Hose Stabilizer: While not found on all CPAP bed pillows, some models feature a thin strap used to keep the connective hose in place.
Other defining factors of most CPAP bed pillows include:
- Smaller Size: Standard-size sleeping pillows typically measure at least 18 inches wide and at least 26 inches long. CPAP bed pillows are smaller by comparison; most measure roughly 13 to 15 inches wide and 20 to 22 inches long. Some CPAP bed pillows are available in sizes that correspond to the Standard size, but larger sizes (such as Queen or King) are virtually non-existent.
- Lightweight: CPAP bed pillows usually weigh about two pounds or less, which is lighter than the average standard pillow.
- Composition: Most CPAP bed pillows contain either polyurethane foam (or polyfoam), memory foam, or polyester microfibers. In any case, the interior fill is not machine washable. To ensure the pillow is hygienic, most include a washable cover as well. These covers are usually made of cotton, polyester, or a blend of the two fabrics.
- Loft: The term ‘loft’ refers to pillow thickness. Most CPAP bed pillows are either medium loft (three to five inches thick) or high loft (more than five inches thick). In some cases, the pillow may either be available in multiple loft settings or feature an adjustable-loft design.
- Mask Compatibility: In most cases, CPAP bed pillows are designed to accommodate all face mask types. This essentially means they are compatible with full face masks, which tend to be the largest and most invasive, as well as smaller mask options. However, some pillows are not suitable for all mask types.
When properly used, CPAP bed pillows can provide the following benefits for sleepers:
- Improved comfort throughout the night
- Less pressure on the nose, mouth, and other areas of the face
- Fewer air leaks and better airway alignment
- Optimal airflow delivery from the CPAP machine
- Neck support and proper spinal alignment
In terms of price-point, most CPAP bed pillows are sold for $70 or less. The average price range of products we reviewed was $45 to $50.
Important Considerations for CPAP Bed Pillow Shoppers