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What is a CPAP Pillow?

*Nothing in this article constitutes medical advice. Seek the guidance of a physician if you have any questions.*

Did you know that there are pillows designed for those using CPAP machines? CPAP is an acronym that stands for continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) therapy. CPAP therapy is one of the most effective but least invasive sleep therapy options for those suffering from sleep apnea. The continuous airflow keeps the airway and breathing passages clear, which eliminates the need to gasp for air during sleep apnea episodes. CPAP therapy includes a CPAP machine, a CPAP mask, and a tube that brings the machine and mask together. Some people find it challenging to sleep with the mask and tubing, and in those cases, a CPAP pillow would be beneficial. 

A CPAP bed pillow is a special bed pillow designed specifically for individuals who use a CPAP machine for sleep apnea therapy. They should not be confused with pillows that are advertised as “CPAP- friendly” pillows, because those are not designed for specifically for CPAP users. CPAP bed pillows are shaped differently and have a different texture with cutouts to accommodate the CPAP tubing and mask. CPAP masks are made for all sleeping positions, but most CPAP pillows are designed for side and stomach sleepers. Sleeping on one’s back usually leads to more sleep apnea episodes.

What Does a CPAP Pillow Look Like?

Every CPAP pillow design will vary, but the CPAP pillow shares a few key characteristics. They are:

  • Irregular Shapes: CPAP pillows usually have side cutouts on both sides. The cutouts are designed to accommodate the mask and hose. The cutouts on both sides also help both the left and right-handed sleeper, as well as those who switch sides throughout the night.
  • Curved Bottom: CPAP pillows usually feature a recessed bottom for the sleeper’s shoulders. This feature assists in keeping the neck and shoulders aligned properly.
  • Center Indent: Some sleepers find a slight dip in the middle of the pillow is more comfortable when it comes to keeping the neck and shoulders aligned properly.
  • Hose Tether: Some CPAP pillows offer a hose stabilizer which decreases the number of pulls and pressure on the mask throughout the night.
  • Material: CPAP pillows are generally composed of high-quality materials that offer head and neck support.

How does a CPAP Pillow Work?

A lot of times people who use a CPAP machine will have issues with their mask leaking air or shifting throughout the night. The problem usually comes from the sleeper using a regular bed pillow, which puts pressure on the face. However, the cutouts on both sides of the CPAP pillow helps the mask exhalation ports to stay open. This is how the CPAP pillow differ from the standard pillow because it helps the mask stay in place. The cutouts eliminate the need for re-adjusting the mask throughout the night. Many CPAP pillows use memory foam which offers additional support for the head and neck. Some are reversible, with each side being a different texture which offers a different experience, like a cool gel on one side and soft and plush on another side.

Benefits of using a CPAP Pillow

  • Reduces the pressure that the mask puts on the face.
  • Provides head and neck support.
  • Improves alignment of the spine and airway.
  • Maximizes the CPAP machine’s effectiveness.

Caring for Your CPAP Pillow

CPAP pillows are easy to take care of, and they can usually be machine washed with other clothes and linens. Keeping your CPAP pillow clean will also extend the life of your CPAP machine because you tend to have a healthier sleeping environment. Some CPAP pillows offer hypoallergenic covers, which are helpful for those with sensitive skin. Other CPAP pillows have antimicrobial properties which are beneficial for those suffering from allergies. Most CPAP pillows are made with durable materials and do not need to be fluffed like regular pillows, because they do not flatten. They are ergonomically designed and come in a large variety of shapes and styles.

How Much Are CPAP Pillows? Will My Insurance Cover It?

The price of CPAP pillows varies but can be found as low as $49.95 online, while others are priced at $200.00. The more expensive ones have all the bells and whistles such as cutouts on both sides, ergonomically designed, hypoallergenic, medical-grade cooling gel, and odorless memory foam. They are easy to find online and in regular stores like Wal-Mart, but a lot of insurance packages will not cover the cost of a CPAP pillow. However, there a CPAP pillow companies that offer an itemized receipt for those purchasing out of the network. Some insurance companies offer reimbursement, but it all depends on the insurance company.   

Do You Need a CPAP Pillow?

If you are not experiencing any problems with your CPAP machine, then you might not need one. Some sleep apnea patients are not so lucky. Their mask leak throughout the night or they wake up with red, sore places on their face from a standard pillow pressing their mask into their face.  If you feel great in the morning after sleeping with your CPAP machine, consider yourself lucky. For some, a CPAP mask used with a standard pillow forces the head back a little, which makes the jaw joint hurt, often feeling like an earache.

Things to Keep in Mind When Buying a CPAP Pillow

There is such a large variety of CPAP pillows, and many sleepers go through several pillows before finding the perfect design. The medical-grade foam is one of the cons for some because it tends to be too stiff, but other people love it. Some people find the height of these pillows problematic, but some pillows are adjustable. The ones that are too low you will have to put your arm or another pillow underneath it to keep from getting a stiff neck. Learning to sleep with the CPAP pillow is similar to learning how to sleep with the CPAP machine. Most people get used to the CPAP pillow in a week, but for some, it can take a little longer.

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