Best Pillows for Snoring Noise and Sleep Apnea Troubles

That awful snoring noise can’t be ignored, or covered up, so you are sleeping apart.  The two of you just can’t live like this anymore.  All that snoring noise has got to stop – now! 

Maybe you have tried some anti-snoring devices that just didn’t work, even though they worked for other people you know. 

What are you doing wrong?

Why can’t you kill that snoring noise?

Keep reading to discover why most anti-snoring solutions don’t work for most people, and how you can shut off that snoring noise for good.

Women Suffer When Their Men Snore

Women can’t sleep at night, wake up with headaches, have trouble staying awake during the day, and feel worn out, because their man snores. [6]

What Causes All That Snoring Noise?

My non-doctor understanding of this is quite simple.  When you sleep, the muscles relax, and gravity takes over.  The result is that the airway is partially blocked, and the air moving past the blockages causes the snoring sounds.

The tissues in the pharynx area (basically the nasal cavity) are said to “collapse”. 

In addition to that, gravity moves the tongue backwards to block off the throat.

When you fall asleep your body muscles relax.  That includes your neck muscles, which permits the tissues at the back of your mouth to move closer together and block the airway.

Try this at home.  Lay on your back with your head on a pillow. Notice how well you breathe.  Then let your head drop towards your chest a little and you will instantly know just one of the causes of snoring and sleep apnea.

If your breathing is restricted even before you tilt your head downward, you need to adjust the pillow or get a new one.  I’ll say more about the best pillows for snoring noise as you keep reading.

Minor Causes of Snoring and Anti-Snoring Devices

Any cold, flu, allergy or sinus disease can cause snoring noises.  That’s because they block the sinus passages that lead to the throat.  Many people breathe through their mouth, because their nose is always congested.

If sinus congestion is your only problem, then Nasal Strips, Nasal Dilators, and Nasal Decongestants might solve your snoring problem.

That’s because they only solve SOME of the problems that cause all that snoring noise.

Indian Yogis Know A Thing or Two About Breathing

The yogis say that the air passing through the nose nostrils regulates your body temperature.  It happens automatically.

Have you ever noticed that one nostril is wide open and working great and the other nostril is all plugged up?  Then suddenly it’s just the opposite?  That is what the yogis are talking about.

That can be very inconvenient when sleeping on your side.

Indian Yogi

For example:  If you are sleeping on your left side and your left nostril is open, you would be breathing freely.  However, if the left nostril closes up, and the right nostril tries to open, it could be hampered by gravity.

Gravity can make the right nostril tissues to partially close off that nostril, causing snoring.

I have had this happen to me several times that I can remember.  All I did was to roll over onto my right side.  The right nostril opened up and I went back to sleep.

The problem was that I woke up, because I wasn’t breathing very well, and I was probably snoring.

So, in this case the nasal strips and nasal dilators are a solution that works, but for many people it is only a partial solution.  Which makes many people say it didn’t cure their snoring, because they don’t understand all of the reasons they snore.

2 Out of 3 Snorers Sleep on Their Backs [2]

Many snorers who do not have sleep apnea, can stop snoring by sleeping on their sides.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t work for everyone.  Are you the one that it doesn’t work for?  Keep reading to find out.

65.8% of snorers, did so while back sleeping. [2] In that study of 76 people the severity of snoring was tested in relationship to: neck size, age, body weight, and whether they were male or female.

1 Surprising Discovery Increases Snoring

The only thing that made any difference, was body weight.  The higher the person’s Body Mass Index (BMI), the more they snored. [2]

How 53.8% of Sleep Apnea Patients Cut Snoring In Half

2077 obstructive sleep apnea patients were studied while sleeping on their backs (supine posture), and on their sides (lateral posture). [1]

53.8% of them had twice as many breathing problems (apnea and hypopneas) when they slept on their backs (supine posture), than they did when sleeping on their sides.

For these obstructive sleep apnea patients, the most practical and convenient sleep solution was to sleep on their sides.  Although that only solved half of the problem.

The other 46.2% of the 2077 patients had breathing problems when sleeping on their back AND, when sleeping on their side. 

Therefore, the study recommended the use of CPAP devices for those people. Before you go the CPAP route, you should try the best pillows for snoring and sleep apnea that I have found.  Keep reading!

The patient’s age did not make any difference, but their weight did make a huge difference.

Sleep apnea patients that weighed more, and had a higher Body Mass Index (BMI), were more likely to have sleep problems when back sleeping and side sleeping.

Lose Fat and Snore Less

Two different studies showed that snorers with (and without) sleep apnea, snored more as they put on more weight. [1, 2]

So, will you snore less if you lose weight?  Yes! Keep reading!

weight scale
Stop snoring noise by losing weight.

20 Snoring Men Tell No Lies

The Apnea/Hypopnea Index (AHI) was used to score the amount of snoring of 20 men. [3]

In an effort to reduce snoring, the men were treated with a decongestant nasal spray.  They also slept on their sides instead of on their backs.

Snoring frequency was NOT reduced.  Although there was some minor improvement in the amount of sleep problems as scored in the Apnea/Hypopnea Index.

Then 19 of those men went on a 6-month weight loss program.  Twelve of them lost at least some weight.

Three men lost an average of 16.7 pounds.  The number of times those men snored per hour dropped from the average of 328 down to almost ZERO!

The other nine men who lost more than 6.6 pounds, but less than 16.7 pounds, only reduced their snoring to 176 snores per hour.

Let me add, that the men also used the nasal decongestant and slept on their sides, but that was considered to be a minor factor in the reduced snoring.

Richard’s Simple Snoring Cure

I like to start sleeping on my back, and later in the night I will side sleep.  So, shortly after laying down I can feel the airway closing off to where I have trouble breathing.  Which means I’m about to snore, and possibly have sleep apnea problems too.

However, all I have to do is to turn my head to the left, and my airway is open.  So, naturally I just start sleeping with my head turned left.

It occurred to me many years ago that this must be why emergency medical trainers tell you to turn an unconscious person’s head to aid their breathing.

Turning my head to the right also helps my breathing, but not nearly as much as turning to the left. That might be different for you.

This isn’t a foolproof method, because everyone changes their sleep positions as they sleep. Also, there are multiple causes of snoring.

Back Sleeper Snoring vs. Side Sleeper Snoring

The second study, mentioned above, also showed that side sleeping reduces snoring. [2] That is the result of less blockage of the airway, as we will see in this next study.

Sleep apnea problems are diagnosed by using Drug Induced Sedated Sleep Endoscopy (DISE).  It is also called Sleep Nasoendoscopy (SNE) or just, Sleep Endoscopy.

Essentially the person is sedated and they stick a camera into the mouth.  The idea is to see what tissues collapse and restrict the airway during sleep.

Sleep Endoscopy is normally performed with the patient on his back and the head turned to the side (I wonder where they got that idea).  In this study they also tested with the patient sleeping on his side. [4]

When the patients side slept, 15.0% of them had a full collapse of the soft palate (velum) tissues, and another 15% of them had a partial collapse.

Whereas, when they slept on their backs with the head turned left, 6.7% of them had a full collapse and 3.3% had a partial collapse.

However, this was just one area of collapse. 

There are other nasal areas that could, and did collapse.  Take note, that these other areas had greater collapse for side sleepers and less for back sleepers.  Just the opposite of the soft palate collapse location.

The net result is that back sleepers and side sleepers, can both have snoring problems.  Even the same person can snore in both sleep positions, but for slightly different reasons.

Another study [5] showed that the severity of sleep apnea events was worse for back sleepers than side sleepers.  So, that indicates to me that side sleeping might be a better choice for snorers that don’t have sleep apnea.

Pillows for Snuffing Out Snoring…

A cervical pillow that tilts the head backwards (called head extension) can relieve snoring and other breathing problems for people with Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS). [7]

In that study they recommended a custom fit pillow.  Which isn’t normally available, but I expect to be able to show you how you can custom fit your own pillow.

A cervical pillow is supposed keep the neck bones properly aligned (neutral cervical lordosis).  That prevents spine/nerve/muscle pains and related problems.  All of which can cause poor sleep and snoring.

However, most people find cervical pillows uncomfortable.  Although if used long enough, the users DO find them comfortable, because they have better posture. 

Based upon my own experience, that means the muscles and neck bones are not properly aligned (during the day) to begin with.  So, the pillow feels uncomfortable.

However, over time the neck adjusts into proper alignment, and then they find the cervical pillow more comfortable at night.

Unfortunately, the roll-shaped cervical pillow is not the best anti-snoring pillow for everyone. That’s because it supports the neck, but not the head.

Anti-Snore Pillows: Orthopedic vs. Memory Foam vs. Feather Pillow

In this study an orthopedic pillow (no longer available) outperformed the other pillows. [8] Three characteristics were compared while the patients were laying upon their backs in the supine position:

  1. Ability to hold the neck bones in the proper cervical curve position.  The memory foam was not firm enough, and the feather pillow was too thick.  One customer, who was not part of the study, said the orthopedic pillow was too hard, and therefore uncomfortable.
  2. Overall comfort.
  3. How cool the pillow was during its usage.  The memory foam pillow was much warmer than the orthopedic pillow, but not as warm as the feather pillow.

A Cool Pillow Provides Deeper Sleep

Studies have shown that a lower core body temperature, and lower head temperature, can result in deeper sleep.  This was related to lowering the heart rate which reduced the time to fall asleep. [8]

Anti-Snore Wedge Pillows and Mattress Elevators

Wedge pillows are able to reduce snoring causes for people that do not have sleep apnea. [9]

However, sleep apnea patients with moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), were also helped by elevating the head. [9] That’s because it prevents the tongue from obstructing the throat.

By tilting the bed (to raise the head) 7.5 degrees, the sleep apnea patients had a 31.8% reduction of symptoms.

Out of 52 patients in the study, 32 of them received benefit from having their head elevated, and 20 did not receive any benefit.  So, clearly the wedge pillow is not going to work for everyone.

The wedge pillow prevents the back of the tongue from blocking the airway.  That is caused by gravity pulling the tongue backwards as you sleep on your back.

So, the wedge pillow is an alternative to having to sleep on your side.

A Mattress Elevator Can Replace A Wedge Pillow

However, there is a better alternative, which is the mattress elevator.  It does the same thing as the wedge pillow, but it lets you use your current pillow. 

Also, it doesn’t force your body to contort to use it.  Which means you are not creating new problems while solving your Gerd or snoring problems.

As I have been researching this article, I realized that I could improve my sleep by replacing my current foam contour pillow. 

My old pillow looks like the one shown to the right, but mine could not be customized.

Now that I spend a lot of time at my computer, my shoulders are aching. That’s because my shoulders are pulled forward as I type.

I’m happy to say that I found the Miran Posture Pillow that allows my shoulders to relax backwards as I sleep. That will counteract the poor posture my keyboarding causes.

As I read all of the customer reviews, one woman said that it removed the “dowager’s  hump” that she was developing.

So, I have read most of the product descriptions of the various anti-snore pillows.  For several of those products, I have read all of the questions and product reviews.

All of which means that I have an excellent knowledge base to select the best anti-snore and anti-apnea pillow.

As I have already mentioned, back sleeping (supine position) is usually worse for snoring and sleep apnea breathing problems.  However, side sleeping (lateral position) isn’t a cure all either.

Rather it is a combination of sleep position and pillow design that is the most effective sleep apnea and snoring solution.  Which means that there isn’t a “best” pillow for snoring, or a “best” sleep apnea pillow that works for everyone.

How to Buy the Best Pillow for Your Personal Sleeping Problems.

The Easiest Minor-Moderate Sleep Apnea and Gerd Solution

Elevating your head will greatly or even completely remove that awful Gerd taste from your mouth.  It is also, effective at reducing moderate sleep apnea breathing problems. 

This is accomplished by preventing the collapse of the airway tissues via gravity.  At the same time, snoring will be reduced or eliminated.

In my opinion the mattress elevator is a much better solution than a wedge pillow.  Although you may have your own personal reasons to go with the pillow, which is a very good option.

Cervical Pillows: A Back-Sleeper’s Snoring Solution

In their simplest form, it is nothing more than a rolled-up towel that you put under your neck. 

There are some variations, such as a round or square pillow that is thinner in the middle than on the edges.

A cervical pillow will properly position your head in order to keep your neck vertebra in-line with the rest of your spine.  

This keeps the airway open by preventing the tongue and other tissues from blocking the airway via gravity.

However, all by itself, this is really just a back-sleeper’s snoring solution. Often times, these are not the best choice for side sleepers. Side sleepers often complain that they are too soft, too hard, or not tall enough.

Contour Pillows Are Improved Cervical Pillows

There are numerous variations, but the simplest one is a foam pillow with an elevated ridge at the front edge of pillow.  That ridge provides the same neck support as the cervical pillow.  The remainder of the pillow supports the head.

Here are some examples:

All of them will reduce snoring noise and sleep apnea breathing problems to some degree.  Some of the seemingly minor differences can make a big change in effectiveness and comfort.

My initial favorite was the Therapeutica Orthopedic Sleeping Pillow.  It is a stiff foam, not memory foam.

It has a thoracic spine wedge at the front.  It is one of those little things that make a huge difference. 

It provides support for the spine from the mattress to the neck roll ridge on the pillow. 

For your best sleep, you want your entire spine to be supported and this provides it where other pillows don’t.

You will see a number of contour pillows that have a smaller, shorter version of this thoracic spine wedge. 

In my non-doctor opinion, those shorter versions are not doing the full job.  They are not a bad choice, depending upon your personal likes and dislikes.

The EPABO Contour Memory Foam Pillow is what most people are looking for.

The memory foam is firm enough to provide proper support while side sleeping.

Also, there is a removable foam insert that can be removed to adjust the pillow thickness.

This pillow was designed for back, side, and stomach sleepers. Which is why it has so much appeal.

Stomach sleepers would probably remove the foam insert to be more comfortable.

The Best Pillows for Snoring Noise Summary

The best pillows for snoring noise will be different depending upon your other health issues. What works for one person may not work for you.

However, there are a number of factors that apply to everyone.

Sleeping on your back, or on your side, enables gravity to close off parts of the airway, which causes all that snoring noise.

Every back sleeper will have gravity pull the base of their tongue backwards to partially close off the throat. Sleeping on an incline should solve that problem. However, gravity will also tend to close off other parts of the passageway between the nose and the throat.

So, the next solution for back sleepers is to support the neck while the head is tilted backwards. To do this you would use a cervical pillow or a contour pillow.

This ensures that you can breathe freely through the mouth, if the tongue and soft palate tissues don’t “collapse” and block the throat. Unfortunately, that is what usually happens.

The Best Pillows for Snoring May Still Need Other Solutions

In my non-doctor opinion, you need to use both the mattress elevator and a contour pillow. If you are still making snoring noises like a bellowing elephant, then try sleeping on your side.

When side sleeping, the combination of different tissues collapsing changes somewhat, and that can make a big difference.

However, now that you are side sleeping, you may need nose strips or a nasal dilator. Especially if you have allergies, a cold or flu, or some other cause of sinus congestion.

If you are still making snoring noises like King Kong, you likely have sleep apnea. So, go see your doctor for a proper diagnosis. Chances are you will need a CPAP mask to provide better breathing.

If you are already using a CPAP mask, one customer of the Therapeutica pillow said that they worked well together.

People with acid reflux (Gerd) should start with a wedge pillow, or better yet (in my opinion) a mattress elevator. Then proceed as I have mentioned above in this summary.

If you have neck pain or back pain, the best pillows for snoring are also the best for pain relief. The numerous customer reviews I have read has made that very clear.

Although, the softer pillows generally don’t provide enough suppoort. So, you would want a firmer memory foam, or better yet, the Therapeutica or Miran pillows. Those pillows use a solid foam instead of a memory foam.

Last, but not least, lose 17.6 pounds of weight, sleep on your side, and use a nasal decongestant to stop snoring noise.

Sources and References

[1] The significance of body posture on breathing abnormalities during sleep: data analysis of 2077 obstructive sleep apnea patients.

[2] Evaluation of position dependency in non-apneic snorers.

[3] Treatment for snoring. Combined weight loss, sleeping on side, and nasal spray.

[4] Upper airway collapse during drug induced sleep endoscopy: head rotation in supine position compared with lateral head and trunk position.

[5] Association of body position with severity of apneic events in patients with severe nonpositional obstructive sleep apnea.

[6] Adverse health effects among women living with heavy snorers.

[7] Cervical positioning for reduction of sleep-disordered breathing in mild-to-moderate OSAS.

[8] Improving the Quality of Sleep with an Optimal Pillow: A Randomized, Comparative Study.

[9] The influence of head-of-bed elevation in patients with obstructive sleep apnea.

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