Do you often feel tired and irritable when you wake up and throughout the day despite being properly rested? If your loud snoring or occasional gasping for air while you're asleep is keeping your spouse from sleeping at night, you could have sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea is a common form of severe sleep disorder that millions are experiencing every day. Yet, many are ignorant of its mere existence or the bad outcomes it leads to. This time, we dwell on sleeping apnea, its causes, symptoms, treatment options, and how we can use a pillow to help you sleep it off loudly and slumber into the deep night. Want to know more? Here are the details.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is generally characterized by interrupted breathing cycles or shallow breathing during sleep. It causes sleep disruptions and leads to a variety of health consequences. If left untreated, it can result in more significant issues, including high blood pressure or heart problems, loud snoring, and fatigue throughout the day.

This disorder is distinct from primary or regular snoring. Primary snoring can be brought on by disorders of the nose or throat, back or obesity, depressive usage, or any combination of these factors.

Common Symptoms

  • Interrupted breathing every 10 seconds and loud, disturbing snoring noises.
  • Extreme daytime drowsiness, headaches in the morning, and difficulties focusing.
  • Reduced sexual libido, frequent overnight urination, and dry mouth or scratchy throat upon awakening.
  • Possible major health issues like hypertension, heart disease, and stroke.

How Severe is Sleep Apnea, if at all?

However, the severity of sleep apnea differs according to the rate of breathing cessation in sleep and the possible health conditions. Prompt identification and treatment are necessary; otherwise, any type of sleep apnea can bring about health issues such as daytime sleepiness, a higher risk of car accidents, metabolic matters, heart conditions, and problems during surgical procedures.

The apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) determines the degree of sleep apnea, which indicates the frequency of occurrences per hour, and the severity of sleep apnea, which can be mild, moderate, or severe. Severe and untreated sleep apnea can be deadly in many instances, mainly because it increases the chance of having severe health issues that can eventually be fatal, if not the illness itself.

Bullet points briefly listing common sleep apnea symptoms with a representative graphic next to it

Types of Sleep Apnea

There are three main types of sleep apnea, each with its unique causes and symptoms.

1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most widespread among the other forms. The disease occurs when the throat is blocked. This happens when the soft tissues in the neck block the throat, the tongue pulls back, or the muscles' throat at the back relax so the air cannot pass through the throat.

Thus, your body and brain receive less and less oxygen, which eliminates the peace of the sleep stages and lowers oxygen levels in the blood. Excessive daytime sleepiness and mild and continuous snoring, gasping or choking in sleep, morning headache, and euphoria are symptoms of OSA.

Because fat around the neck in excess blocks the airway and leads to difficulty in breathing, people who are overweight or obese are at higher risk of developing OSA. Sleep apnea is more likely in men, the elderly, and those with a family history of the disease.

2. Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)

The lack of central sleep apnea (CSA) is observed only in % of cases, primarily meaning that it is rare. It is due to a problem with the brain's respiratory control center, which cannot give the muscles the proper indications for breathing. There is a difference in non-obstructed sleeping time (NOA or NOSE), where the faulty messages originating from the brain cannot maintain regular breathing in the third person.

Moments of not being able to take a breath while sleeping, having trouble breathing after waking, not being able to go to sleep, and losing interest throughout the day are all characteristics of chronic sleep apnea (CSA). Some physical problems, such as brain tumors, heart dysfunction, and stroke, can cause CSA. In addition, medication-induced symptoms may also cause it.

3. Complex Sleep Apnea (CompSA)

The combined condition of OSA and CSA is complex sleep apnea or CompSA. CompSA occurs when someone with OSA receives continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, yet the treatment exacerbates the patient's symptoms of chronic cough. Only 15% of patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSA) who begin breathing support (CPAP) may suffer from this condition.

Complimentary Symptoms of Sleep Apnea, which are heavy snoring, irregular breathing, and sleep interruptions, result from a combination of the two types of sleep apnea. It is a challenge to make a correct diagnosis as their symptoms resemble both OSA and CSA.

Impact of Sleep Apnea On You

Sleep apnea is the issue where the person's breathing is repeatedly disturbed by its ceasing and resuming cycles. In contrast, the person is asleep, preventing the body's oxygen levels from being correctly balanced. This creates a lot of problems.

To begin with, the constant interruption of sleep affects your well-being throughout the day, and you feel exhausted. Imagine trying to recharge your phone, but it keeps getting unplugged before it's fully charged—that's what happens to your body when you can't get a good night's sleep.

And it's not just about feeling sleepy; it also affects your mood. You might feel grumpy, sad, or just plain out of sorts. Plus, your brain doesn't work well when you're sleep-deprived, so you might have trouble concentrating or remembering things.

Like driving a car with a foggy windshield, seeing is far more challenging, and you will likely make mistakes. Sleep apnea can throw a wrench into your daily life, making everything from work to getting through the day much more complex than needed.

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or background. However, certain circumstances might raise one's chance of getting this illness.

  • No matter whether someone is a child or an adult, a man or woman, belongs to what nation or religion, he or she can suffer from sleep apnea.
  • A broad neck circumference, obesity, the natural aging process, being a man, and history are all culprits in sleep apnea.
  • Besides these anatomical problems, the internal structures of the throat, such as large tonsils and adenoids, short airways, etc., can increase the risk.
  • Besides big tonsils or adenoids, the risk persists with restricted airways.
  • During attacks of sleep apnea, menopausal women are the most vulnerable.
  • Sleep apnea management and prevention can easily be facilitated by identifying and treating all these risk factors.
  • Smoking increases the risks
  • Nasal congestion(Use of alcohol, sedatives, or tranquilizers)
Bullet points briefly listing causes of sleep apnea with a similar icon next to it

Sleep Apnea Pillow

Pillows for sleep apnea can support and align the upper neck, head, and spine to keep breathing pauses at a minimum level.

The pillow is made of soft fabric with properties similar to wool for these features. As for the durable material, you might find a pad made of the same stuff. It is known to be easy to use and deliver all the necessary comfort; hence, it matches those with allergies, asthma, or sleep apnea.

Best Pillow for Sleep Apnea

A few different kinds of pillows are available to assist in reducing the symptoms of sleep apnea. The most typical ones are:

1. Contour Pillows

Providing these pillows, whose form is isolated, offers a lot of strength in holding and comforting the shoulders, head, and neck. The most effective way to sleep apnea, a pillow position, is to give the airway an open and less airway forcing. This is very effective for snoring. Convex pillows are desired among sleep apnea patients since they reduce the pressure exerted on the body and, thus, promote the proper alignment of the spine.

2. Wedge Pillows

These triangle-shaped pillows intend to raise the upper torso, which keeps the airways open and lessens snoring. Those who suffer from heartburn or acid reflux while they sleep can also benefit from a sleep apnea pillow wedge-shaped because of its raised posture, which helps keep stomach acid from rising in the esophagus.

A sleep apnea pillow, especially a wedge-shaped one, is excellent for relief for a side sleeper. One of the best wedge pillows for sleep apnea is the MedCline Reflux Relief System. Its unique design elevates the upper body to the ideal position to treat acid reflux and sleep apnea.

3. Memory foam pillows

Memory foam is very popular for pillows because it can be very soft and supportive and correctly settles the length and shapes of a human's neck and head. A sleep apnea patient may recognize these as they allow the airways to stay open, which results in decreased snoring.

Memory foam pillows not only provide well-known pressure-relieving benefits but also can be very useful for people with sleep apnea-linked neck stiffness or discomfort due to their good height options and excellent support for the head and shoulders.

4. CPAP pillows

Continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, involves wearing a mask connected to a machine that creates compressed air to keep the airways open. This is a standard therapy for sleep apnea. Patients with sleep apnea benefit from CPAP pillows because they are mainly made with cuts or shapes to fit the CPAP mask, making it more comfortable and secure.

5. Cervical Pillows

Their contoured design for more comfortable natural cervical pillows is a marvelous solution for obstructive sleep apnea if you have been diagnosed with this condition. This neck sleep apnea pillow is an excellent source of relief for patients with sleep apnea conditions through the liberation of pressure points and the proper alignment of the body.

They can also help reduce snoring and improve breathing while you sleep. These pillows can keep the airways open during breathing due to the correct positioning of the head and neck, reducing the chances of obstructive events caused by a lack of support.

How To Use Sleep Apnea Pillows?

Back Sleepers

Patients with OSA should avoid lying on their backs, as this will decrease the possibility of airway obstructions due to gravity moving the muscles in the mouth towards the neck. Suppose you feel more comfortable being on your back. In that case, you may try a sleeping position on a wedge-shaped hard pillow, making it difficult for gravity to release your OSA, causing it to exacerbate. Or maybe you will try lying down on the floor.

Side Sleepers

A tailored oral appliance from a dentist is an excellent option besides a CPAP machine. So you won't be bothered by how your treatment affects your sleeping posture. A moderate to medium loft gel or memory foam pillow is often pleasant for side sleepers.

The pillow's experience will be extremely good if it is typical to be a 1—to 4-inch gel or memory foam one. Those designed in this way could very easily increase the lifetime of their users' lives.

People with Allergies

Certain fiber kinds tend to gather allergens, which might aggravate your sleep apnea by irritating your respiratory system. In addition to cleaning your bedroom as much as possible, you might find it helpful to use a pillow built especially for allergy sufferers; these pillows are often composed of materials that don't gather dust and other allergens. For best results, use it with a hypoallergenic pillowcase.

Do Pillows Help Sleep Apnea?

Some people, especially those with mild to severe obstructive sleep apnea, find that using a sleep apnea pillow helps manage their symptoms. These specialty pillows encourage the correct head and neck positions during sleep, which helps to improve airway alignment and lessen snoring. However, it's essential to understand that these pillows are not a stand-alone treatment for sleep apnea, even if they could provide some relief.

When Pillows Don’t Help

If you think you have sleep apnea or if you have been diagnosed with it, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider. Although continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy and oral appliances are two additional treatment choices for sleep apnea, sleep apnea pillows should not be used instead of professionally authorized therapies.

Obtaining health care consists of accurate diagnosis, patient-specific treatment programs, and continuous monitoring, which lead to the successful treatment of sleep apnea and related health concerns.

If you notice that you are extremely lazy during the day, your snores are very loud, and you are gasping or choking, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. At the same time, you should sleep to receive an assessment and proper treatment.