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Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Gadgets and Devices

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Position Pillows for Sleep Apnea

Pillows to help relieve sleep apnea, designed to be used with the CPAP machine or without, are widely sold online. They come in various styles, including a wedge shape, which is designed to elevate your upper body.

According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, sleeping on your back with your back elevated from the waist up may help keep your airway from collapsing and, in turn, reduce apnea events. Use foam wedges, not soft pillows, according to the ASAA.

Sleep apnea pillows that are designed to be used without CPAP position your neck so the airway is more likely to remain open. Pillows to be used with the CPAP are meant to make it more comfortable to use. Some have features that reduce pressure from the mask or keep the mask from rotating out of place.

A small 2010 study of pillow use with CPAP showed that they do improve comfort. But people in the study were no more likely to keep using their CPAP machines than those who didn’t use special pillows.

Tennis Balls for Sleep Apnea?

About half of people with sleep apnea experience most of their breathing problems during sleep while lying on their backs, experts have found. To stop people from sleeping on their backs, some doctors suggest putting a couple of tennis balls into a tube sock and pinning it to the back of your night gown or shirt.

A 2006 study of the tennis ball technique showed it did help some people. Of the 50 people who used the tennis ball method and reported back, 38% said they were still using it after six months.  Those who were using it reported better sleep quality, more daytime alertness, and a decrease in the loudness of their snoring.

CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure)

CPAP machines use a mask that fits over your nose or nose and mouth. The mask is held in place with straps and blows air at a pressure determined by your doctor. The pressure keeps the airway open during sleep.

Over the years, these devices for sleep apnea have become smaller, lighter weight, and much quieter. There are some common side effects -- such as nasal congestion, dry mouth, and skin irritation. But all can be treated.

The key to using a CPAP is making sure it’s comfortable. Because there are several different models sold, you should be able to find a mask that works for you.

CPAP is highly effective, according to the National Sleep Foundation. But the key to success, as doctors emphasize, is to use the machine every night.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on June 24, 2013
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