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Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Gadgets and Devices

Position Pillows continued...

Sleep apnea pillows that you can use without a CPAP machine position your neck so your airway is more likely to stay open. Ones you use with the machine are meant to make you more comfortable when you wear your CPAP mask (which opens your airways while you sleep). Some have features that reduce pressure from the mask or keep it from rotating out of place.

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

Tennis Balls?

About half of people with the disorder have most of their breathing problems when they sleep on their backs. That position can make your tongue and soft palate rest against the back of your throat and block your airway. 

Sleeping on your side may improve your symptoms. To keep you off your back, some doctors suggest pinning a tube sock filled with a few tennis balls to the back of your nightshirt.

One study of the tennis ball technique showed it did help some people. Of the 50 people who used the method and reported back, 38% said they were still doing it after 6 months. They said they had better sleep quality, more daytime alertness, and quieter snoring.


That stands for continuous positive airway pressure. These machines use a mask that fits over your nose or nose and mouth. It blows air at a pressure that keeps your airway open during sleep. Your doctor can tell you the right pressure to use and how to set it on the machine.

Over the years, these devices for sleep apnea have become smaller, lighter, and much quieter. Some common side effects include nasal congestion, dry mouth, and skin irritation -- but treatments can relieve all of them.

The key to using a CPAP is to make sure it’s comfortable. You can choose from a few different models, so you should be able to find a mask that works for you.

The device works very well, according to the National Sleep Foundation. But doctors say the key to success is to use the machine every night.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on October 27, 2015
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