For some people, the right pillow can be an effective weapon in the battle against snoring. That's because the position you sleep in can affect whether and how much you snore.
During sleep, your airways relax and narrow, and your tongue falls backward. As you breathe, the walls of your throat vibrate, causing the sound of snoring.
A pillow that puts you in a better position can reduce or maybe even erase the problem. Here are types of pillows to consider.
Anti-snore pillows. These pillows aim to align your head and shoulders to kеер your airways as open as possible, or keep you sleeping on your side. For some people, snoring is more likely when you sleep flat on your back.
These pillows come in many shapes, from rectangles to triangles to ovals. Unlike regular pillows, many are lower in the center and higher on the sides. The center part may be narrower and firmer than the sides. It might even have a cutout to stop you from rolling onto your back.
Many anti-snoring pillows are made with polyurethane, the building block of memory foam. It’s strong enough to keep you in position, and it provides neck support for comfort.
Some of these pillows are designed to make it more comfortable to sleep with a CPAP machine, a device used by some people who have sleep apnea.
Body pillows. Another way to get into the habit of side sleeping is to place a long, thick, bolster-shaped pillow against your spine. This keeps you from turning over onto your back. (And it’s a lot more comfortable than the old technique of sewing a tennis ball onto the back of your pajamas.)
Wedge pillows. If you just can't give up sleeping on your back, raising your head is the answer. But it’s not enough to prop up your head with extra pillows. That’s actually worse for your head, your neck, and your snoring. A wedge-shaped pillow, often made of memory foam, works because it supports your shoulders and back.
A wedge pillow could reduce snoring for some people with mild sleep apnea, which causes you to temporarily stop breathing over and over again in your sleep.
It can also help if you have acid reflux, in which stomach acids come back up your esophagus (the tube that connects your stomach to your throat). Propping up your upper body helps keep the acids from rising. Since reflux often goes hand-in-hand with apnea, a wedge pillow can ease both problems at once. Wedge pillows that put your upper body at about a 45-degree angle work best.
Not every pillow will work for everyone. Give yourself a few nights as a test. Before you buy any pillow, see if you’ll be able to return it if it doesn’t help with your snoring. A specialty pillow can cost well over $100. If it doesn’t work and you can’t return it, it can be an expensive experiment.
When a Pillow Isn’t Enough
Drinking alcohol can affect your airways. So can having nasal congestion. To keep yourself from snoring, avoid alcohol in the 4 hours before you turn in. If you have a stuffy nose, treat it with saline solution, nasal strips, steam, or medication. Snoring is more common among people who are overweight, so losing weight may help.
If these steps don’t work, your snoring may be from sleep apnea. The main warning sign of sleep apnea is feeling tired during the day, even after a full night’s sleep. Another telltale clue is if your bed partner tells you that you’re gasping for air many times throughout the night.
Talk to your doctor about getting checked for sleep apnea. It’s more than just loud snoring. It can raise your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke if it's not treated.