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When looking to purchase a wedge pillow, it is helpful for a person to consider the support they need, the materials they would prefer, and their available budget. Additionally, people should consider their preferred sleeping position and any symptoms they hope to alleviate.
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A wedge pillow is a triangle-shaped pillow that elevates the head and, sometimes, part of the torso while a person sleeps. This body position may reduce snoring, back pain, and acid reflux, potentially helping a person get a better night’s sleep.
What are the different types of wedge pillows?
All wedge pillows provide support, but there are different types of wedge pillows that work in different ways.
These wedge pillows have a flat bottom and a sloped or contoured top. Triangular in shape, they may also have a cut-out along the bottom back edge for a person to place their arm. Individuals may use flat wedge pillows to support their back or legs.
A contoured wedge pillow often has a curved surface that might benefit side sleepers due to the spinal alignment provided.
A wedge pillow elevates the upper portion of the body, potentially helping a person sleep better and more comfortably. Some benefits of a wedge pillow include:
Reducing acid reflux: People with gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), heartburn during pregnancy, and other forms of reflux may find relief by sleeping with their head elevated. Keeping the head above the esophagus, which is the tube that runs from the throat to the stomach, makes it more difficult for acid to travel back up from the stomach.
- Reducing snoring: Snoring, which can interrupt sleep, may be a symptom of sleep apnea, which is a risk factor for many health conditions. Slightly elevating the head may reduce snoring by positioning the head and neck to keep the airways open and improve breathing.
- Nighttime congestion: Nighttime congestion from colds, the flu, or allergies can make it difficult to breathe. Elevating the head can make it easier for the sinuses to drain.
- Better sleep comfort: Some people find that a wedge pillow helps with other types of pain, such as shoulder pressure or headaches.
Some potential health risks of a wedge pillow may include:
- Suffocation in babies: It is not safe to use sleep positioners for babies, even if they have reflux. The
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)warns that these devices increase the risk of suffocation by making it more likely that a baby can fall into a position in which it is difficult to breathe.
- Discomfort: Wedge pillows can elevate a person into an awkward or uncomfortable position. Some people may be unable to sleep in an upright position, and others may find that these pillows cause pressure or pain in the hips or lower back.
When choosing a wedge pillow, people should think about why they want to sleep on an incline.
They can also try reading reviews from people who share the same medical condition for guidance on what works and what does not. Some specific factors to look at include:
- Incline degree: A higher gradient means that the pillow elevates the neck and head more significantly. A higher incline may offer more relief from GERD and congestion but might cause low back or hip pain in some people.
- Level of support: Some pillows primarily elevate the head and neck, while others raise and support the torso. This extra support can make even a steep incline feel more comfortable.
- Materials: A person should consider pillows made from breathable materials if they tend to overheat while sleeping.
- Price: People trying a wedge pillow for the first time may wish to consider a more affordable option first so that they can assess whether elevated sleep works for them.
- Warranty and in-home trial: It is advisable to check the manufacturers’ warranty and determine whether they offer a risk-free in-home trial.
- Customer reviews: People can read online reviews to learn how well pillows last over time and whether the manufacturers have a history of honoring their warranty.
Below are four wedge pillows that people could consider purchasing.
Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based.
MedCline’s Reflux Relief System pairs a wedge with a body pillow for customizable support in a semi-upright position. This pillow is suitable for side sleepers due to its armholes. Stomach sleepers may also be able to use this pillow because the wedge is breathable and does not contain materials that tend to overheat.
Users can customize the system to suit their height. However, the manufacturers caution that people with back or hip injuries may find that the angle intensifies their pain.
The MedCline Reflux Relief System is available for purchase online.
For sleepers who prefer a slightly lower angle with less elevation, this Coisum pillow provides breathable support that may ease shoulder pain and pressure, as well as alleviating heartburn and congestion.
The pillow features an armhole and a more affordable price tag than many other wedge pillows and is suitable for back and side sleepers.
The breathable, washable surface may have a cooling effect, making it a good choice for people who tend to sweat in their sleep.
The Coisum Memory Foam Pillow is available for purchase online.
This product has five different wedge parts that elevate the legs, lower back, and head. This elevation makes it a suitable choice for those who experience acid reflux, leg swelling, congestion, and other common health conditions.
The pillows have a non-slip outer material, and a person can arrange them in multiple positions for maximum comfort.
The pillows have a high-density memory foam top and use firm foam in the lower levels. The bamboo fiber cover is removable and machine washable.
This pillow is the most affordable one on the list, so it could be a good option for people who are uncertain whether a wedge pillow is right for them.
Its modest incline should suit stomach sleepers, who may find steeper wedges uncomfortable. The armholes can also accommodate side sleepers.
The contour pillow is a full-body pillow that may also provide some relief for hip and back pain. People can use the bottom portion of the body pillow to give them extra support between the knees.
The Remedy Contour Pillow is available for purchase online.
Some alternatives to wedge pillows include:
- An adjustable bed: Adjustable beds and mattresses allow sleepers to elevate their head and, in some cases, their feet. Some people find that this is a more comfortable and adaptable long-term solution.
- Traditional pillows: A stack of several standard pillows can elevate the head and neck, offering affordable and adjustable support.
- Custom pillows: Several manufacturers now offer custom or customizable pillow options.
It is fine to use a wedge pillow for temporary health issues, such as pregnancy-related heartburn, congestion from a cold or the flu, or occasional nighttime snoring.
However, any chronic medical issue warrants speaking with a doctor. A person should seek medical guidance if:
- their sleep issues get worse or do not improve with a wedge pillow
- home management strategies or prescription drugs do not work or suddenly stop working
- symptoms regularly interfere with sleep or well-being
- they feel chronically tired during the day, regardless of how much sleep they get
Below, we answer some frequently asked questions about wedge pillows.
Do I need to use a regular pillow on top of my wedge pillow?
This is very much down to a person’s preference. Regular pillows can work with wedge pillows to provide additional elevation and support. However, individuals may notice the pillow or themselves slipping, so they could try different kinds of pillows to find the most stable, comfortable, and supportive option.
How can I use a wedge pillow?
A person can use their wedge pillows in many ways, including:
- as elevation for the legs
- as a recliner, with the thinnest part of the wedge at the bottom of the mattress and the pillow in an upright position
- as a laptop surface
- for sleeping, to help with specific health conditions, such as sleep apnea
Is there a one-size-fits-all wedge pillow?
Every person is different, and their needs vary. What works for one person may not work for another. Individuals should assess their natural sleep position, material preference, and any health conditions to establish what will work best for them.
A wedge pillow may help with a wide range of health issues that can affect sleep. It may reduce symptoms of acid reflux, obstructive sleep apnea, or chronic pain.
However, the pillow does not cure the underlying condition. People should speak with their doctor if they continue to experience pain or discomfort, and the pillow does not improve their sleep.