Obstructive sleep apnea is a surprisingly common sleep disorder affecting millions of people across the globe.
People with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) experience constant interruptions to their breathing during sleep; their airways relax and block until the body's natural reflexes wake them up to resume normal breathing.
For many people, the condition can be treated with CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy. CPAP therapy uses air pressure to keep the airways open and air is delivered via a tube and mask. There are a variety of mask types. Some fit over the nose or whole face and are worn while you sleep.
CPAP therapy can be very effective, but a number of people stop their therapy. Some of the reasons given are:
- nasal congestion
- dry mouth
- an uncomfortable or poorly fitting mask
- nasal pressure sores
- eye irritation
- creased skin
- air leaks because the mask slips or moves
Some people can overcome initial problems with their therapy by trying a different type of mask or sleeping position.
However, Contour products carried out a survey and discovered that the type of pillow may also play a significant role in comfort and compliance when using CPAP therapy. Some of the issues that Contour products identified and needed to review included:
- Accommodation for the mask and tubing
- Temperature regulation on the surface of the pillow
- Comfort and support issues
- Pillow size and its impact on the sleeping partner too.
After developing a patented product, Contour products carried out further surveys in 2011. They targeted people who used their specially designed CPAP pillow and some sleep specialists too.
Results showed that users reported less issues with mask slippage and more comfort and compliance when using a pillow designed for CPAP therapy. Their study showed that pillow choice is an important consideration for maximum comfort and ensuring that people stick to their CPAP therapy.
Choosing a suitable pillow
The Sleep Foundation has put together some key points that you should consider when choosing a suitable CPAP pillow:
- Sleep position: side sleepers should look for a space for their masks. Some pillows have a cut-out or curve to accommodate the mask and prevent it slipping.
- Pillow height or 'loft': side sleepers require more neck support than people who sleep on their backs or stomachs.
- Firmness: most pillows designed for CPAP therapy are medium to firm to provide the necessary support when you wear a mask. Most people adjust quickly to a firmer pillow.
- Materials: most CPAP pillows use memory foam or polyfoam (or combination). These are synthetic materials. If you prefer natural materials look for latex options.
- Temperature regulation: memory foam and polyfoam tend to hold the heat. if you are concerned about becoming too hot, you need to look for pillows that feature 'improved airflow', 'heat regulation' or gel memory foam.
Contour products have three pillows which feature in a number of reviews and incorporate some of the key benefits and features that can help CPAP users sleep more comfortably and stick to their CPAP therapy.
THE CPAP PILLOW 2.0
This pillow is shaped and designed to keep masks in place and reduce pressure where the mask is positioned on the face. Its ergonomic design includes contours, depressions for ears, a side cut-out for the mask -- and a tether for the tube. This 2.0 version has a patented orthopedic contour which is designed to support the neck, head and spine. Reviewers have described it as 'soft yet supportive' and comment that it 'reduces wrinkles'
Bestreviews feature this pillow and comment on its 'hose stability':
CPAP MAX 2.0
The key feature of this pillow is the adjustable height. This pillow has removable layers so that you can choose from four different pillow heights. It is also a two-sided pillow so users can choose to use the 3D mesh side to reduce heat and increase air flow, or the hypoallergenic fiberfill side which feels more like a traditional pillow. Again, Bestreviews feel this is one of their 'top picks' due to its double-sided options and ability to 'retain its shape':
CPAP COOL FLEX PILLOW
The key feature of this pillow is the flexible neck zone. You can bend this section of the pillow to support the neck and mask. It also uses gel and 'Phase Change Material' which responds to body heat to maintain a comfortable temperature while you sleep.
Like Contour's other pillows, it also includes basic features like the hose tether and cut outs (which are also adjustable) to accommodate the type of mask worn.
CPAP therapy is effective when used consistently. It's important to follow your healthcare provider's advice about the most appropriate mask and device. Your healthcare provider or sleep specialist may also be able to offer some guidance in choosing an appropriate pillow if you are finding it difficult to maintain your therapy.
For more information about obstructive sleep apnea, CPAP therapy and pillow development:
To shop for Contour pillows in our webstore:CHECK IN STORE