How a Sleeping Wedge Pillow Helps Snoring and Heartburn

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A sleeping wedge pillow can be a good solution if you experience obstructive sleep apnea or heartburn caused by acid reflux. If used properly and in adherence with safety precautions, it can help relieve symptoms of snoring, sleep apnea, or heartburn.

Overview

A sleeping wedge pillow is a moderately firm foam pillow with a tapered incline—shaped much like a big wedge of cheese—that can be placed on top of a standard mattress to raise your head during sleep. It may be used in combination with other standard pillows and may even be inflatable. Some wedge pillows are plastic and come with removable covers that can be washed. And the good news? They tend to be relatively inexpensive.

Uses

Sleeping wedge pillows are generally recommended for conditions where it is important to sleep with a raised head.

Lying on your back in the supine position can sometimes cause sleep apnea, which is a disorder characterized by an interruption of breathing during sleep. This position can also lead to acid reflux and heartburn, which is usually caused by stomach contents shifting into the esophagus during sleep.

Repositioning your body when you get ready for sleep is one simple way to improve these conditions. If you have sleep apnea, you may find you sleep better in a reclining chair. Or it may be helpful to raise the top of the bed by stacking bricks or books (if you still own any) under your bedposts. A pricier solution is a hospital or adjustable bed that can raise your head by 30 degrees or more.

If none of these appeal to you, a sleeping wedge pillow may be the best solution. The wedge pillow can help counter the collapse of the upper airway that occurs in obstructive sleep apnea and improve, or event prevent, heartburn from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

It can also provide additional lumbar and cervical spine support for lower back pain. Placed between the legs, a wedge pillow can relieve radicular lower back pain that radiates from an inflamed or compressed nerve. It may also provide some back pain relief during pregnancy.

Unfortunately, wedge pillows are generally less comfortable if you prefer to sleep on your side or stomach.

Sleep Positioners for Infants

While sleeping wedge pillows and sleep positioners—sometimes called "nests" or "anti-roll" products—have been used to help infants experiencing reflux, they are not recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Infants are unable to change their body position adequately on their own. If an infant's head tips too far forward, this could be dangerous and lead to suffocation. Ironically, sleep positioners are sometimes marketed to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), but there is no scientific evidence to support these claims.

To reduce the risk of sleep-related infant deaths, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants sleep on their backs on a flat, firm, empty surface. Bedding, including sleeping wedge pillows, should not be in the crib.

A Word From Verywell

All told, wedge pillows can be a good home remedy and worth investigating if you need to sleep with your head raised. But if symptoms persist, it is advisable to seek evaluation and treatment from a qualified physician.

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Article Sources

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  • "CPSC and FDA Warn Against Using Infant Sleep Positioners Because of Suffocation Risk: Initial Communication." U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Sept. 29, 2010.