cpap pillow layers

What is the Best CPAP Pillow?

This post was originally posted on June 14, 2019, and updated on June 13, 2022.

For patients who use CPAP machines, the relief from symptoms of sleep apnea is almost immediate. You start to sleep better and wake up refreshed. For those struggling to adjust to CPAP therapy or those who are looking to enhance their experience, it might be time to consider a CPAP pillow.

What is a CPAP Pillow?

Continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) therapy, the most effective and least invasive sleep therapy option, works by delivering constant pressurized airflow to the sleeper’s airways. The airflow keeps the airway and breathing passages open, thus reducing or fully eliminating apnea episodes that leave the sleeper gasping for air in the middle of the night. CPAP therapy requires a CPAP machine, a CPAP mask, and a tube connecting the machine to the mask. For some, sleeping with a CPAP mask connected to a tube can be a challenge. For these patients, a specialized pillow may be the answer.

A CPAP pillow is a specialized bed pillow that is designed for individuals who use a CPAP machine for sleep apnea therapy. These pillows have a different shape and texture—usually dimpled and feature cutouts to accommodate for the mask and hose. Although there are CPAP masks for all sleeping positions, CPAP pillows are more for side and stomach sleepers only as back sleeping leads to more frequent apnea episodes.

Note: A “CPAP bed pillow” is shaped for CPAP users. A “CPAP-friendly” pillows are not specially designed for CPAP users.

A CPAP pillow is made of memory foam and contoured for a perfect fit.

What Does a CPAP Pillow Look Like?

While each pillow design may vary, CPAP pillow share a few key characteristics. These include:

  • Irregular Shapes: CPAP pillows often feature side cutouts on both sides. This design gives space for the mask and hose. The cutouts are on both sides to allow for left or right-handed sleepers or those who switch sides over the course of the night.
  • Curved Bottom: CPAP pillows often feature a recessed bottom for the sleeper’s shoulders. This helps keep the neck and shoulders aligned.
  • Center Indent: A slight dip in the middle of the pillow allows the neck to align properly.
  • Hose Tether: Some pillows offer a hose stabilizer to help reduce pulls and pressure on your mask throughout the night.
  • Material: CPAP pillows are typically made of material that offers additional head and neck support.

How Does a CPAP Pillow Work?

Often times, CPAP users have to deal with mask shifting or leaking due to facial pressure from a regular bed pillow. The cutouts on either side of a CPAP pillow allow the mask exhalation ports to stay open. As a result, rather than being pushed out of place, your seal will stay intact throughout the night even if you move around at night.

With the use of particular materials—ie, memory foam—CPAP pillows offer additional support to the head and neck that regular pillows provide. These pillows often come in adjustable heights to best suit your needs. Plus, the sturdy support maintains better alignment, thus reducing the instances of neck pain, spinal issues, and reduces apneas.

Finally, the pillows are often designed with multiple comfort in mind. The pillows are often reversible with each side offering a different pillow experience (ie, cool gel vs soft and plush).

Our Recommendations:

Contour CPAPmax Pillow 2.0 with Cover

The CPAPmax Pillow is an ergonomically-designed, orthopedic comfort bed pillow with adjustable comfort and support options for all types of sleepers. The pillow itself is made of ventilated support and memory foam. It offers two different sleep surfaces: a memory foam with a cool 3D mesh cover for better airflow or a hypoallergenic fiber fill for a soft, plush pillowtop feel. The inside core is color coded to allow you to select between four different heights ranging from 2.25” to 5.25.” Charcoal-infused layers help neutralize odors. The pillow comes with a 3” longer extended hose tether for greater comfort throughout the night.

CPAP Memory Foam Pillow

The CPAP Memory Foam Pillow is a multi-layered, reversible memory foam pillow designed to alleviate pressure from the CPAP mask. It molds to reduce pressure points and straighten your spine and neck. The ventilated memory foam promotes air circulation and allows to adjust the height, as needed. The pillow core consists of green tea for therapeutic sleep and mint and charcoal for reduced perspiration.

Tips for Picking the Best CPAP Pillow

When you start your search for a CPAP pillow, you should consider your own sleep habits. What position do you sleep on, what size pillow do you prefer, and can you easily clean and maintain the pillow? We believe CPAP therapy can be enhanced with this specialized add-on, so give it a try and let us know what you think.

Level of Firmness

The level of firmness in a pillow gives your head support while you sleep. While firmness is based on personal preference, you should choose a CPAP pillow that has enough firmness to keep your head slightly elevated, which helps with your CPAP therapy.

Accommodation of Mask

Sleeping with a CPAP mask can be difficult. Look for a CPAP pillow that has the proper contour and shape to accommodate a CPAP mask while still giving you the support you need.

Support of Pillow

The support that a CPAP pillow gives as a lot to do with related neck pain you may experience. They, like any good pillow will prevent your head and neck from resting at stressed angles, so you are pain-free in the morning,

Shape of Pillow

While molded foam CPAP pillows are now the most popular form, the crescent shape is one of the original designs. The pillow shapes to fit against the body without any excess, leaving plenty of room for whatever type of mask you use. 

Price of Pillow

CPAP pillows have a wide range of prices. Most good ones are available for less than $100. Choose the best pillow for comfort even if you have to pay a little more.

Materials Used in Pillow

Most high-quality CPAP pillows offer excellent support through the cervical spine. This is thanks to their design, but also their materials — most of them are made from memory foam, which provides soft comfort while still supporting the neck better than a traditional feather pillow.

Temperature Regulation of Pillow

Although memory foam and polyfoam are the ideal choice for most CPAP users, they do tend to retain heat throughout the night and can be uncomfortably warm for some people. Different manufacturers approach temperature regulation in different ways, with features like improved airflow and the use of gel memory foam.

Moldability of Pillow

Some CPAP pillows are made from shredded memory foam that can be molded and adjusted for the right amount of support and mask space. Most CPAP pillows cannot be adjusted this way, so customers should decide on their adjustability preferences before narrowing down their options.

Accommodation of Space in Your Room

The size of your bed and how many pillows you want on the bed is also an important factor. Make sure the CPAP pillows you select do not take up too much space.

Your Sleeping Position

How you sleep affects how effectively your CPAP pillow will work. Most CPAP pillows will indicate the ideal sleeping position for use or be flexible enough to adapt to varied sleeping positions if you are an active sleeper.

Final Words on CPAP Pillows for Comfortable CPAP Therapy

When you stay comfortable throughout CPAP therapy you improve CPAP compliance. A CPAP pillow is just one of the ways to enhance comfort during therapy so you can sleep peacefully.

As always, our team is here to help you with all your buying needs. Give us a call today!

Chris Vasta

Chris Vasta is the president of The CPAP Shop and an expert in sleep and respiratory therapy. He often provides insights on product design and functionality on various manufacturers’ prototypes and is frequently tapped to provide reviews on new releases.