Snoring and sleep apnea

How the Right Pillow Can Help Alleviate Snoring


Snoring isn’t just a nuisance for the other people in the house who are trying to sleep. It can also be a health hazard.

Sleep Apnea – Most Common Cause of Snoring

If your snoring is a result of apnea (stopping breathing while sleeping) or hypopnea (not getting enough breath), it can disturb your sleep cycles. That’s because deep sleep requires total relaxation. When your brain senses that you’re not getting enough breath, it prompts you to at least partially wake up so you can get a good breath. If this is happening frequently throughout the night, you’ll not only wake up feeling groggy, but you’ll be sleepy during the day.

In addition to irritability and difficulty focusing, lack of sleep can contribute to making poor dietary choices and impair your driving. It can also lead to health problems such as circulatory diseases, long- and short-term memory issues, hormone imbalance, and longer recovery time from exercise and injury.


Pillow – A Good Place To Start

There are several approaches to treating sleep apnea and other sleep disorders that a physician may prescribe. But for those of you that have not reached that level of severity but continue to saw the log throughout the night, the best place to start is with your pillow. Yes, your pillow.

Triggers of Breathing Problems

That’s because one of the things that can trigger breathing problems while sleeping is your body position. Other factors can include:

    • Alcohol consumption
    • Excessive weight
    • Lack of exercise
    • Seasonal allergies
    • Air-borne particles, such as smoke and dust
    • Certain foods too close to bed time
    • Illnesses, such as colds and sinus infections

A word about sleep positions

Sleeping on your back is more likely to cause snoring than sleeping on your side. When your body relaxes, the position of your head and neck determines which way the tissues in your mouth and throat collapse if they are overly relaxed. When you’re lying flat on your back, collapsed tissues are more likely to block your airway and cut off your breath.

So one of the first things medical practitioners will recommend is to sleep on your side. If you simply cannot sleep on your side, one way to combat airway obstruction is to elevate your head and/or torso. An adjustable bed can help, but how many of us can afford that? An alternative is a wedge, which elevates the upper body. If the wedge doesn’t work, however, it can’t be adjusted.

Side sleeping helps in two ways. First, it keeps tissues of the mouth, soft palate, and throat–especially the tongue–from falling into your airway. Also, your lungs can expand more fully when sleeping on your side than when you sleep on your back.


Picking the right pillow

Whether on your back or your side, a good pillow can keep your head comfortable and your neck in line with your spine. A study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science concluded that pillows with uniform heights are not suitable for a supine (on the back) or side-lying position. In the case of both positions, users should be allowed to select pillows in shapes that can support the neck.

Remember to make sure that your pillow, like Goldilocks’ bed, is just right—elevation can help open airways, but too much elevation can actually constrict them, so a super thick pillow may not be the answer.

Among the best pillows for proper support of your head and neck are shredded memory foam pillows, followed closely by shredded latex pillows. Shredded memory foam has several advantages for anyone looking for a better night’s sleep.

Advantages of Shredded Memory Foam

    • Memory foam is a great material for contouring and adapting to the individual, but solid memory foam is heavy and retains heat. The small, fluffy pieces of shredded memory foam make for a lighter and more breathable pillow.
    • While we’re talking about foam pillows, a note about molded foam pillows: don’t bother! They’re a terrible idea. They seldom fit the individual user and can throw your head out of alignment with your spine.
    • Memory foam is also hypoallergenic and dust mite-resistant. Shredded memory foam’s breathability helps reduce allergens by allowing air to circulate through the pillow, even when in use.
    • Also consider your pillow covering. While cotton is a good choice for a natural and breathable fiber, bamboo rayon is actually better. Its longer fibers are stronger, softer, more absorbent and more breathable than cotton. Also, bamboo has inherent antimicrobial properties.
    • It’s important that you choose a pillow that can be properly cleaned so you can keep allergens and dust mites to a minimum.  High density foam is inherently dust mite resistant. In addition, there are shredded foam pillows that work with special coverings to make them washable and dryer safe, without the possibility of breaking down or clump together in the process.


Further Help

For more tips from Dr. Rick Swartzburg, go to Dr. Swartzburg has been a practicing chiropractor for more than two decades and is a regular online contributor, helping readers with a variety of pain-related issues, in addition to overseeing product development with Relief-Mart, Inc., the distributors of memory foam pillows and mattresses found at