1. Health
Send to a Friend via Email

Discuss in my forum

What Is a Sleeping Wedge Pillow?

Helpful for Sleep Apnea and Heartburn, But Not Safe for Infants

By

Updated April 09, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

What Is a Sleeping Wedge Pillow?
Getty Images

For adults with obstructive sleep apnea or heartburn characteristic of acid reflux, a sleeping wedge pillow may be recommended. What is a sleeping wedge pillow? How might it help relieve symptoms of sleep apnea or heartburn? Is a sleeping wedge safe to use for infants with reflux? Discover what a sleeping wedge is, how it might be used, and what safety precautions should be taken in infants.

Definition of a Sleeping Wedge Pillow

A sleeping wedge pillow is a moderately firm foam pillow that is a tapered incline and can be placed on top of a standard mattress to raise your head during sleep. It can be used in combination with other standard pillows. Sleeping wedges may have a removable cover that can be washed. They are sometimes inflatable and made of plastic.

Who Might Use a Sleeping Wedge?

Sleeping wedge pillows may be recommended in conditions where it is important to raise the head of the bed at night. Gravity can work against you when you lie on your back in the supine position. It may collapse your upper airway or lungs as the weight of your neck and abdomen shift. This may lead to interruption in breathing during sleep called apnea. The contents of your stomach, including acid, may also shift into your esophagus and lead to heartburn.

It can be advantageous to reposition your body to eliminate these occurrences. People with sleep apnea often find they sleep better in a reclining chair. Some even raise the head of the bed by stacking bricks or phonebooks under the bedposts at the head of their bed. A hospital or adjustable bed in which the head can be raised by 30 degrees can also be employed. For many people, these options are too expensive or are simply not feasible.

The sleeping wedge is able to accomplish the same thing as these other techniques. It may relieve the collapse of the upper airway that occurs in obstructive sleep apnea. It can improve heartburn that characterizes gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

An inclined sleeping position may be preferred in other situations. People with back pain may enjoy the additional lumbar and cervical spine support. A sleeping wedge can also be placed between the legs to relieve radicular pain. It may also provide some relief during pregnancy. Sleeping wedges are easily used when sleeping on your back, but they may prove more difficult to use by those who prefer to sleep on their sides or stomach.

Sleep Positioner Use in Infants

Though sleep wedges and related sleep positioners have previously been sold to use in infants with reflux, this practice is not currently recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Infants are unable to change their position adequately on their own. If their heads tip 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.

It is encouraged that infants be placed on their backs to sleep. They should sleep only on a flat surface without other bedding materials such as sleep wedges.

For adults who seek to raise the head of the bed, however, sleep wedge pillows may be an alternative home remedy treatment that is worth investigating.

Source:

"CPSC and FDA Warn Against Using Infant Sleep Positioners Because of Suffocation Risk: Initial Communication." U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Sept. 29, 2010. Accessed: July 28, 2012.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.