How to Sleep on a Wedge Pillow
Sleep is one of the most vital aspects of leading a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life. It seems the benefits of sleep are never-ending, including improved brain function, better mood regulation, reduced risk of disease, and more. Yet, according to the CDC, 35.2% of U.S. adults get less than the seven hours required to function correctly per night.
If you're part of that 35.2%, there is hope. Wedge pillows offer a convenient and beneficial method of sleeping better and relieving conditions such as snoring, sleep apnea, acid reflux, poor circulation, back pain, and more. In this article, we'll cover the essentials of foam wedge pillows, including what they are, their benefits, and how to use them properly.
What is a Wedge Pillow?
A wedge pillow, also known as a triangle pillow or elevation pillow, is a specially shaped orthopedic pillow with a sloped design. Bed wedge pillows, known for resembling triangular-shaped cheese, can lift the upper body or legs from 30 to 45 degrees (6 to 12") depending on the size and brand.
Because of their shape, triangle wedge pillows offer a better elevation method and stay in place more efficiently than standard shape pillows. They're typically made from polyfoam or memory foam which allows them to be more supportive. Their shape and materials make them popular for treating various sleep and pain conditions, which we'll cover later.
Sleep Better with the Bed Buddy Wedge pIllow
"As someone who suffers with GERD I have bought several of these in the past but never had one quite like this! I really can appreciate the fact that I can take the cover off and put it in my washing machine (unlike the other ones I've had which were too tight fitting to be able to do that). It is a very breathable fabric and the product itself comes wrapped in plastic inside of a convenient box.
I slept on it last night and could not tell that I wasn't even sleeping on a slight incline. Very comfy! Would recommend for those who suffer from reflux or someone who likes to read laying on an incline." - Amazon Review
Bed Wedge Uses and Benefits
What is a Wedge Pillow Good for?
Wedge pillows offer an incline that has many health benefits and uses. Not only that, but their distinctive shape makes them perfect for not just sleeping but lounging as well. All of the benefits and uses of wedge pillows are science-backed for proof.
Natural & Typically Safe
Wedge pillows offer a safe, natural, and non-addictive method of pain relief compared to traditional prescription medications. Their soft materials add comfort and support.
Comfortable Lounging (Universal Shape)
Wedge pillows can be used for much more than sleep and pain relief. They can be used on the couch for back support, in your lap with a laptop place on top, in bed while watching TV or reading, and more.
Improve Sleep Posture
Poor sleep posture can further hinder existing health conditions and even cause new ones. Wedge pillows help improve sleep posture by mimicking the effect of inclining medical beds. These help keep your upper or lower body aligned and elevated. Better sleep posture means reduced pain and less chance of hindering any existing health conditions.
A key benefit of wedge pillows is improved blood circulation. Wedge pillows put your upper/lower body in an inclined position which forced pooled blood to drain. Thus, increasing blood circulation. Proper blood circulation is vital in healing, pain relief, and a good night's rest.
Sleeping on your back, by far, is the healthiest sleep position for spine alignment. Using a wedge pillow while sleeping reduces pressure on your spine and aligns your neck, shoulders, and hips. The wedge pillow can help keep you on your back and remove unnecessary curves in the spine.
Reduce Back and Neck Pain
Laying down can put a lot of pressure on the back and neck, resulting in pain. Wedge pillows take the stress off to reduce pain. Using wedge pillows for back pain to elevate the head, legs, or both can minimize spine discomfort and remove pressure on nerves.
Improper sleep posture can create a strain on the neck, causing it to be in pain. Using a wedge pillow for neck pain adds a layer of support and prevents poor posture. It keeps the neck from bending unnaturally. Thus, reducing sleep-related stress.
Those who have nighttime asthma may benefit from sleeping in an inclined position. Asthma symptoms tend to worsen at night due to sinus drainage and pressure on airways while sleeping on your back. Sleeping in an inclined position allows your airways to stay fully open and prevents the accumulation of postnasal drip in passages.
Those recovering from surgery may experience pain from traditional sleeping. Having a wedge pillow for post-surgery offers ample support while taking the pressure off of the healing body part. Not only that, but it's much easier to lay down and stand up with the aid of a wedge pillow. Using a wedge pillow for a broken leg or lower-body injury is easy. Use it to elevate the leg to reduce pressure and prevent blood from pooling.
Snoring is often caused by the relaxation of muscles which allows airways to be narrowed. Sleeping in an elevated position can reduce airways pressure and enable them to remain open to prevent snoring. Sleeping on your back with a wedge pillow for snoring aids in reduced snoring and a better night's sleep.
Sleep apnea occurs when a person stops breathing during sleep which causes them to wake up. It's commonly caused by muscles relaxing in the back of your throat, and the air passage narrows or even closes. Wedge pillows for sleep apnea can reduce sleep apnea by minimizing the pressure on muscles to keep the air passage open.
One study involving 52 patients with obstructive sleep apnea found head elevation to not only improve the severity but significantly enhance sleep efficiency. Thus, proving the sleep apnea benefits of using a wedge pillow to sleep upright.
Acid Reflux (GERD) and Heart Burn
Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid moves upward into the esophagus, throat, and mouth. It's commonly felt at night when lying in bed because it's easier for the acid to move when our body is flat. Wedge pillows for acid reflux prevent this from happening by elevating the body and letting gravity keep acid down.
One study of patients with moderate to severe reflux symptoms found elevation via a foam wedge pillow for GERD to significantly reduce symptoms compared to a flat sleeping position. A similar study of 24 patients with nocturnal gastroesophageal reflux found bed head elevation to reduce esophageal acid exposure and acid clearance time. It also led to reduced heartburn and sleep disturbance.
Lying in a flat sleeping position causes sinuses to pool internally, which leads to congestion. Using a wedge pillow for post nasal drip utilizes gravity by forcing mucus and congestion to drain. This can help with congestion related to allergies, cold & flu, and more.
Wedge pillows help reduce swelling by elevating the injured area. This lowers the pressure on blood vessels which helps reduce bleeding. It also promotes the draining of inflammatory exudate through lymph vessels. Another key to reducing swelling is placing the injury above the heart. This reduces blood flow which lowers swelling.
Glaucoma occurs from fluid building up in the eye, which causes pressure to build, thus damaging the eye. A study of 15 patients with glaucoma found sleeping on a wedge pillow with an incline of 20 degrees reduced nighttime intraocular pressure. The study concluded that sleeping in an elevated position reduces stress on the eyes, which can help prevent and reduce glaucoma.
Being pregnant can complicate how you sleep. The added weight can put pressure on your back, while a baby bump may make specific sleeping positions uncomfortable. Maternity wedge pillows can be used in a variety of positions to relieve pregnancy-related pain. Elevating the head can help relieve back pain, while using it for side-sleeping may offer support for the stomach.
One study used a wedge pillow for late-stage pregnancy and found additional support to relieve pain in addition to reducing pregnancy-related insomnia. The added support from the wedge pillow resulted in lower backache scores.
Anyone who's ever had an ear infection knows the sleep problems it can cause. Sleeping with your head elevated helps ear pain in two ways, reduced pressure and increased draining. Sleeping with your head above the rest of your body minimizes stress on your ears while also promoting drainage.
"Best Wedge Pillow I've Tried"
"I have tried a few different wedge pillows but most are too stiff, too high, or too hot. This one does get warm for me, but not as hot as others I have tried. I like the height for putting me feet up, it's a comfortable height. I don't use it for elevating my head, but I have poor blood circulation and am prone to blood clots and my doctor has recommend I elevate my feet for several hours during the day and this really helps. I like it when sitting in bed and reading for the evening or listening to music. It is well made and works well." - Amazon Review
How to Use a Wedge Pillow
When it comes to usage, wedge pillow positioning is key. This section breaks down the various positions you can use a wedge pillow in, including how to properly sleep on a wedge pillow.
On Your Back
To use a wedge pillow for back-sleeping, place the large side of the pillow towards the beginning of the bed, where your head will rest. Your head and back will be in an upright position, with your lower body lying flat against the bed. This is the best position when using a wedge pillow to elevate your head.
Benefits/Uses: Reading or watching TV, spine alignment, back and neck pain relief, pregnancy, congestion relief, reduced swelling, improved circulation, acid reflux, snoring
On Your Side
How to sleep on your side with a wedge pillow: Sleeping with a wedge pillow on your side is very similar to back sleeping. Place the large side of the pillow against the beginning of the bed, where your head will rest. Sleeping in this position with a wedge pillow helps neutralize the spine and prevents build-up in back muscles. We recommend using a wedge pillow for side sleepers with a minor incline between 35-45 degrees for this position. An extra pillow may help for neck and head support.
Benefits/Uses: Back and neck pain relief, pregnancy, sleep apnea, snoring, acid reflux
With Elevated Legs
Place the wedge pillow on the bed with the thicker end pointed towards the end. You'll want to place the wedge pillow for leg elevation where your legs typically lay with the thinner end where the hips and beginning of your legs would be. This position may require you to adjust the pillow or your positioning until you're comfortable. You may also place the thicker end towards your hips, placing your knees where the edge is.
Benefits/Uses: Improve blood circulation in legs and feet, lower body inflammation, back and leg pain, spine alignment, post lower leg surgery
On Your Stomach
Sleeping on your stomach is considered to be the worst sleep position. It can create tension in your muscles, limit breathing, and worsen any existing ailments. For this reason, we do not recommend sleeping on your stomach with a wedge pillow. If you need to sleep on your stomach, it's best to put a traditional pillow under your abdomen and pelvis for support.
Sit-up wedge pillows are an excellent source of comfort when lounging, reading, or watching TV. Place the wedge pillow in an upright position with the thick end at the bottom. You can then recline in a position without straining your back and neck. Wedge pillows can be used in this position on a bed, couch, or anywhere with a flat surface.
Benefits/Uses: Watching TV, reading, lounging
Wedge pillows make the perfect makeshift desk for laptops or writing. Place the flat side over your lap with the thin end towards you and a computer or notepad on top. Wedge pillows can reduce wrist pressure when using a laptop.
Benefits/Uses: Lounging, working on a laptop, writing
Pros and Cons of Wedge Pillows
Frequently Asked Questions
How to sleep on a wedge pillow for acid reflux?
As mentioned above, acid reflux occurs most commonly at night because our bodies are flat, allowing acid to travel easily to the esophagus, throat, and mouth. To reduce GERD, DO NOT use a wedge pillow to sleep on your back. Studies have shown this can worsen symptoms. Instead, sleep on your left side to reduce gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Whether you're working, lounging, or sleeping on a wedge pillow, the benefits are substantial. They can offer relief for pain, insomnia, and other health conditions. Their universal design makes them ideal for conforming to your sleep style, reducing pain, and improving sleep posture.
About the Author
Brandon Landgraf is the Digital Marketing Manager for Carex Health Brands. He finds passion and fulfillment in creating content that enhances, improves, and enlivens others' quality of life. All of his written work is formulated to not only offer essential advice and tips but back it with proven studies and experts. His mission is to connect with readers and provide steps to make their lives better.
You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.
About Carex Health Brands
Carex is your one-stop shop for home medical equipment and for products that assist caregivers with providing the best possible support and care for their loved ones. Carex Health Brands has been the branded leader in in-home, self-care medical products for over 35 years. Our goal is to improve the lives of our customers by bring them quality products that bring dignity back to their lives. With our three nationally distributed brands, Carex Health Brands serves national, regional and independent food, drug and mass retailers along with wholesalers, distributors and medical dealers.
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