Bed Wedges | additional benefits
Snoring and sleep apnea
In addition to ameliorating spinal health and assuaging acid reflux symptoms, people have found many secondary benefits in successful wedge pillow implementation. The incline also tends to relieve snoring caused by inadequate airflow, as the elevation prevents the tongue from falling back on the soft palette and subsequently blocking the passage of air. The upper airway also has a better chance of collapsing when lying on the back, particularly if you have sleep apnea. A wedge pillow or bed wedge will elevate the head and better maintain open airways to allow for easier breathing.
Cough and post-nasal drip
Post-nasal drip is caused by mucus dripping down the back of the throat and into the upper airways, typically when mucus production is more frequent or viscous than usual. In addition to being an unpleasant congestion, post-nasal drip can also irritate cough receptors in the upper airways and cause coughing. Sleeping on a wedge pillow or bed wedge elevates the upper body and can keep mucus from “pool[ing] or collect[ing] in the back of your throat.” This will make nighttime coughing and congestion less frequent and harsh.
Regardless of the cause of the congestion and/or post-nasal drip – allergies, bacterial infection, common cold, etc. – sleeping on a wedge pillow can help the sinuses drain and reduce inflammation, irritation, and congestion. This may also save money on continuously purchasing antihistamines and decongestants, as well, and takes less of a toll on the body than medications would.
For sufferers of nighttime or nocturnal asthma, sleeping on a wedge pillow may help increase quality of sleep. “The chances of experiencing asthma symptoms are higher during sleep.” This is in part due to lying down, which may “predispose you to… accumulation of secretions in the airways (drainage from sinuses or postnasal drip), increased blood volume in the lungs, decreased lung volumes, and increased airway resistance.” Sleeping on an incline – supported by a wedge pillow – can ensure greater airflow and less obstruction, keeping you both comfortable and properly breathing. It is important, however, to speak with your doctor regarding your asthma treatment for both day and night.
The right wedge pillow can also alleviate back pain, particularly if it has a memory foam layer. As gravity is the main force at work in wedge pillow successes, a proper incline can stack the hips and vertebrae to maintain correct spinal alignment. However, you will want to be careful in selecting a wedge pillow if you have had chronic lower back pain, as the pillow will need to be long enough to support your whole torso and not leave an uncomfortable ledge where the lower back in unsupported. Some people have bought a second wedge pillow (or only used a wedge pillow) for underneath the legs, to elevate the knees and relieve pressure on the lower back, allowing it to extend and expand comfortably.
The wedge pillow can also be used at the head or even under the knees during post-operative care. This keeps the skeleton from locking and maintains regular circulation of the blood, which prevents unnecessary swelling and pain in the joints and other sensitive areas. It also helps relieve tension from the knees and neck when the body may be weak from surgery. If you anticipate a lengthy post-operative care process, you may want to invest in two wedge pillows so that you have one for your upper body and one for under your knees.
Glaucoma and intraocular pressure
People suffering from glaucoma, and even those that don’t, can experience ocular hypertension (OHT), or abnormally high intraocular pressure (IOP) in the eyes. However, those who sleep on a wedge pillow may experience less intraocular pressure (or discomfort in the eyes) while sleeping propped up. In a 2014 study done in Korea, when the head was elevated at least 30 degrees, as compared to lying flat in the supine position, the average intraocular pressure (IOP) experienced was lower, especially when the head of the bed was raised (as opposed to adding multiple pillows). A bed wedge or wedge pillow is actually more akin to raising the head of the bed due to the more gradual incline; stacking multiple pillows can cause misalignment in the neck and shoulders and drive bodily stress up instead of down, causing more issues instead of solving pre-existing problems. Therefore, a wedge pillow may also be useful for people with glaucoma or ocular hypertension.
If you’ve eaten too much food or just had dinner too close to bed time, a wedge pillow may also prove helpful in treating indigestion. When indigestion strikes, you may experience abdominal pain stemming from the stomach, and possibly even acid reflux. Because a wedge pillow keeps you more upright and elevated, it helps you digest more easily, allowing your food to travel through your digestive system with relative ease, aided by gravity. Research also shows that it is easier for your body to digest when you are lying on your left side. Many doctors and columnists also recommend sleeping on the left side for acid reflux relief, so you can treat both acid reflux and indigestion at the same time while remaining comfortable and relaxed in bed.
Acid reflux can often manifest during a woman’s pregnancy; as previously noted, many medications may not be effective or even an option for pregnant women, so a wedge pillow is a smart choice for the health of both the woman and her baby. Additionally, a good wedge pillow may prove soothing for pregnant women past just the elimination of acid reflux symptoms. A firm but comfortable wedge pillow will add extra support to a spine suffering from the strain of carrying more weight around during pregnancy and thus result in a better night’s sleep. After birth, it can be also be used as a nursing pillow underneath the baby or to help keep the mother upright while nursing.
Other benefits are not directly health-related but may prove handy in everyday life. For example, if you like to read in bed, the wedge pillow will help keep you elevated so that you don’t need to hold the book directly above your head or uncomfortably strain your neck; the same benefit applies if you watch television in bed. Some people also like using an additional wedge under their legs while reading or for circulatory regulation.
In any case, a wedge pillow may prove to be more useful than just acid reflux relief. That’s why you’ll want to be confident in your selection and choose one that makes you most comfortable. Read on our wedge pillow recommendations to guide you in your search.
 VeryWell, 2010.
 WebMD, “Nocturnal Asthma.”
 Anne Chang-Godinich, MD, for MedScape, 2016.
 Yvonne M. Buys, MD, et al. “Effect of Sleeping in a Head-Up Position on Intraocular Pressure in Patients with Glaucoma,” 2009.
 D-Y Yeon et al. “Effects of head elevation on intraocular pressure in healthy subjects: raising bed head vs using multiple pillows,” 2014.
 Dana Dovey for Medical Daily, 2014.