The best wedge pillow for COPD (also known as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is one that keeps your torso elevated. There are several types of wedge pillows that can do this, but one works better than the rest.
How COPD affects your breathing at night
If you have been diagnosed with COPD, you may have noticed that breathing is more difficult when you lie down in bed at night. Difficulty breathing at night effects your ability to go to sleep and stay asleep. Having such difficulty with sleeping can lead to chronic sleep deprivation and fatigue.
The primary reason COPD symptoms are often worse at night is related to sleep positioning. Lying down flat makes it more difficult to breathe. When you lie flat, gravity works against your breathing muscles, making your body work harder to take a breath.
Someone who doesn’t have COPD won’t notice the effects of gravity on their breathing while lying flat. But for individuals with COPD who are predisposed to breathing difficulties, lying flat can be unbearable.
The best sleeping position for COPD patients
The best sleeping position for COPD patients is sleeping elevated and on your side. When you sleep elevated on a wedge pillow for COPD, gravity has less of an effect on your lungs. You can breathe easier because your lungs aren't having to expand against gravity.
Additionally, when you sleep on a wedge pillow for COPD, gravity brings your diaphragm down slightly. This downward pull on your diaphragm increases lung expansion and ventilation ability. All these things work together to make it easier for you to breathe.
Side sleeping on a wedge pillow for COPD also keeps your airway open. Sometimes when you sleep on your back, gravity can collapse your airway. This makes it more difficult to breathe and can even be a cause of snoring and sleep apnea. You certainly do not want your airway to be collapsing if you have been diagnosed with COPD. Sleeping on your side will make sure that your airway has the easiest time staying open.
The best wedge pillow for COPD
The best wedge pillow for COPD will keep your torso elevated and will keep you comfortable on your side. It is important for side sleepers to use a COPD wedge pillow that has contours made to support the side of your body. The contours make sleeping on an incline so comfortable!
For maximal comfort, combine your COPD wedge with a leg separator pillow. Using a leg separator pillow while you sleep on your side aligns your hips, knees, and lower back correctly so you wake up without stiffness and pain. When sleeping on your side is comfortable, you won't toss and turn!
For back sleepers: the best wedge pillow for COPD
What if sleeping on your side just isn’t an option? The second-best sleeping position for COPD patients is sleeping on your back with a triangle wedge pillow for COPD. Place your regular neck pillow on top of your wedge and recline your feet on a knee wedge pillow. This position virtually eliminates the effect of gravity on your body, lets your lungs expand, and allows you to sleep comfortably on your back.
Don’t sleep like this if you have COPD
The worst position to sleep in with COPD is on your stomach. When you sleep on your stomach, the mattress applies pressure to your lungs. This increased pressure doesn’t allow your lungs to expand as much as they could otherwise. This leads to shortness of breath and breathing discomfort.
If you have COPD, you will also want to avoid sleeping flat on your back. Sleeping flat is the position that makes your body work the hardest to breathe (this is all because of gravity). When you have COPD, it’s hard enough to breathe already, so you will want to sleep in a position that makes breathing easier, not harder.
Now that you know the best wedge pillow for COPD, you are equipped to start sleeping better!
-Hillary Blare, Doctor of Physical Therapy