Our Pillow Expert’s Favorite Wedge Pillow

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I wrote about bed pillows at Wirecutter for five years, and I tested dozens upon dozens of pillows. I know better than most people that there isn’t one perfect pillow for everybody, but my personal can’t-live-without-it choice is actually a 2-by-2-foot wedge of solid foam.

I love my wedge pillow. These huge pillows are typically made of a triangular piece of polyurethane foam with a 1- to 2-inch layer of memory foam on top for extra padding. Because they elevate the entire upper body, wedge pillows are particularly good for people with sleep apnea, acid reflux, or other conditions where elevating the head helps you breathe easier. I treat mine as an extension of my mattress — like a budget version of an adjustable bed — and plop a regular pillow on top of it. (I’ve used the Nest Easy Breather Pillow, one of our picks, for this purpose for years.) Although I’ve tried many wedges, and I prefer this InteVision wedge, you might like a different one based on your anatomy and sleep position.

When I was pregnant with my daughter (who’s about to turn 12), my pillow needs radically changed. To help relieve all the weird aches and pains that come with growing a human, I collected increasingly bigger pillows as my body grew larger. It began with extra pillows stuffed under my head, between my knees, and under my ankles and then progressed to body pillows before culminating with this enormous U-shaped setup. My husband started calling my side of the bed The Wall. Post-pregnancy, I discovered that I still needed extra support to breathe easier, to manage the reflux that never completely left, and to soothe my back after carrying around a toddler for chunks of the day. A pile of regular pillows helped me breathe easier but gave me neck and back pain. Eventually I bought my first wedge — and I never looked back.

Though I started using a wedge to help with breathing, it turns out that sleeping on a wedge can be better for your neck and back if you’re a side-sleeper or back-sleeper. Physiatrist Akhil Chhatre, MD, director of spine rehabilitation (among other roles) at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told me that there are no downsides to using a wedge, and that you don’t even need to wait until you’re having aches and pains: “It can make sense for anyone.” He noted that some very rare spinal conditions might not be compatible with a wedge, but generally most people can use one. He also noted that it’s completely fine to throw a regular bed pillow on top for extra support, as I do. (The InteVision wedge I own comes with an additional small, flat pillow, but I’ve never used it.)

You can find different types of wedge pillows, such as these smaller versions I’ve seen that simply raise your head, but Chhatre said, “I prefer the whole-body elevation. I think the elevation of just the head carries more risk of injury during sleep.” Wedges come in different heights, too. My current one is 7.5 inches high at the top of the slope, but I’ve also used a wedge that was a full 12 inches high. Chhatre said that there’s no ideal to aim for when you’re trying a wedge for the first time. “I would start with 7.5 [inches] and go from there. Everyone has a different anatomy as well as a different curvature, so it is literally like a fingerprint.” (That last sentence encapsulates the challenge of being Wirecutter’s pillow writer so well that I should print it on my business cards like an inspirational quote.)

I’ve found that the only real downside to most wedge pillows — besides the sheer comedy of sleeping a foot higher than my spouse — is finding a good cover. Most of the included covers pill easily and are hard-to-impossible to replace if they wear out or discolor over time. I bought the InteVision wedge specifically because the company makes a coordinating cotton pillowcase that fits it perfectly, looks neater on the bed, and gives it some extra protection against stains. Also, keep in mind that the foam inside this wedge (and most others) is not machine washable, so you’ll need to spot-clean it or hand-wash it.

As for my husband, who is the total opposite of me (he often ends up facedown on the mattress with barely a pillow at all), he still jokes that I’m so far above him, I look like I’m levitating. I mostly can’t hear his jokes, though, as I immediately pass out, with my head in the clouds.

This article was edited by Daniela Gorny and Christine Ryan.

Sources

1. Akhil Chhatre, MD, physiatrist, director of spine rehabilitation at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, email interview, January 10, 2023

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