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Choosing The Best Wedge Pillow For Acid Reflux

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If you suffer from acid reflux, you know how uncomfortable and irritating it can be. The stomach acid can burn your throat and chest and even cause bad breath. And nothing feels worse than lying down at night and not being able to breathe, or having a searing pain in your chest.

But there’s a way to help relieve all that pain at night. A wedge pillow for acid reflux. By putting a wedge under your upper body, a wedge pillow helps keep your stomach acid where it belongs – in your stomach – and away from your throat. 

We’ve looked at nightime reflux in detail elswhere, but in this article we take a closer look at one of the ways to avoid being kept awake by this condition using a wedge pillow produced by Putnams in the UK. 

We were supplied with a complimentary pillow by Putnams to carry out this review, but the following is an honest assessment of the features and benefits of this product set against key criteria. Spoiler alert, we were impressed and would not hesitate to buy one. 

First, some basics about acid reflux, or heartburn as it is often known.

Causes of Acid Reflux

Acid reflux is a leakage of acid, and other stomach contents such as bile, from the stomach into the esophagus, where it can travel up to the throat, and in extreme cases can get into the nasal passages as an aerosol.

This leakage may be caused by a number of medical conditions, including a weak lower esophageal valve (LES) – the valve that sits on top of the stomach and normally stops the contents of your stomach from going anywhere else. The stomach has a lining that protects the sensitive cells from acid damage. However, the esophagus, unfortunately, doesn’t have that protective lining, and can therefore be damaged by the acidic stomach liquid.

Another medical condition resulting in reflux could be a hiatus hernia, a bulging in the diaphragm over the stomach, that affects how tight the LES is. 

Chronic acid reflux is often diagnosed as GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) or in the UK GORD (Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease).

So those things may cause your acid reflux, but there are a host of things that could exacerbate it. 

What Can Make Acid Reflux Worse?

The list varies for individuals – what affects me could be well tolerated by you, so the only way to tell is by doing a bit of experimenting. Here are a few things that have been shown to make reflux worse:

  • Smoking 
  • Obesity
  • Eating greasy or fatty foods
  • Eating curries
  • Eating too fast
  • Eating late at night
  • Overeating
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Chronic stress
  • Being pregnant
  • Sleep apnea

If you’re affected by acid reflux, you’d be well advised to check to see if any of these factors are helping to make your life miserable. But what can you do to alleviate the symptoms, short of surgery to tighten up your LES?

Here are a few ideas that help.

What Can Help My Acid Reflux?

We consistently stress in this blog that if you have frequent bouts of heartburn or acid reflux you should get the symptoms checked out by a doctor, and seek advice on treatment. There are some serious conditions that may develop from chronic reflux.

However, like me, you may need to manage the symptoms in the longer term, even under the watchful eye of a qualified physician. The most common medications prescribed are Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI’s), such as Omeprazole, and H2 Blockers, such as Nizatidine.

A non-prescribed, and effective treatment is Gaviscon Advance, which many people, including me, use to control symptoms, as well as over the counter antacids, such as Rennies. 

However, there may be a number of home treatments for reflux that you could try, including:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Quit smoking
  • Lose weight
  • Eat small, frequent meals
  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid spicy and greasy foods
  • Don’t lie down for at least 3 hours after a meal
  • Cut down on drinking coffee and caffeinated drinks
  • Avoid eating large meals
  • Don’t eat within 2 hours of bedtime
  • Use a wedge pillow at night

We took a look at one of these in a bit more detail, the wedge pillow.

So what’s so special about a bed wedge pillow?

Why Should I Use A Wedge Pillow At Night?

A wedge pillow is used to keep your head higher than the rest of your body while you sleep. By raising the head and upper body, the acid in the stomach is less likely to flow back up into the esophagus if your LES is weak, and ultimately get comfortable sleep. This sleeping position can reduce heartburn and GERD.

A regular pillow is likely to give support only to your head, leaving your body horizontal and liable to reflux at night.

It’s often the case that reflux sufferers use a number of pillows instinctively to raise their upper body (I certainly did before I discovered a bed wedge), but this often results in neck pain and other pain at night.

A wedge can help with other health conditions, including those associated with back and breathing ailments, relieving sinus pressure, obstructive sleep apnea and varicose veins, to get restful sleep. 

What Should I Look For In A Wedge Pillow?

The bed wedge is usually made with wedge-shaped foam or other material (hence its name) that raises your upper body. The wedge can be filled with different types of stuffing, including polyurethane foam, memory foam, down and cotton, and often has a removable, washable cover. 

Wedges can be used in a number of ways – the usual one to lift your head and upper body, as a support when sitting up in bed, and as a leg pillow to lift your legs when lying in bed.

There are folding wedges, and inflatable wedges for travel, but the type of wedge pillow we’re considering here is the standard rigid wedge.

Here are the key criteria you should consider when thinking about buying a wedge:

Width: check the width of the pillow will fit your bed, or, if you share your bed with a partner, it will not overlap their side of the bed.

If they also suffer from reflux or any of the conditions that are helped by using a wedge, wider pillows are available that span the whole width of the bed. A neat solution, in that case, is a bed mattress lifter, which is a wedge that goes under the mattress at the head end.

Typically if you are sharing a double bed, but your partner does not want to be raised, a width of 24 inches should be fine. If your bed is wider, you may want to consider a 36″ width.

Length: Wedge pillows come in a variety of lengths, the larger ones up to 32″ (81 cm). It’s best to go for a longer, rather than a shorter one, as the incline will be more gentle. In my own case, I prefer a pillow that stretches to just above my waist.

Height:  Wedges tend to be between 6 inches (15 cm) and 12 inches (30 cm) at their highest end, tapering to 0.5 inches (1.25 cm) at their lowest. One particular consideration is that with the higher wedges there may be a tendency to slide down the pillow as you sleep.

A Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology study found that a 6-inch elevation reduced reflux in patients.

Also, be careful with the lower edge of the wedge, as a bigger drop at the end of the taper could mean a more uncomfortable night, depending on the material from which the pillow is made.

Material: Most wedges are made from polyurethane foam, often with a thin layer of memory foam on top. This seems to be an ideal combination, with the memory foam acting to conform better to your shape, and the polyfoam serving to retain the wedge shape.

Users sometimes report foam can retain body heat, making the pillow uncomfortable after a while. Some premium pillow manufacturers, including Putnams, are using a top layer of graphite latex which is a naturally made material that is toxin-free, breathable, soft, supportive, anti-microbial, anti-dust mite, as well as resistant to mold and mildew. In addition, latex is biodegradable.

Whichever foam is used, it’s advisable to use a good quality cover, which will reduce or eliminate any heat transfer effects of the foam.

Low odour: Many users of pillows in reviews complain about the chemical smell that is given off new pillows when they are first opened from their packaging. In my experience, this varies greatly between manufacturers.

Washable cover: A cover that is removable for washing is a must. Ideally, this removable cover should be of a soft, quality material such as cotton.

Guarantee: Look out for a good guarantee from the supplier/manufacturer, and a decent returns policy in the Terms & Conditions, in the event you’re not happy with the product.

Reviews: Check the available customer reviews for the pillows you’re interested in. You’ll soon see a pattern, good or bad, from the feedback after users have had experience with the pillow.

The Putnams Wedge Pillow

As readers will know, I’ve been using a wedge pillow for a while (I’ve written about that elsewhere), and I’m absolutely convinced of their use in combating nightime reflux. So I jumped at the chance of trying out a different pillow when the UK manufacturer Putnams contacted me.  

bed wedge for acid reflux

The wedge they sent was one of their standard bed wedges. They also sell a premium latex one, as well as other types of wedge pillows that cover every aspect of sleep issues, including neck pillows.

Putnam’s Pillow Product Details

  • The pillow size was 30″ (76cm) long, 24″ (61cm) wide and 6″ (15.2cm) high
  • Made from Certipur toxin-free foam
  • 2 Year Guarantee.
  • Hand made in Devon, UK.
  • Lengthy 14 day returns policy
  • Comes with a white, zipped, washable, poly-cotton cover.

The Putnams Bed Wedge is recommended by the NHS for acid reflux, and by the Oesophageal Patients Association, and is voted the best bed wedge UK by “The Mattress Guide”.

Putnam’s Pillow In Use

It was pleasing to note that the pillow was sent as a wedge-shaped parcel. Some suppliers – notably those based in China – send their pillows out folded or rolled, and users have to leave the pillow for a day or so for it to gain its final shape.

wedge pillow

The inner packaging of the pillow was of a compostable material – very sustainable – only spoiled by the external packaging, which wasn’t!

I did notice a slight chemical odour, so I left it for 24 hours, after which the pillow could be used.

The wedge turned out to be the perfect pillow for my height, and provided a gentle incline. I used a standard pillow on top of the wedge and I found no problems with slipping down the pillow during the night, probably because of the gentle incline and the long length of the wedge. The removable and breathable cover made the pillow very comfortable. 

bed wedge for acid reflux

I did have a particularly bad bout of reflux and the pillow helped considerably at night.

Overall, I was very impressed with the Putnams’ pillow and would not hesitate to recommend using one. You can buy one either through Amazon, or direct from the manufacturer (10% discount with code HTGROAR).

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