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Are Body Pillows a Good Idea for a Great Night’s Sleep?

If you’re a side sleeper, or if you simply want some extra cushion and support in bed, could a new body pillow do the trick? Before we hit the sack, let’s assess the state of our beds. A body pillow might sound very extra, but it could provide that extra layer of comfort you’re looking for under the covers.

If you’ve ever wondered what body pillows do, how they work, and why some people swear by them, today is your lucky day. Here’s the lowdown on the comfortable world of body pillows.

What’s a Body Pillow?

Long body pillows on a bed.
Photo by Arthur Chapman, licensed under Creative Commons, and made available by Flickr Image used with permission by copyright holder

Simply put, a body pillow is a special pillow that’s designed to support our bodies in bed. They’re long pillows that can be hugged, placed between the legs, and/or simply placed along the back or side, depending on the shape of the pillow. Body pillows typically measure at least four feet long, which ensures plenty of possibilities for side sleepers, stomach sleepers, and back sleepers.

Body pillows tend to come in four shapes: rectangular, U-shaped, C-shaped, and L- or J-shaped. Side sleepers may really appreciate rectangular body pillows, as they can easily be placed along the side or back, and they can be used for lumbar support while sitting in bed. U-shaped body pillows are designed to encase the user in order to provide more support. C-shaped body pillows are designed to provide support for the head, the side, and between the legs. J-shaped body pillows always have an extra section for headrest, and some feature an extra curve in the long arm that can help with leg support.

In addition to different shapes, body pillows come with different fills. You can choose from: fiberfill, such as polyester, which tends to be more hypoallergenic and make for easier maintenance; memory foam, which contours well to the body’s shape to allow for pain and pressure relief; and down feather, which tends to feel very plush and allow for a cooler experience.

Why Is a Body Pillow Important for a Good Night’s Sleep, and How Can We Know Which Body Pillow to Choose?

Body pillow on white background.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Though we have limited scientific data on this subject, a 2013 Scientific Reports study and recommendations from the University of Rochester Medical Center support the concept that body pillows can help with spinal alignment. Otherwise, we have plenty of anecdotal evidence from body pillow enthusiasts (including this author) suggesting that body pillows can help in relieving pain, alleviating joint pressure, and improving blood circulation. Body pillows might also help those who struggle with snoring by making it easier for them to sleep on their sides.

So which body pillow is best for you? If you need something soft to hug at night, look for a soft pillow that’s easily huggable. If you need a pillow to place along your back or under your leg, a firmer pillow is probably your best bet. If you’re looking for something that can help with back pain, try a U-shaped pillow. If you’re seeking something that can help with headaches, try an L- or J-shaped pillow. If you’re primarily a side sleeper who can use more support along your back and for the rest of your body, try a rectangular pillow. If you’re more of a stomach sleeper, or if you have other specific needs, you can even find the right body pillow that provides the comfort you need.

Keep in mind that you know your own body best, so factor in your own needs when shopping for a new body pillow. Fortunately, there are plenty of body pillows on the market to choose from, so it’s easier than ever to find the right one for you.

The cover photo was taken by kbt1016, licensed under Creative Commons, and made available by Pixabay.

Andrew Davey
Andrew Davey is a writer who has spent a long time in "hard news" journalism, but who has also pursued interests in food and…
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