Body Pillow: Should I Start Using One?

A body pillow is an elongated pillow designed to support the body and make sleeping more comfortable. Using a body pillow has many advantages, but to make the most of it, you should know how to pick the one that best suits your needs.

Key takeaways:

What is a body pillow?

A body pillow is an exceptionally long pillow designed to mirror the dimensions of the human body.

Since body pillows are larger than regular pillows, you can use them to prop up your body or wrap your arms and legs around them, obtaining a more comfortable sleep.

Benefits of sleeping with a body pillow

Sharing your bed with a body pillow can bring many advantages. Here's a breakdown of the benefits:

Side sleepers

The preferred sleep position in adults is on the side. Sleep experts recommend side sleeping as it helps relieve back pain, reduces sleep apnea and snoring, and improves acid reflux.

Body pillows for side sleepers can assist in maintaining proper spinal alignment, relieving pressure points, and minimizing strain on the lower back and hips while in this sleep position.

Sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common sleep disorder in which breathing pauses during sleep due to narrowed or blocked airways.

Evidence suggests that sleeping on your back can contribute to this airway collapse, worsening OSA symptoms. Therefore, sleeping on your side can help alleviate the problem.

In a study with healthy young adults, using a body pillow while sleeping helped them stay on their side longer. They also had less interruptions during their slow-wave sleep (SWS).


Pain or discomfort in the lower back, pelvis, and hips affects around 45% of all pregnant people.

Using a nest-shaped pillow can be helpful, especially during late pregnancy. The pillow supports the belly when the woman is sleeping on her side and helps relieve the symptoms.

An in-depth examination of various studies indicated that a specifically tailored body pillow for pregnant women might offer more effective relief from back pain than a regular pillow.

Injury recovery

A body pillow can be helpful when recovering from an injury or surgery, especially in the legs, hips, and back.

A study examined how regular pillows compare to body pillows in making children and adolescents more comfortable and reducing pain after spinal surgery. The results showed that the body pillow was more comfortable than the regular hospital pillow.

Mental health

Snuggling up with a body pillow while sleeping can relieve stress and anxiety for certain people.

According to a study, 60% of patients who used a body pillow during an endoscopy mentioned experiencing less discomfort than their previous experiences.

Things to consider when choosing a body pillow

There are many different body pillows on the market. This can make choosing the one that best suits your needs difficult.

Keep in mind that not all body pillows are ideal for everyone. Certain features can determine whether a body pillow is a good fit for someone or impact its overall comfort and performance. Consider the following aspects when shopping for your body pillow:


Most body pillows range from 48 inches (121.9 cm) to 54 inches (137.2 cm) in length. If you’re not so tall, a shorter pillow may be suitable. On the other hand, taller individuals or those seeking more extensive cushioning may prefer longer pillows.

The width of a body pillow can also vary; narrow body pillows are perfect for wrapping your arms and legs around, whereas wider ones offer better support to keep your limbs elevated.


Body pillows come in different shapes. While standard body pillows are typically rectangular, you may also find C-shaped, J-shaped, and U-shaped pillows.

The shape of the pillow determines where you get the most support. For example:

  • U-shaped. This pillow offers full-body support. It is ideal for pregnant people but may not be the best choice for couples who sleep in small beds, as they can take up some space.
  • J-shaped. Not surprisingly, this pillow looks like the letter J. The hook is usually positioned between the knees and the long end between the back or the torso's front. Those struggling with upper back pain or seeking neck support can benefit from sleeping with this pillow.
  • C-shaped. It offers support for the entire body, just like the U-shaped pillow. If you shift from one side to the other during the night, you may need to adjust a C-shaped pillow.


The level of firmness in a body pillow directly impacts the support it provides. Medical experts recommend medium-firm pillows because they help stabilize the spine without sacrificing comfort.

Certain body pillows offer the flexibility to customize the firmness level by simply removing a few layers of their filling.

You may choose the option that best suits your preferences. If you’re looking for something comfortable to cuddle with at night, opt for a softer body pillow. If you need to support your leg while sleeping on your side, a firmer option would be more appropriate.

Fill materials

Body pillows can be filled with various materials, each with advantages. Here are a few examples:

  • Memory foam. This material provides excellent support for the body’s shape and offers pressure relief.
  • Polyester. It’s breathable, making it well-suited for hot sleepers.
  • Latex. A firm and supportive material with natural antimicrobial properties.
  • Down. Typically associated with a plush feel.

It’s essential to prioritize body pillows made with high-quality materials. They may be more expensive but typically last longer.

How to sleep with a body pillow

Figuring out how to enjoy the benefits of sleeping with a body pillow can be challenging, especially considering all the different types and uses. Here are some valuable tips for each scenario:

J-shaped body pillow

Point the bend toward the bottom of your bed, gently resting your body in it. Then, slightly bend your knees and hug the pillow with your arms and legs. Or turn the pillow around and rest your head on the bend. See what works best for you.

J pillow

C-shaped body pillow

Slide into the C with your body facing out. The C shape should embrace your back as you sit on the lower curve and rest your head on the upper curve.

C pillow

U-shaped body pillow

Place the curved part at the top of your bed and let it cradle your head while you hug one of the arms. Then, take the other arm and snug it against your back comfortably.

U pillow

I-shaped body pillow

Slide the pillow between your arms and legs, or place it behind you for extra support.

I pillow

Sleeping on your back

For those who like sleeping on their backs, using a body pillow beneath the knees can provide added comfort.

Sleeping on your back with a pillow

Sleeping with a body pillow has its perks, especially if you’re someone who prefers snoozing on your side. This kind of pillow can give you a hand in supporting your body and easing the strain on your back. Since there are various types out there, choose the one that suits you best and find the sleeping posture that feels more comfortable to you.

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