Who Needs a Body Pillow?
Body pillows can help anyone sleep better, but some people may be physically unable to get comfortable without one. Here are a few.
One of the many challenges a mother-to-be faces is finding a comfortable sleeping position as your body grows with your developing baby. As early as the end of the first trimester, the usual sleep positions may not work and may even be dangerous to you and your baby. Sleeping on your left side is the safest and, eventually, the only comfortable position, but even this position puts a strain on your belly, back, and hips. A body pillow, especially one that wraps around you in a U-, C-, or J-shape, can provide support for your belly and back and relieve the strain on your hips when tucked between your knees.
People suffering from joint and back pain
Let’s face it: Your body changes as you get older. The natural cushioning and flexibility you were born with begin to wear and that can affect the way you sleep. Even with the proper mattress, getting comfortable in bed can be challenging as we age. But even younger folks can suffer from back and joint pain. The American Chiropractic Association estimates that up to 80% of Americans of all ages will experience back pain at some point in their lives.
By sleeping on your side with a body pillow tucked between your legs and the top of the pillow supporting your chest, you can keep your spine in a neutral position. The body pillow will also keep you from twisting your hips and spine as well as relieve pressure on your knees. Hugging the pillow close to your chest will keep your shoulders from collapsing and prevent shoulder and neck pain. With your upper body expanded, you will breathe easier and encourage proper circulation in your arm.
Propped against your back, a body pillow can stabilize your body and offer support so your back and core muscles can relax and restore while you sleep.
People recovering from surgery or injury
Many people recovering from surgery need to sleep in prescribed positions and often need additional support to get comfortable and maintain those positions. A body pillow offers a more efficient way than multiple pillows to get the stability and support you need as your body recovers.
People who snore
Sleeping on your back is a recognized cause of snoring, a potentially serious sleep disorder for you and your sleep partner. Many people can stop snoring simply by switching to sleeping on their sides, but for some sleepers, that’s just not comfortable. A body pillow can help people who prefer sleeping on their backs get comfortable on their sides by offering the same stability and security sleeping on their backs gives them. And guess what? No more snoring.
People who sleep alone
Who doesn’t enjoy a good snuggle when they are settling into bed? Even people who prefer to live alone can get the relaxing comfort of spooning a body pillow. Additional benefit: it doesn’t leave the toilet seat up or forget to take out the trash.
Long before I started researching and writing for Mattress Advisor, I was an inveterate stomach sleeper. It was the only position that gave me the security I needed to relax and fall asleep. As I got older, I began getting headaches. Every. Single. Day. I chalked it up to the stress of adult responsibilities, but a little research turned up the real source of my problem. With all the weight of my upper body and head resting on my twisted neck muscles, it was inevitable that I would wake with headaches that would not quit. Sound familiar?
Doctors and chiropractors will tell you that sleeping on your stomach is the worst possible sleep position. But a few of us – about 7% – like to feel that pressure on our tummies and chest. When I reluctantly switched to side sleeping, my headaches went away as any orthopedist or chiropractor could have predicted. But I had a new set of problems: What to do with the arm that rested on top of my torso? Trying to balance it on my side was impossible and propping it close to my body put too much pressure on my bent wrist and made my hand fall asleep, even while I lay awake.
The solution? A body pillow. It offers the comfort of stomach sleeping without the strain on your back, neck, and head. No more headaches, no more numb hands and tingling arms, and no more back pain.
Features to Look for in a Body Pillow
Shapes and sizes
Body pillows come in a variety of shapes including straight, U-shaped, C-shaped, and J-shaped. Straight pillows are often available in 48″, 54″ and 72″. Be sure to choose a pillow that extends from your chest to below your knees for the most complete support.
U-, C-, and J-shaped pillows are designed for people who need full body support, like pregnant women. U-shaped pillows are especially good for people who like to switch sides when they sleep. With full support on both sides, there’s no need to disrupt your sleep to adjust the pillow. These larger, all-around supportive pillows are not recommended for people with smaller beds or larger bedfellows since they take up a lot of room.
Types of fill
You can find body pillows filled with the same materials found in regular bed pillows, but it is worth considering what type of fill best suits your needs. Regardless of how firm you want your support, be sure that the fill of your body pillow is breathable and resistant to mold, mildew, and dust mites.
Down and down alternatives are squishable and huggable for people who like to snuggle but don’t need especially firm support for their backs or hips.
Shredded memory foam offers great contouring and firm support but can be difficult to maneuver if you shift positions.
Buckwheat provides firm support but can be heavy to move.
Wool is less squishable than foam but keeps you warm in winter and cool and dry in the summer.
Wool latex blend combines the temperature control of wool with the contouring of foam.
Shredded latex offers the moldability of memory foam without the tendency to retain heat. Shredded latex offers firm support but can be heavy to move.
Some models allow customizable loft or height by simply adding or removing fill. This feature is perfect for people who are not sure how high they want their body pillow or who have changing needs, such as expectant mothers.
Look for a body pillow that comes with a removable, washable cover made from a natural, absorbent fiber like cotton or bamboo, especially if the pillow itself is not washable.
Once you choose the best body pillow for your needs and sleep preferences, you might be calling it your “best buddy pillow” and never sleep without it.