Body Pillow Comprehensive Guide
A comprehensive guide to all questions about body pillows including: benefits of body pillows, types and materials, body pillows for pregnancy, & more.
A body pillow is an oversized pillow that is placed between your legs while sleeping on your side. It is used to provide support and alignment to your spinal cord, and to relieve neck and joint pain. Body pillows help improve your sleep by minimizing pain and discomfort.
Body pillows are designed for side sleepers. But with a little configuration, they can also help out stomach and back sleepers. Her is a list of the benefits of body pillows:
- Body pillows placed between the knees and keep your spine aligned, which has been shown to improve back health.
- They lessen tossing and turning because holding something firmly makes you less prone to move.
- They alleviate back pain, improve blood circulation and weight distribution
- They are especially beneficial for pregnant women as they help the body maintain a comfortable position as the belly grows.
For a more detailed guide to body pillow benefits and what body pillows are good for, take a look at our in-depth guide.
Body pillows are designed differently in order to respond to your body’s needs. You can choose between four different types of body pillows:
- I-shaped pillow: This is a long straight pillow that provides support for your neck, back, hip, and knee (Image A).
- U-shaped pillow: It is a huge pillow that stops you from turning and shifting positions. It is curved as the letter “U” and can be folded in different positions to provide total body support. It is also excellent for reading or watching TV while sitting in bed (Image B).
- C-shaped pillow: It is designed as the letter “C” and can be folded to various shapes to help support your body when sitting or lying in bed. It also provides belly support for pregnant women (Image C).
- J-shaped pillow: This type of pillow is convenient for people with snoring issues. It helps your body align, and your head and arms to rest on different sides (Image D).
Knee pillows, as the name indicates, are made specifically to support the knee and hence to reduce stress on the lower back. However, they do not provide support to the neck, and may not be as effective as body pillows for pain relief during pregnancy. Below is a list of knee pillows’ best features:
- Knee pillows can stimulate blood circulation.
- They separate your thighs and legs and thus prevent the knees from rubbing against each other.
- They help you maintain a proper spinal alignment.
- They help support and align your hips and pelvic area.
- They are shaped to match the curving of the thigh and knee.
- They are smaller than body pillows and therefore more convenient if you are sharing the bed with someone else.
Body pillows vary in shape, size, and material to address specific sleeping positions and health issues. They are generally suitable for all kinds of body forms and proportions. King size pillows are oversized pillows for your head and neck, and can work as shorter body pillows. They’re designed to help cradle your head and neck comfortably. They also make a good back support for when you read or sit in bed. However, some side and stomach sleepers don’t feel comfortable using large volume pillows and may opt for a standard size pillow instead.
A pregnancy pillow is a type of body pillow created specifically for pregnant women. As your belly expands, it becomes more difficult to sleep comfortably. In fact, pregnancy or maternity pillows are placed behind your back for support, thus helping you sleep on your side. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, which conform to your new body changes. Their designs help your whole body relax and relieve discomfort associated with your growing belly. They are not only meant for sleeping, but also for sitting in bed and for nursing. Many body pillows can also be used as pregnancy pillows. Choosing between a body pillow and a pregnancy pillow is only a matter of preference.
Certain sleeping positions place more stress on your back than others, and can increase your backaches. Using body pillows may help to alleviate the pain and let you sleep better. If you are a side sleeper, placing a pillow between your legs prevents your hips from twisting, and therefore reduces tension on your back. If you are a back sleeper, placing a pillow under your knees helps straighten out your legs, aligning your spine, and eliminating stress on your back. If you are a stomach sleeper, a pillow is best placed beneath your pelvis. The pillow hence supports your lumbar area and reduces strain on your back.
A body pillow can cause back pain if not positioned correctly. The aim of a body pillow is to correct your sleeping posture, because poor posture can lead to back pain. Body pillows remove tension on pressure points and keep your spine in a neutral alignment. With a bit of configuration, you will know how to place your pillow and thus alleviate backaches.
Using a body pillow helps in keeping your head elevated while supporting your neck, and therefore helps in preventing snoring. It also helps back sleepers to sleep on their side for a change. Sleeping on the side opens up the nasal airway and enables better breathing.
Sciatica pain refers to pain in the lower back, which extends to the hip, buttocks, and legs due to strain on the sciatic nerve. A full body pillow or one that is just placed between your legs at the knee keeps your spine, hips, and legs aligned while reducing pressures on sciatic nerves.
If your hips are not well supported, you may feel discomfort and pain. In this case, a body pillow placed between your knees will keep your legs, knees and hip joints aligned in a parallel position on top of one another. This will soothe your hip pain and make you sleep better.
A body pillow can upgrade your sleep experience in many ways. First, it helps relieve your pressure points. Second, it distributes your weight evenly and also decreases your tendency to move in bed. Third, it keeps your body aligned and your muscles more relaxed. It is also huggable and promotes coziness and comfort.
A lot of people suffer from anxiety and find it hard to fall asleep at night. Holding a body pillow while trying to sleep can soothe anxiety. One possible explanation for this refers to our childhood. Since, as babies, we are held close to our mother’s body, as we become toddlers we may fear staying alone at night. Consequently, we are given stuffed animals and blankets to help us feel safe and comforted. As adults, hugging a body pillow reminds us of childhood and may therefore help relieve anxiety.
Using a maternity pillow helps relieve pressure off your spine and maintain the body’s alignment during pregnancy. A maternity pillow also helps you sleep on your side, which is highly recommended for pregnant women. It also elevates your upper body, which is good to ease heartburn and refluxes. Additionally, it serves as a back pain pillow that makes you feel more comfortable. Not only can it be used during pregnancy but it’s also useful after childbirth to give extra support for the baby while nursing.
Chart showing the best pregnancy body pillow options
|Type||Best Feature||Sample from Amazon|
|Pregnancy body pillow|
Provides total body support from head to toe.
Usable before and after the delivery of the baby
Helpful for different sleeping positions as well as for sitting in bed while nursing.
|Boppy Multi-Use Slipcovered Total Body Pillow|
|U-shaped pregnancy body pillow|
The shape of the pillow supports both sides of your body.
It is flexible and can be changed in different positions.
It replaces the need for many pillows at once to ease sciatica, hips and back pains.
|Queen Rose U-shaped maternity body pillow|
|Inflatable pregnancy pillow|
It has an adjustable belly chamber that fits all belly sizes.
It raises your hips and lowers your legs to put you in an optimal birth position.
It relieves tension and increases blood circulation.
|Cozy bump Inflatable Pregnancy Pillow|
|Pregnancy wedge pillow|
Elevates your torso to help with digestion and acid reflux.
Elevates your legs to improve blood circulation.
It is small, portable, and durable.
|Pregnancy Wedge Pillow|
Below is a list of things to consider before purchasing a pregnancy body pillow:
- The size of the pillow: pregnancy body pillows come in a variety of sizes so in order to pick the right one, it is important to think about the size of your bed and whoever you are sharing your bed with. It is also important to consider your storage space for whenever you don’t need the pillow and whether or not you want to take it with you in case you are traveling.
- The shape of the pillow: pregnancy body pillows come in different shapes for a total body support or for specific body areas.
- The filling: there are different fillings such as air in inflated pillows, memory foam, or polyester fibers.
- The fabric: some body pillows come with a removable cover while others do not. You can choose among those that have covers that are machine washable. They are made of fabrics such as cotton, velour and polyester knit. They are all a matter of preference. Consider one that is hypoallergenic though.
- The price: prices fluctuate between $20 and $100 depending on the features and what you are looking for.
- The trimester and sleep positions: you need to consider the trimester you are in and the sleeping position you feel more comfortable with. However, as your belly expands, it is important to pick a pregnancy body pillow that conforms with your body changes ensuring a better blood flow and rest.
Maternity body pillows can be positioned in different ways. Below is a list of tips and instructions for using different types of pregnancy pillows:
- Place a pregnancy wedge pillow under your belly. This will support both your belly and your back muscles.
- Place a U-shaped pillow or a straight length pillow between your legs. The center of the pillow supports your belly while relieving pressure off your knees and legs.
- Place a C or J or U-shaped pillow along your back. This pillow can support your pelvis and your upper and lower back.
- Place a wedge pillow under your head to ease acid refluxes and heartburn
- How do you store a body pillow after pregnancy?
As the baby grows inside you, it becomes difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position. Doctors usually recommend that expectant mothers sleep on their side which is a bit hard for those who are used to sleeping on their stomach. The body pillow actually prevents tossing and turning and therefore protects the pregnant woman from sleeping on her belly or back. There is no particular time for using a maternity pillow. However, as soon as your baby bump starts showing around week twenty, your body may start aching and that's when you’ll require a maternity pillow to ease your pains and align your body in a restful way.
Chart of the best body pillows that can help ease back pain
|Image||Best Features||Sample from Amazon|
Composed of 4 different pieces, which make the pillow multi-functional
Adjustable to support different targeted body parts
Comfortable for sitting positions in bed
Provides back and legs support and relieve pressure points
|Avana Orthopedic Support Pillow|
Conforms to the curvature of your spine
Adjustable to your needs
|Coop home goods-Adjustable body pillow|
It is able to support the entire body because of its over size.
It is multifunctional as it is used for sleeping and sitting positions in bed
It relieves sciatica, back pains, pressure points...
|Meiz U-shaped Body Pillow|
Helps keep your back straight
Offers a gentle slope which elevates your neck to ease acid refluxes
Supports your back and alleviates the pain especially in the lumbar area
|Triangle Pillow Back Support|
Some specific sleeping positions can help with backaches. However, sleeping positions alone may not do the trick. Here is a list of tips and instructions on how to use a body pillow for back pain:
- Sleep on your side and place a knee pillow between your legs. This aligns your spine, hips, and pelvis.
- Place a pillow in the gap between your waist and the mattress for a better back support.
- If you are sleeping on your stomach, put a pillow under your lower abdomen. The pillow reduces strain off your back.
- Sleeping on your back distributes your weight evenly on the mattress. However, placing a pillow under your knees or under the lower back can help in keeping your spine well supported and aligned.
- Using a U-shaped body pillow prevents you from turning and tossing and therefore keeps your entire body supported and in a proper alignment.
Below is a list of factors to consider when choosing a body pillow for reducing back pain:
- The size of the pillow: there is a variety of pillows’ sizes in the market. Some standard sizes are associated with specific pillow types. It is important to consider the size of your bed, what sleeping position you favor and what body part you want to support.
- The shape of the pillow: pillows come in different shapes. The two most common shapes made for back pains are straight or curved.
- The thickness of the pillow: choosing a soft or a firm body pillow depends on your sleep position. Stomach sleepers for instance prefer thinner pillows that are softer compared to side sleepers who prefer thicker and firmer pillows to fill some gaps between the body and the mattress.
- The material composition: fill materials for pillows are various. There are pillows containing feathers, polyester fibers, latex, or memory foam.
Here is chart showing types of body pillows and their standard sizes
|Body Pillow Type||Standard Size|
|U-Shaped||60 x 40 inches|
|Straight||20 x 54 inches|
|L-Shaped||36 (long length) x 24 (short length) inches|
|C-Shaped||60 x 30 inches|
|J-Shaped||80+ inches (total length)|
An extra long body pillow is about 70-100 inches in length, which is longer than the regular 54 inch body pillow. This can be particularly beneficial for tall people. It is adjustable for all sleeping positions. It is foldable and easily stored when not in need. It actually keeps the entire body in proper alignment by preventing you from twisting and tossing. It is also suitable for pregnancy, post-pregnancy and surgery recovery.
Body pillows have various dimensions to target specific needs. However, the regular body pillow measures 20 x 54 inches. A regular body pillow outlines one that is straight and aligned with no curves.
Chart of showing the different body pillow shapes and their benefits
|Body Pillow Shapes||Benefits||Sample from Amazon|
Supports your back and front.
Replaces the need for multiple pillows
Relieves pain and discomfort
|Comfysure Pregnancy Pillow|
Supports the entire body
Keeps your body in proper alignment
Conforms to the contour of your body
|Snuggle Pedic Pillow|
Relieves pressure points
Prevents you from turning and tossing
Supports your entire body
Replaces the need for multiple pillows
|Cheer collection L-shaped Pillow|
Is versatile for different positions
Helps with acid refluxes and sciatica
|C-shaped Body Pillow|
Relieves body aches
Improves body circulation
Is adjustable to any wanted position
Reduces tossing and turning
|Side sleeper J-shaped|
Are U-Shaped Body Pillows Good?
Pillows are manufactured in various shapes to assist with certain health conditions. A U-shaped body pillow for instance supports the neck and can therefore alleviate or prevent some back pains. It is also shaped in a way that allows you to put one of its arms between your legs to restore your spine alignment. It can also support your belly if pregnant and helps stave off some problems such as heartburns and acid reflux. It can be used during post surgery recovery period and even nursing.
|Body Pillow Features||Benefits||Sample from Amazon|
|Hypoallergenic body pillow||Great for allergy protection against dust mites, mold, pollen, and small particles||Snuggle-pedic hypoallergenic body pillow|
|Cooling body pillow||Regulates body temperature, reduces moisture and promotes proper airflow||Cooling memory foam body pillow|
|Boyfriend body pillow||Provides warmth and comfort, serves as a companion and beats loneliness||Boyfriend body pillow|
|Child-size body pillow|
Suitable for kids’ dimensions.
Snuggles kids helping them feel safer
|Body Pillow Filling Type||Advantages||Disadvantages|
|Down Pillow Filling||Soft, flexible, lightweight, long-lasting, and ecological||Absorbs body heat, requires refluffing, is hard to get cleaned, is plucked from birds, and is pricey|
|Feather Pillow Filling||Cheap, cuddlesome, and flexible||Absorbs body heat, requires refluffing, is hard to get cleaned, is plucked from birds, and is smelly|
|Polyester Fiberfill Pillow Filling||Very cheap, lightweight, and easily cleaned||Absorbs body heat, is composed of hazardous chemical products, does not retain its shape|
|Shredded Memory Foam Pillow Filling||Retains its shape and provides good support||May emit a chemical odor or require refluffing when it absorbs body heat|
|Buckwheat Hull Pillow Filling||Retains its shape, provides great support, promotes airflow to keep you cool, is durable and ecological||Is firm, is heavy, and emits noise when shifted|
|Microbead Pillow Filling||Retains its shape, provides good support, and promotes airflow||Emits chemical odor, is medium firm, flattens out with time|
|Shredded Latex Pillow Filling||Retains its shape, promotes breathability, and is ecological||Lacks support, and is pricey|
|Kapok Pillow Filling||Free of toxic materials, ecological, and soft||Does not retain its shape, develops lumps, and is very flammable|
|Wool Pillow Filling||Free of toxic materials, and promotes breathability||Smelly, develops lumps, does not retain its shape, is not vegan|
|Cotton Pillow Filling||Free of toxic materials, and promotes breathability||Does not retain its shape, and develops lumps|
|Down Alternative Pillow Filling||Cheap and easily cleaned||Does not retain its shape, develops lumps, and absorbs body heat|
Body pillows come in handy when you experience discomfort or pain in various parts of your body. The type of body pillow recommended depends on your sleeping position and on specific conditions that vary from one person to another.
If you are a side sleeper, you may experience shoulder and arm numbness due to pressure, or lower back pain due to poor support caused by the gap between your waist and the mattress. In that case, you need a pillow that provides good support to keep your body aligned.
If you are a hot sleeper, cooling pillows are made specifically to keep you chilled out throughout the night and to prevent you from sweating. Sleeping on your back may not offer you the best night’s sleep because it increases problems such as sleep apnea and snoring. In that case you need a pillow that supports your lower back, your legs, and your neck for a neutral body alignment.
If you are a stomach sleeper, your head is twisted on one side, which puts strain on your spine, neck, and lower back as well. In that case you need a pillow under your pelvis that adds a curve to your spine and reduces lower back pains.
If you are pregnant, your baby bump needs support and room to develop. Therefore, you need a body pillow that prevents you from tossing and turning and hence from sleeping on your stomach. If you are recovering from surgery, you need a pillow which comforts and supports your body while reducing pain. For our favorite body pillows take a look at our guide.
|Body Pillows for Different Kinds of Sleepers||Common Sleeping Problems to Address||Body Pillow Type||Sample from Amazon|
Potential lower back pain
Strain on pressure points
Numb lower arm
|Long side sleeper pillow||Utopia Bedding Soft Body Pillow|
Difficulty falling asleep
Constant warmth feeling
|Cooling Pillow||Nestl gel infused memory foam pillow|
Sleep apnea and snoring
|Long adjustable body pillow||Coop Home Goods Body Pillow|
Strain on the spine
Bad for pregnant women
|Support Pillow||Cinhent Support Pillow|
|Pregnant||Uncomfortable sleeping position||Total body pillow||Leachco All nighter|
|Recovering from surgery||Pain||Wedge pillow||Flip Folding Pillow|
Sleeping on your side causes your shoulder and arm to collapse into the mattress, affecting the alignment of your spine and neck. Therefore, investing in a body pillow is really good to avoid pain and discomfort. First, a body pillow promotes proper body support by keeping your vertebrae aligned during the night. Second, it relieves pressure points such as the hips, pelvis, and neck, and therefore eases pain. It also prevents the collapse of hip and knee joints, especially when the pillow is tucked between the knees. Third, it improves blood circulation and weight distribution. Additionally, a body pillow is beneficial for pregnant women. It supports the belly and ensures that the baby has space to develop healthily. So overall, body pillows improve the quality of your sleep and ease distress on some areas of your body.
Instead of a body pillow, you may also consider a mattress topper for shoulder pain.
Body pillows come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, fillings, and versatility. Therefore, it is hard to pick the best pillow in terms of functionality and specialism. So if unsure, it will be best to purchase one that comes with a sleep trial.
A sleep trial allows you to test the pillow in your own sleep environment for a fixed duration and gives you the opportunity to return it for a full refund if you are not satisfied with your purchase. You can only return the item before the trial period ends.
|Body Pillow||Trial Duration|
|Queen Rose Pregnancy Body Pillow||30 days|
|WooSa Body Pillow||111 days|
|Snuggle-Pedic Body Pillow||120 days|
|Coop Home Goods Body Pillow||100 days|
It is important to check if your chosen body pillow comes with a warranty. The warranty ensures that your pillow will be replaced or refilled in case it flattens before the end of the warranty period. However, normal damages such as color changing or the pillow’s cover wearing out are not included in the warranty.
Warranties periods can vary between a year and much longer years. Woosa body pillows for instance come with a 3 years warranty, whereas Snuggle Pedic body pillows come with a twenty years warranty. Bear in mind that some body pillows do not offer any sort of warranty.