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How to Sleep With a Body Pillow

How to Sleep With a Body Pillow

Sleep Tips
Read Time: 6 minutes

Body pillows are an excellent way to get a good night’s sleep. If you’re a side sleeper, a back pain sufferer, or a pregnant woman, a body pillow can help you sleep better.

However, the design of a body pillow might be confusing the first time you use it. Where do you put your head, your arms, and your legs? Our guide can help you find the body pillow you need and teach you how to sleep with it.

What is a Body Pillow?

A body pillow is essentially an oversized pillow that usually extends from your head down to your legs. Using a body pillow allows you to cut down on other pillows in your bed. You can tuck the pillow between your legs while your head rests on the other end, or rest your back against the body pillow.

Common Shapes

Body pillows come in more than one shape. Aside from the classic extra-long pillow that looks like an I, there’s also C-shaped, J-shaped, and U-shaped body pillows.


The I-shaped pillow lets you lay your head and neck on the top part, while you can hug the middle and tug the other end between your legs. This design can ease pressure points and keep your spine aligned.


A C-shaped pillow can support your head, back, and legs. You curl into the C’s curve, so your head rests on the top end while the remaining curve supports your back and legs.


A J-shaped pillow offers leg support that can relieve general leg pain and medical conditions such as sciatica. The design can also reduce congestion, headaches, and acid reflux.


A U-shaped pillow is a good choice for a pregnancy pillow. The design offers both front and back support for your entire body. The U-shape also restricts movements, limiting tossing and turning that can cause discomfort.

Common Fills

The material that fills a pillow can determine its feel, support, and temperature sensitivity. Breathable materials and fabrics usually create a comfortable body pillow.

Memory Foam

Memory foam is pressure and heat-sensitive, which is why the material contours to the body. When it comes to pillow fills, shredded foam is more breathable and moldable than solid memory foam. However, a solid memory foam pillow requires less upkeep, while a shredded foam pillow must be fluffed often.


Polyester is an inexpensive material, so it’s a good choice if you’re shopping on a tight budget. The synthetic material can absorb too much body heat, pulling you out of sleep too early.


You may see the occasional air-filled body pillow, such as inflatable pregnancy pillows. These pillows can be inexpensive, but we can’t guarantee their comfort or durability.

How Do You Use a Body Pillow?

Before you sleep with your body pillow for the first time, you’ll want to cover it with a pillow protector and pillow case. Protectors and pillow cases keep your pillow clean. Many linen stores carry pillow cases sized for body pillows, but if you can’t find any at your local store, try shopping online.

Once your pillow is outfitted with a cover, it’s ready for your bed. When you get into bed, position your body pillow so it’s supporting your neck and back. You might try laying the body pillow along your back or placing it in front of you.

If you’re a side sleeper, try not to place your entire leg over the body pillow. Sleeping in this position can cause back problems. Instead, make sure the pillow is resting between your knees.

Benefits of a Body Pillow

There are a few ways that body pillows can help you get a better night’s rest. Body pillows can reduce snoring and tossing and turning. Holding a pillow can also help you keep calm as you drift off to sleep.

Reduces Restless Sleeping

If you’re the type to toss and turn, a body pillow can help you stay in place. The U-shape design might be the best choice to limit your movements, but other shapes can also restrict unwanted movements.

How to Sleep With a Body Pillow

Body pillows can also relieve pressure points along your body, which might otherwise cause you to shift and seek a more comfortable position. That may not sound so bad, but what your body finds comfortable as you sleep might leave you with back pain and numbness in the morning. Your body might twist, or you might lie on your stomach, and both can misalign your spine.

A body pillow is an excellent tool for any back or stomach sleeper who wants to become a side sleeper. The pillow can help your body get used to the new position and prevent you from defaulting back to your previous sleep style.

Stops Snoring

A body pillow can raise your upper body, elevating it at an angle that keeps gravity from pushing down on the soft tissues at the back of your throat. Preventing these soft tissues’ collapse can reduce snoring and sleep apnea symptoms. A body pillow that helps you remain in the side sleeping position can also reduce symptoms.

If you fall asleep on your side but eventually move onto your back, the soft tissues in your throat are more likely to collapse. When this collapse happens, your airway becomes obstructed and reduces your sleep quality. You may wake up tired or with a dry mouth.

Keeps You Calm

There’s scientific evidence that hugs help lower stress levels. A 2014 study examined the effects of perceived social support and hugs on more than 400 adults. Adults were exposed to a common cold virus, with more support and hugs linked to a reduction of illness severity. The study also noted that hugs buffered participants against stress. However, you don’t have to embrace a person to experience the benefits of giving a hug. Hugging a body pillow can provide similar effects.

Caring For a Body Pillow

Taking the time to care for your body pillow can extend the pillow’s lifespan. You don’t need much, just a pillow cover and an established washing routine.

Dirt, dust, and other debris can penetrate your pillow, changing its feel and triggering allergy symptoms. A pillow cover paired with a pillow case can protect your pillow from unwanted invaders. A cotton cover is an excellent choice since it’s breathable enough to prevent heat build-up while providing a barrier against sweat, germs, hair, and skin cells.

You can wash the pillow case and removable cover every week with your other bedding.

Many body pillows are machine washable, but they are also too large to fit in the average home washer. You might need to take your pillow to a professional laundry service every few months. You may also try hand washing your body pillow in your bathtub with a mild detergent, then squeeze and rinse the pillow until it’s clean.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do people sleep with a body pillow?

Some people sleep with a body pillow for more support and extra pain relief. Others sleep with a body pillow to minimize the number of pillows on the bed. A body pillow can also reduce tossing and turning, which can improve one person’s sleep quality and their partner’s.

What should I look for in a body pillow?

First, consider how you will use your body pillow. Will it be a way to relieve pain, such as after surgery or during pregnancy? Is the body pillow meant to help you make the switch to side sleeping? Once you know how you will use it, you will have a better understanding of what type you want.

Think about what shape of body pillow you need. Different forms can help with various conditions. The I-shape pillow is the most basic design, letting you rest your head and legs on the pillow. Other shapes can be more specialized, such as the U-shape for pregnant women.

Finally, you want to consider the pillow’s fill and whether it comes with a sleep trial and warranty.

What is the best pillow for neck pain?

A good pillow for neck pain balances support with comfort. If you experience morning neck pain, the cause might be a pillow that’s too thick or thin for your sleep style.

Side sleepers need the support of a high-loft pillow, while back sleepers should shop for a mid-loft pillow. Stomach sleepers should sleep with a low-loft pillow to maintain spine alignment, and may even benefit from ditching the head pillow altogether.

Do body pillows help with anxiety?

We can’t guarantee that hugging a body pillow will decrease your anxiety, but scientific evidence suggests that it’s possible. A 2014 study examined the effects of received hugs in a sample of more than 400 adults. Hugs and social support reduced signs of illness and stress.

Does putting a pillow between your legs help with back pain?

Keeping a pillow between your legs can maintain hip alignment, which prevents spinal misalignment and lower back pain. If you sleep on your side without a pillow, your upper leg can shift the spine out of neutral alignment. A body pillow can be slipped between your legs, or you could try a knee pillow instead.

Ready for a Body Pillow?

A body pillow helps many people get a better night’s rest. The pillow can reduce your chance of back pain, help you sleep soundly, and give you something to hold as you fall asleep. There are a few different ways to sleep with a body pillow, and it might take a few tries to find what’s best for you.

Harrison Wall is Sleep Junkie’s business strategist and sleep analyst. He also authors posts on bedding and mattress accessories. Harrison regularly coordinates with new mattress companies and tests their products to determine what really helps you get better rest and have brighter mornings.

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