What is a Body Pillow? Benefits, Sizes, & How to Use One

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Medical Disclaimer: The following content is for information and educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice.

Body pillows are often referred to as pregnancy pillows. However, they aren’t just meant for pregnant women. While body pillows are beneficial for expecting moms, they’re also handy for anyone looking for extra support, comfort, and improving their sleep quality.

Body pillows are a snuggle or cuddle buddy for your entire body! 

They come in various fill options and shapes like the I, U, C, J, and L, each with unique benefits. In this article, we’ll look at body pillows, their benefits, and different options commonly available.

What are Body Pillows Benefits Types

What is a Body Pillow?

A body pillow is an extra-large pillow that helps provide extra support and comfort for your back, hips, knees, neck and head, which traditional pillows fail to do. They are often large, narrow, or have an hourglass shape, making them perfect for snuggling up against.

Body pillows are used to achieve neutral spine alignment and may also help with a sore back, relieving joint pain, improving blood circulation and overall sleep quality.

Who Should Get a Body Pillow?

Pregnant women, side sleepers, back sleepers and those experiencing back or neck pain would benefit most from a body pillow. Stomach sleepers should choose a thin body pillow or not use one at all. A lofty body pillow can lead to poor spine alignment and cause more harm in the long run for stomach sleepers.

In the side sleeping position, a body pillow can be placed between the knees or thighs, promoting natural spine alignment and reducing the strain on the hips and shoulder.

For pregnant women, a body pillow provides support to the back, neck, stomach and hips throughout pregnancy and can help to reduce lower back pain. Placing a body pillow under the belly can also help to alleviate discomfort during pregnancy.

side sleeping with body pillow
Side sleeping with a body pillow.

Benefits of a Body Pillow

Whether pregnant or not, there are many benefits to using a body pillow. Here are just a few:

  1. Helps improve sleep quality: A body pillow may have both psychological and physical benefits. You feel like you’re hugging or being hugged, leading to a night of deeper and more restful sleep.
  2. Provides support and alignment: By supporting the head, neck, back and hips, a body pillow can help to alleviate pressure points. It also improves spinal alignment and promotes good sleep posture.
  3. Reduces tossing and turning: Restless sleepers can greatly benefit from a body pillow as they restrict movement, which leads to less tossing and turning. This could also lead to fewer awakenings during the night.
  4. Helps with pregnancy-related discomforts: Body pillows are a godsend for expecting mothers. Back pain and other body discomforts are common during pregnancy, but a body pillow can alleviate some of this pain.
  5. May help with back, joint or neck pain: People often experience body pain while sleeping due to improper spinal alignment. A body pillow does a good job of supporting the spine, stabilising the head at the right height and aligning the body so that there is less pressure on the joints and muscles, leading to pain relief.
  6. Great for side sleepers: While side sleeping is the most healthy sleep position, such folks are also susceptible to pain in the hips and shoulders. Most side sleepers would appreciate the extra support and comfort of a body pillow.
  7. Perfect for snuggling: If you love to snuggle up with a good book or watch TV in bed, a body pillow is a perfect companion. They provide just the right amount of support and comfort without being too bulky or intrusive.

Body Pillow Sizes & Dimensions Chart

The standard size of a body pillow is 140 x 51 cm (or 20 by 50 inches). Yet, they are available in various shapes and sizes, with various fill materials. On average, body pillows are twice the size of standard pillows.

Common sizes of different types of body pillows are:

TypeDimensions (Inches) [LxW]Dimensions (cm) [LxW]
C-Shaped34 x 52 inches86 x 132 cm
U-Shaped40 x 54 inches101 x 137 cm
L-Shaped30 x 55 inches76 x 140 cm
J-Shaped30 x 64 x 30 inches76 x 162 x 76
Rectangular20 x 50 inches51 x 40 cm
Cylindrical (Bolster)15 x 60 inches38 x 152 cm

Generally, choosing a body pillow size that corresponds to your bed size or your height is a good idea.

Types of Body Pillows

Rectangular and cylindrical are the most common shapes of body pillows. However, if you research more specific sleep needs, you’ll see others referred to as L-shaped, C-shaped, U-shaped, or J-shaped.

  • Traditional rectangular body pillows are the most common and are an excellent pick for side sleepers. The rectangular shape helps support your head, neck, and back.
  • Bolster or cylindrical body pillows are narrow pillows that typically have a higher loft and come in many different lengths. They are perfect if you share your bed and don’t want to take up too much room.
  • L-shaped body pillows are like rectangular pillows; only they have an extra arm. These are especially practical because they cut the need for a second pillow for your head.
  • U-shaped body pillows are usually the most oversized and common for pregnant women. With their unique U-shaped construction, these full-body pillows provide comfort and support for the entire body, especially the belly. Plus, they’re designed to fit perfectly between your legs.
  • C-Shaped: As the name suggests, C-shaped body pillows are C-shaped and curved to fit the body’s natural contours. They occupy less space than U-shaped pillows and offer support to the spine and abdomen. This shape is also beneficial for anyone who tosses and turns a lot in bed.
  • J-shaped body pillows are a curved alternative to the L-shaped pillow but still offer great full-body support. You can place one end behind your knees while the other end supports your head and shoulders.

Filling:

Body pillows come with different fillings, from natural fibres such as down and feathers to memory foam. 

  • Microfiber: It is a synthetic fibre known for being soft and breathable. It’s also inexpensive but not that durable.
  • Memory foam: Nothing comes close to the memory foam if you’re after support. This popular filling contours your body to provide customised support. However, it tends to heat, so this may not be the best filling if you often get hot at night.
  • Down and feathers: These natural fillings that provide good support and are quite breathable. However, they can be quite expensive and are not as durable as memory foam.

How long do body pillows last?

A good quality body pillow should last between 9 months to 2 years

The lifespan of your pillow will depend on the type, quality of the filling, how often it is used and how well it is taken care of. Typically fibre-filled body pillows have the least lifespan, while memory foam body pillows last the longest.

How Do You Use & Sleep with a Body Pillow?

The most common way to sleep with a body pillow is to place it lengthwise between your legs and sleep on your side. You can set your hands on top of the pillow or let them drape over the side, and your legs remain parallel. This is the ideal sleeping position for those suffering from hip or lower back pain as it takes the pressure off these areas.

Another way, although not so common, is to place the body pillow lengthwise behind your back and sleep on your side. This can help to reduce snoring as it keeps the airways clear. It can also provide extra support for the back.

  • Side sleepers can put the body pillow lengthwise between their legs with their arms around it. Imagine you’re giving the pillow a big hug.
  • Back sleepers often use body pillows under their knees, which takes the pressure off the lower back while sleeping. It also keeps the neck in an optimal position so that you can breathe easier and reduce snoring. 

C and U-shaped pillows are the most popular amongst pregnant women. With these shapes, you can place the pillow under your belly while you sleep on your side. This helps support the back muscles and the extra weight in the stomach. 

Back sleeping with body pillow
Back sleeping with body/bolster pillow.

Wrapping Up

A body pillow may just be the thing you need to get a good night’s sleep. Whether you’re pregnant, have back pain, or just want to sleep more comfortably, a body pillow can help. There are many different types and sizes of body pillows, so choose one that is right for you. 

Hopefully, this article has given you all the information you need to make a decision. Sweet dreams!

James Lee

James Lee

James is the content director at WhatASleep, a certified sleep science coach from Spencer Institute and our in-house sleep product expert. Over three years, he's personally tested hundreds of mattresses. He likes to keep his reviews simple, objective, and straightforward so that the readers don't have to go through decision fatigue which is often the case while shopping for sleep products.

He hails from Sydney and has a journalism degree from the University of Queensland and an MBA from Melbourne Business School.

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