Body Pillows 101: How to Choose and Use a Body Pillow

All it takes is a few nights of agonizing sleep for you to know that something’s got to change. Whether you’ve suffered a recent back injury or have had chronic back issues for decades, a restful night’s sleep is something you feel like you deserve.

Before you go and get yourself another $2,000 into debt for a fancy new mattress because the mattress company tells you your health is worth it, focus on your pillow. More specifically, a full body pillow. Before you run out and buy the first body pillow you see at Bed Bath and Beyond, it pays to learn a few basics.

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What is a Body Pillow?

A body pillow is an elongated pillow that is designed to offer support while you sleep. The pillows come in a number of sizes and shapes. So how long is a body pillow? It’s long enough to provide support for your head, shoulders, back, and upper legs. You can find pillows that are over six feet in length.

body-pillow-for-menNote for the guys:  Don’t be embarrassed to give a body pillow a shot. Sure, most users of body pillows are women but if something will give your back some relief and help you sleep better, who cares what it is!

The first time I “borrowed” my wife’s pillow after her pregnancy, I actually slept much more comfortably since I didn’t have to mess with getting my 4-5 regular pillows in the perfect positions. Body pillows for men are totally worth it.

How do People Sleep with a Body Pillow?

There is more than one way to sleep with the pillow. A lot depends on what position allows you to relax.

Some people are most comfortable on their backs. If you fall into that category, you may want to hug the pillow, much in the way a child hugs a teddy bear. The top of the pillow rests on your shoulder, and your arm is curled around almost as if you are cradling another person.

A u-shaped body pillow also works well for someone who sleeps on the back. You can use this shorter version to cradle the nape of your neck and ease the tension on your back. This can help keep the spine in a natural position and stop you from waking up in search of a comfortable position

how-to-use-body-pillowMaybe you sleep on your side like 57% of people. You will likely find that slipping the top part under your head provides just the amount of support you need to keep your neck from hurting.

The rest of the pillow can be held close to provide a sense of comfort. It’s not unusual for someone who uses a side sleeper body pillow to rest one leg on top of the pillow.

Maybe you are a traveler. That is, you start out in one position and end up shifting during the night.

A full body pillow will move right along with you as you change positions. It’s not impossible for you to start out hugging the pillow when you go to bed and wake up with the pillow nestled firmly behind your back.

What About People With Specific Health Issues?

If there is some type of health problem that makes it harder for you to find a comfortable sleeping position, some type of body support pillow will help. Your choice of pillow will vary, depending on where you feel pain.


This is a condition that develops due to the deterioration of vertebrae in the lower back. If you have this condition, then you already know how it causes pain in the back, hips, and the legs. A full body pillow is often a good choice. Try using the pillow as something soft to press the back against while you sleep. The filler of the pillow will be firm enough to provide support and still feel soft to the touch.

Pulled/Strained Muscle

If you’ve pulled a muscle in your back, the doctor has likely told you to keep still as much as possible. The right pillow can help. A long body pillow for back pain serves as a barrier that helps you stay in place one you find a comfortable position. This is especially helpful if you are the type who tends to move around a lot in your sleep.


If you are expecting, you already know how difficult it can be to find a comfortable way to sit, much less rest in bed. Fortunately, learning how to sleep with a body pillow while pregnant is not that difficult.

Side sleepers can use one end to cradle one side of the head, something that helps to keep the spine in alignment. The main part of the pillow is used to provide support for the tummy and ease the tension on the lower back. The bottom part of the pillow can be held in between the knees as a way to provide more relief.

Taking Care of Your Body Pillow

Learning how to wash a body pillow is not hard. For pillows using natural or organic fillers, you can often use the gentle cycle on your washing machine and toss in whatever detergent you like. The product that is used to clean clothing and other bedding will be fine.

You will get better results if you wash the pillow alone. If you like, it can be dried in the sun. Most fillers make it safe to slip the pillow into the dryer.

If sleep is elusive lately, try a body pillow for a few nights. It won’t take long to find the right position and wake up feeling refreshed.


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(Editor at Back Pained) – Adam is a former longtime back pain sufferer who is now pain-free. He has created this site to help others get back pain relief at home as an alternative to expensive specialist appointments or physical therapy that may or may not work. A research junkie, he's spent considerable time determining which of the countless back pain products actually work and which ones are a waste of money. He now enjoys spending time on the basketball court re-learning that jump shot from when he last played in high school.
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2 thoughts on “Body Pillows 101: How to Choose and Use a Body Pillow”

  1. My father uses a body pillow to help relieve his back pain at night. He’s 82 years old and has been using a body pillow for 7 or 8 years (at the advice of his doctor). He says he couldn’t sleep now if he didn’t have it. I’ve been using mine for about 5 years and it is a miracle, as far as I’m concerned. I wouldn’t have believed it if Pop hadn’t convinced me to give it a try. I’m a side sleeper & it really takes the pressure off my spine when placed between my knees, and it makes sleeping on my side more comfortable since I can throw my arm around it to support the rest of my body. Two of my three sisters also use body pillows, as does my 30 year old daughter. I guess we’re just a family of body pillow believers!

    • Thanks for the comment. Completely agree with you! I think if more people were to actually try a body pillow, they’d be hooked.

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