What is a Body Pillow?

Medically reviewed by
 Dr. Jennifer Miller, PT, DPT: Expert Physical Therapist and Pelvic Health Specialist

Dr. Jennifer Miller, PT, DPT: Expert Physical Therapist and Pelvic Health Specialist

Dr. Jennifer Miller is a compassionate and skilled outpatient physical therapist with nine years of experience in the field. She earned her Doctor of Physical Therapy from Elon University and…

Read more

By Sanchita Sen Certified Sleep Coach

Last Updated On September 27th, 2023
What is a Body Pillow?

Key Takeaways

  • Who Needs a Body Pillow: Body pillows are beneficial for various types of sleepers, including side sleepers, pregnant women, and individuals with back pain. They help improve spinal alignment, reduce pressure points, and promote better sleeping postures.
  • Types of Body Pillows: Body pillows come in various shapes and sizes, including rectangular, cylindrical, U-shaped, and J-shaped options. The choice of fill material, such as down, down alternative, memory foam, or latex, can affect the pillow’s firmness, warmth, and price.
  • Choosing the Right Body Pillow: When selecting a body pillow, consider factors like your height, sleeping habits, and any specific health conditions. Pay attention to the pillow’s fill material and fabric cover for comfort and durability. Body pillows can serve both functional and decorative purposes in your bedding set.

If you need extra support and pressure relief while you sleep, a body pillow is a comfortable and cost-effective solution. Body pillows are longer than standard bed pillows, and they come in various shapes, like I, U, or C.

Body pillows are specially designed to improve your spinal alignment and relieve pressure points. In this article, we discuss who needs a body pillow and the different types of body pillows available.

Say Goodnight To Neck Pain With A Better Pillow

Shop Our Pillows

Who Needs a Body Pillow?

Body pillows have become more common and are sometimes found tossed across beds for stylish purposes, and almost all sleepers can achieve more comfortable sleep by adding one of these to their bedding set. That said, side sleepers, pregnant women, and those with back pain benefit most from body pillows, and often need body pillows to get comfy and feel well-rested.

“I recommend a body pillow for all of my patients who sleep on their side,” says Dr. Jennifer Miller. “I find it helps to decrease, neck, back, knee, and shoulder pain.”

When used properly, body pillows can help straighten the spine, prevent the pelvis from tilting forward, and take pressure off the shoulders and hips. They promote better sleeping postures to ease things like snoring and body pains.

Side Sleepers

Side sleepers place the entire weight of their body on the shoulders and hips, leading to pressure points in these regions. Wrapping your arms around a body pillow can ease the pressure off your shoulders and prevent you from waking up with numb hands or arms.

These pillows curve to fit the shape of your body, providing appropriate support wherever you need it. Body pillows also help to decrease rounded shoulder posture, as they support the upper arm.

A body pillow tucked between your knees keeps your pelvis aligned with the spine. Sleeping with a pillow between the knees reduces the chances of spinal misalignment, causing lower back pain or muscle tension. Body pillows can eliminate the risks of this healthy sleep position.

“I find this to be very helpful in reducing hip and pelvic pain for my patients,” says Dr. Miller.

Side sleeping is healthy because it prevents acid reflux, snoring, and sleep apnea. In fact, sleeping on your left side is best because it potentially improves your blood circulation.

Pregnant Women

The higher concentration of weight in the midsection makes back sleeping uncomfortable for pregnant women. They are encouraged to sleep on their sides because not only does this position ease pressure points, but it prevents poor circulation to the fetus, which is a risk for pregnant women who sleep on their backs.

Back Pain Sufferers

Placing a body pillow between your legs maintains spinal alignment and potentially eases back pain. Back pain is fairly common and stems from countless things including poor sleep positions, aging, and certain medical conditions. Irrespective of the cause, body pillows can alleviate existing back pain by keeping the spine in better alignment and facilitating a good night’s sleep. If using a body pillow to correct poor sleeping positions doesn’t ease your discomfort, it may be worth investing in a mattress for back pain relief.

Types of Body Pillows

The standard size of a body pillow is 20 inches by 54 inches, but they are also available in different shapes and sizes, with a variety of fill materials. Some of them can be as long as 6 feet.

Your pillow size and fill type determine its weight. Most body pillows weigh between 5 to 7 pounds, but you may find some weighing 10 pounds as well. Choose one depending on your personal preference for shape and fill type.


Rectangular and cylindrical shapes are common in body pillows. If you research more for specific sleep needs, you will find them in shapes of some letters like U and J. These pillows are often called full-body pillows because they can be used to support your head, neck, and back as well. They are like a  standard bed pillow combined with a body pillow.

  • Rectangular: These are commonly found in bedding stores or online. They may range between 10 inches by 48 inches to 30 inches by 60 inches. Some of them are long enough to cover the length from your chest to ankles.
  • Cylindrical: These narrow pillows are also available in different lengths. They are an excellent choice for those who share their beds. “I recommend these for most of my non-pregnant patients,” says Dr. Miller.
  • U-shaped: U-shaped pillows are commonly used as pregnancy pillows. These full-body pillows support your back, head, neck, and also tuck between your legs, so you don’t need different pillows to meet all these needs.
  • J-shaped: These pillows, resembling an oversized candy cane, offer full-body support. One end can be placed between your legs while the curled end supports your head and neck.

Fill Materials

The fill material determines the pillow’s firmness, warmth, and price. On average, body pillows are priced at $50 but you will find some priced higher or lower. Some materials such as down are more expensive than polyester, leading to the difference in pillow prices.

“I always encourage my patients to find a material that is cooling to ensure a good night sleep,” says Dr. Miller.

  • Down: Down refers to the soft feathers found beneath the wings and on the belly region of geese or ducks. Down is the softest and warmest fill material but it may not be a good option for those prone to allergies. This natural material may contain traces of dust, despite washing. These dust particles can trigger allergies such as a sore throat, runny nose, watery eyes, wheezing, or coughing.
  • Down Alternative: Polyester is a good hypoallergenic option and it is less expensive than most fill types. This synthetic fill material is common in most pillows.
  • Memory Foam: Memory foam pillows soften in response to your body’s heat, conforming to your curves. The body pillows may contain either a chunk of memory foam or shredded memory foam. A chunky memory foam body pillow is firmer than a shredded memory foam version, while the latter is more flexible.
  • Latex: All-natural latex foam is made from the sap of rubber trees and it feels soft and bouncy. Natural latex foam pillows contain fewer chemicals than synthetic fills and they naturally sleep cool.

Apart from the fill, even the fabric cover of pillows can affect their cooling abilities. Generally, cotton, polyester, or rayon fabrics are used to encase the pillow fill. It’s best to use a removable cover for your body pillows because tossing a cover in the washer is easier than cleaning the body pillow itself. Opt for cotton covers as these natural fibers are more breathable, keeping you cool as you sleep.


What is the purpose of a body pillow?

A body pillow is a long, narrow pillow, meant to be cradled between your legs when you sleep on your side. These pillows improve spinal alignment and provide pressure point relief. Body pillows are also used to prevent sleepers from rolling onto their back when they are training themselves to sleep on their side.

Is it bad to have a body pillow?

No, there is nothing wrong about sleeping with a body pillow. In fact, you might discover using one improves your sleep. Certain body pillows are specially designed for pregnant women, most of them can be used by both men and women. There are a variety of shapes and sizes, catering to people with different needs.

Some may need a body pillow to keep their spines neutral, while others may need it as an added support when using a mattress for sitting up in bed.

What is a body pillow cover?

Body pillow covers are removable covers used to encase your body pillows. A removable cover protects your pillow from dirt and stains, prolonging its life. Body pillow covers are generally made of cotton, rayon, or polyester, and all of these fabrics are machine washable.

Do body pillows help with anxiety?

Body pillows can help with anxiety because some National Library of Medicine studies Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source show hugging reduces blood cortisol levels, providing relief from stress and anxiety. When you are stressed, your adrenal glands release cortisol, also called the stress hormone. Cortisol increases your heart rate and blood pressure, impairing your sleep. Hugging your body pillow can decrease the stress hormones in your bloodstream, preventing a domino effect that interrupts sleep.

Will a body pillow take up too much space?

Body pillows are comfortable, but they can take up a lot of room in bed, which can be bothersome for your partner. If you need one to sleep comfortably, consider the smallest size possible to achieve maximum comfort. If you aren’t already sleeping on a queen or king size bed, upgrading to one of these larger mattress sizes may provide you with more room to enjoy your pillow without it falling out of the bed.


When choosing the best body pillow, consider your height, how hot you sleep, and if you have any pre-existing health conditions like chronic back pain. Body pillows can serve as a decorative comfy extra pillow in bed, or they can be used correct poor sleeping positions—when shopping, take into account why you’re buying the body pillow, as well.

If you’re not looking for a body pillow to improve your night’s sleep and you merely want an extra-long cushion for your bed, the appearance of your pillow will matter most. On the other hand, specific details regarding material, breathability, and durability will be crucial when pinpointing a suitable pillow to complement your sleep needs. With a little research, you’ll be sure to find the right body pillow for you.

About the author

Sanchita Sen is a full-time writer focusing on the sleep health and mattress industry. She is a former journalist who has written numerous articles on the healthcare sector. Some of the topics she has covered include how to lucid dream, fever dreams, melatonin for sleep, and best gel memory foam mattress. Sanchita holds a Master of Arts in Communications from Convergence Institute of Mass Media and Information Technology Studies. She is also a published author, who seeks inspiration from both real life and the world of fiction.

View all posts

Discover the ultimate sleep system

Choose your mattress

Shop top-rated mattresses with proven sleep-boosting materials.

Get a pillow

We have the perfect pillow to pair with your mattress.

Browse Pillows

Pick out bedding

Bring out the best in your mattress with our soft and breathable bedding.

Browse Bedding