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What is a Body Pillow?

Mary McMahon
Updated: May 23, 2024

A body pillow is an oversized pillow designed to cradle and support the body during sleep and rest. They come in many different designs and fillings intended to meet different physical needs, and stores that specialize in pillows and sleep accessories usually carry a variety of options.

If possible, people should test out a body pillow before buying it, since different people prefer different levels of softness and unique pillow styles. Feeling the pillow first ensures that the best possible option is selected. For people who often wake up with strange pains, the support a good one offers can make it a useful acquisition, although consulting with a chiropractor or other medical professional first is a good idea.

The most basic design is roughly rectangular, and about the length of the body. A person can lie against the pillow for extra back support, or use it as a prop to sit against. Regular pillows could be used to fill the same function, but they tend to shift and compress during sleep, ultimately not providing the same support.

Other body pillows are designed to surround the whole body, like a nest. These are useful for relieving tension and pressure during sleep, especially for restless sleepers. One can help to keep the body in place while providing support to the neck and front of the body as well as the back. Some adjustment may be required in the beginning to get used to a pillow designed in this style, but some sleepers ultimately find them very relaxing and pleasant.

Different types of fillings are used, ranging from firm memory foam to soft down. In some cases, a body pillow may have compartments with different fillings, designed to address different areas of the body. In all instances, the pillow should have a washable cover to keep it clean and sweet smelling, as regular washing can deform the filling and make it less effective.

Some companies sell body pillows designed for more specific functions. For people recovering from certain injuries, for example, one can make sleeping more comfortable by redistributing the body's weight and reliving painful pressure associated with the injury. In addition, pregnant women often benefit from using this type of pillow, which accommodates the bodily changes that accompany pregnancy. A pregnancy pillow usually includes back support and a specialized pillow for a woman's growing belly, allowing her to sleep on her side in comfort.

PillowGuide is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PillowGuide researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Apunkin — On May 24, 2011

Someone gave me a body pillow for my birthday and I love it, *but*... I can't find a cover for it! Right now I have two standard sized pillow cases on it, one on each end, overlapping in the middle. That works, but I'd really rather have the right sized case. Does anyone know where I can find body pillow covers?

By famnfriends — On Feb 16, 2011

I loved my body pillow when I was pregnant! It really was the only way I could sleep. I had it positioned around my belly and between my legs for support. I used this throughout my pregnancy and also to help support my new-born when I was breast-feeding.

I found if I propped my arm and the baby's head up with the body pillow, I was much more comfortable than if I had no support. A regular pillow did not give me the same support. I would highly encourage any expecting mom to add a body pillow to their wish list!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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