While body pillows aren't for everyone, for many people they can make a big difference when it comes to quality of sleep. While standard pillows are all about supporting your head and neck, a body pillow extends that support to your whole body, which means that it can result in you waking up with fewer aches and pains.
We reviewed the Simba Cooling Body Pillow a few months back and were generally impressed by it, albeit with a few reservations. And it could well be that you're intrigued by body pillows but you're not sure whether one would be right for you. In which case, read on to discover the main reasons why you'd find a body pillow to be a real help at bedtime, as well as the one really big reason why you might be better off without one.
4 reasons why you might need a body pillow
1. You're a side sleeper
If you sleep on your side, a body pillow can be a lot more helpful than you might expect. Side sleeping is the most common sleep position, but it can mean that your spine isn't properly aligned in the night. One of the best mattresses for side sleepers can make a big difference, as it'll allow your shoulders and hips to sink in to keep your spine better-aligned, as well as cushioning your joints.
However a body pillow (or just a pillow between your knees) can make things that little bit better; it reduces pressure on your joints and can help keep your spine and neck aligned. Hugging a pillow to your chest can also prevent your body from twisting in the night.
2. You're pregnant
Body pillows are a popular choice with expectant mothers, particularly during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy when it becomes harder to get comfortable in the night. A body pillow can help relieve all those pregnancy-related aches and pains by keeping your spine, neck and hips aligned, as well as reducing pressure on your back, hips and of course your bump.
3. You suffer from chronic pain
If you're struggling with back pain, arthritis or even fibromyalgia, a body pillow may be just the thing to help you sleep better. Because they can provide support along the length of your body, they can take pressure off painful joints, while if you suffer from a bad back, the improved spinal alignment you'll get from a body pillow can help reduce the pain.
4. You suffer from sleep apnea
While a body pillow isn't a cure for sleep apnea, it can help reduce the effects. Sleep apnea is a condition that can stop your breathing during the night, and it happens a lot more when you sleep on your back; a body pillow makes it a lot more comfortable to sleep on your side, which should mean a much more restful night.
Even if you don't have sleep apnea but do tend to snore, a body pillow can help you stop snoring. Again, you're much more likely to snore when you sleep on your back, and by sleeping on your side with a body pillow you should snore less, which should be a relief to your partner if they're regularly kept awake by your snoring.
Why might a body pillow not be suitable for you?
There aren't really any major downsides to using a body pillow. They can be beneficial to most people, but there's one thing that you need to bear in mind: they're big. The most popular options can be around 5 feet / 150cm in length, while some are a lot longer, and that means they may take up a lot more room in your bed than you expected.
Basically if you share a bed comfortably, throwing a body pillow into the mix could make things a lot more crowded in there. In which case, you may get on better with the simpler solution of putting a pillow between your knees, which offers many of the benefits you'll get from a body pillow but without taking up as much space.
What are the different types of body pillow?
Most body pillows look like elongated versions of traditional pillows; some are straight while others - particularly the ones designed to help during pregnancy - are slightly curved.
However there are more options than that; you'll also find U, J and C-shaped pillows that are designed to fit around your body, and they can be really helpful in providing more support during pregnancy.
Just like regular pillows, body pillows come with all sorts of fillings. You can find down or down alternative pillows, memory foam or latex, or even polystyrene microbeads. One thing you should always look out for is a washable cover, because most standard pillowcases won't fit on a body pillow; if you can wash the pillow itself, even better.
Body pillow deals - US
Zoma Body Pillow: was
$120 now $97.87 at Amazon
Zoma's body pillow is six inches tall and 52" long, and filled with a combination of shredded gel memory foam and hypoallergenic down-alternative. It's moldable so that you can get it into exactly the position you need, and it's $120 if you order from Zoma. However if you instead head for Amazon, you can get it for just $97.87.
Tempur-Pedic BodyPillow: was
$199 now $133 at Amazon
Tempur-Pedic's BodyPillow is designed specifically for side sleepers and expectant mothers. It's 48" in length and it's made with a medium-firm sleeve of Tempur Material filled with shapeable microcushions for a responsive feel. It's not a cheap option; you'll pay $199 at Tempur-Pedic, or $289 for a pair, but there's 33% off at Amazon.
Body pillow deals - UK
Silentnight Body Support Pillow: was
£32 now £25 at Amazon
Silientnight's Body Support Pillow is long: 148cm in length, and while it's marketed as a pregnancy support pillow it'll do just as well as a body pillow for anyone else. It has a recycled fibre fill and a quilted cover, it's machine washable and it comes complete with its own pillowcase too.
Utopia Bedding Bolster Pillow: was
£24.99 now £22.99 at Amazon
If you're after the best value, this body pillow from Utopia Bedding is an excellent option. It's not quite as long as the Silentnight pillow above, but at 135cm it'll be large enough for most people. It has a hollow fibre filling and polyester cover, however this one's hand wash only.
Get daily insight, inspiration and deals in your inbox
Get the hottest deals available in your inbox plus news, reviews, opinion, analysis and more from the TechRadar team.
A professional writer with over a quarter of a century's experience, Jim has been covering mattress and sleep-related subjects for TechRadar, Tom's Guide and T3 over the past few years, gathering an in-depth knowledge of the workings of the mattress industry along the way. Previously Jim has covered a wide variety of subjects, working widely in the tech and gaming sectors, and more recently covering the design and wellness industries.