We all need sleep, but for many of us a restful night is elusive.

Deep, restorative sleep is the best method to recharge our bodies and minds. Sleeping keeps us healthy and alert. It gives our brains and muscles the opportunity to recover from their daily work.

Did you know that you spend one-third of your lifetime sleeping? For the average human, that one-third is a whopping twenty-six years!

If you’re going to be sleeping for twenty-six years, maybe it’s time to evaluate your sleep environment. Your mattress, pillows, and bedding.

Adding a body pillow to your sleep environment has proven to be a comforting and transformative solution for many restless sleepers.

What is a body pillow?

A body pillow is an extra-long and narrow pillow that comes in various sizes, lengths and filling materials, depending on your personal preferences and needs. When held against your body's length and between your knees, the body pillow improves spinal alignment and prevents collapsing while you sleep on your side. It also can provide pressure point relief caused by uncomfortable sleep positions.

Whether it is filled with soft natural wool or premium organic latex, sleeping with a high quality, correctly sized body pillow will:

-Keep your body comfortably aligned throughout the night
-Help to improve blood circulation
-Regulate your temperature
-Provide emotional comfort
-Allow you to get the restorative slumber you need

What is a body pillow used for?

A body pillow is used to promote a comfortable restorative sleep.

Hugging the top part of the body pillow while tucking the lower section between your knees allows the spine and pelvis to stay in alignment as you slumber.

The pillow-hugging position keeps you sleeping on your side (the healthiest sleep position) and helps relieve pressure on your shoulders, neck and hips.

Side sleeping reduces:

-Acid reflux
-Sleep apnea

Using a body pillow is also excellent for relieving anxiety and stress. Embracing a luxuriously comfortable body pillow is calming and can help children, teens and adults feel emotionally settled. This in turn helps support falling asleep more easily.

A Dakimakura is a long pillow originating in Japan. Dakimakura or "Daki" means, literally, "hug pillow."

The modern-day Daki is invariably dressed in a cover with a printed design depicting manga or anime characters from the "otaku" culture. The blending of the daki with otaku culture began in the 1990s, and with the advent of e-commerce, the fad quickly spread. Dakimakura pillow covers portray almost life-sized images of the daki owners' favourite characters.

The Daki is used for hugging, décor, and displaying one's manga or anime preferences.

A body pillow and Dakimakura are somewhat similar in shape and size, but their purpose is the main difference. Dakimakura is used as security pillows and is available in only two main dimensions. One size is 160 cm (63 in) in length with a 50 cm (20 in) width and, since the late 2000s, a second size -150 cm × 50 cm (59 in × 20 in) dakimakura became available and increasingly popular due to shipping cost savings.

Body pillows function as emotional support objects as well, but are primarily designed for orthopaedic support and restorative sleep. The body pillow has various shapes, sizes and fills, and some are even customizable to suit individual needs.

Body pillow benefits

-Oxytocin: The "Cuddle Hormone"
-Athletic Performance
-During Pregnancy
-Back Pain Relief
-Stop Snoring

A body pillow provides healthy body alignment and aids restorative sleep; hugging a body pillow activates the hormone oxytocin, which helps you feel secure and content.

Oxytocin: The "Cuddle Hormone"

A body pillow's emotional and calming benefit comes from a hormone activated by what we call the "hugging factor."

Sometimes called the "cuddle hormone" or "feel-good hormone," oxytocin is produced by the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland when we're physically affectionate. It delivers what some describe as "warm fuzzies – feelings of connection, bonding, and trust," said Paula S. Barry, MD, a physician at Penn Family and Internal Medicine Longwood.

Another defining characteristic of oxytocin is its compounding nature:

The more oxytocin you release by being affectionate, the more you want to hug, touch, and hold hands. It's a snowball effect that can spell great things not only for meaningful relationships but also for your long-term personal well-being and overall health.

The relaxing, soothing sensation of holding a luxuriously comfortable pillow against your body, wrapping your arms and legs around it, is almost magical. This "hugging factor" helps you get to sleep faster and is perfect for helping children, teens and adults to soothe their anxiety.

A body pillow can give you a high performance edge

Body pillows help athletes acquire the highest level of restorative sleep and therefore optimize their body's night time recovery process.

Any athletic endeavours both tax and improve the body. Muscles, tendons, organs, brain function, balance and coordination all benefit from regular exercise. But the human body needs plenty of significant rest to recover from the physical output and to restore function.

Athletes gain and keep a competitive edge when fully rested. A body pillow provides the athlete with comfort and support while ensuring a deep, restorative sleep.

A body pillow will also greatly help an athlete recover from injuries. Careful and accurate sleep alignment during healing, can make a significant time difference in healing the body. Body pillows can be utilized in many positions to support specific rehabilitation needs.

Body pillow for pregnant women

A body pillow can alleviate discomfort during pregnancy by supporting the back, hips, legs and abdomen. A body pillow is much longer than a regular pillow, keeping the whole body aligned from shoulders to ankles. This eliminates the need for multiple pillows and distracting pillow management issues.

As pregnancy progresses, the abdomen expands, putting a strain on the abdominal ligaments and the lower back. Many women experience pain in the hips and swelling of the ankles, and finding a comfortable position for sleeping becomes more challenging as the foetus grows.

Cradle the upper part of the body pillow with both arms, allow your abdomen to rest on the pillow, and let the bottom length of the pillow rest between your knees. Your body pillow will relieve stretched ligaments, aching shoulders, sore back muscles, and other discomforts in this position.

Body pillow for back pain

A body pillow helps to relieve back pain. If you have a herniated disk or other spinal condition, the correct body pillow will help keep your spine in proper alignment and decrease your pain.

Back pain is common and caused by many factors. Pregnancy, heavy lifting, stress, being overweight, a sedentary lifestyle and, of course, poor mattress support, all contribute to back pain.

Back pain is one of the main reasons that people use a body pillow.

The body pillow provides total body support, relieving pressure points in the back, neck and hips, and soothing aching muscles. A body pillow cradles you from shoulders to feet, easing your back and legs and allowing you to find a comfortable sleeping position throughout the night.

Body pillow for snoring

Your sleep position affects if, or how much you snore. People who sleep on their backs are the ones who snore most often. During sleep, the airways relax and narrow, and the tongue falls backward. Breathing makes the walls of the throat vibrate, causing the sound of snoring.

Placing a body pillow along your front or back, will help keep you in a side-sleeping position, to reduce or even eliminate this problem.

How to choose your best body pillow

-Types of Body Pillows
-Body Pillow Fills
-Body Pillow Sizes
-Organic Body Pillows
-Latex Body Pillows

When choosing the best body pillow for your unique needs, a sleep shop specializing in quality mattresses, pillows, and bedding can be the most helpful. Your height and weight are essential factors in determining your best body pillow size. Other questions to consider include:

-Do you sleep hot or cold?
-Do you toss and turn at night?
-What size bed do you have?
-Do you have any allergies?
-Do you prefer to use products that are eco friendly and or vegan?
-Do you have arthritis or other joint issues?
-How wide are your shoulders?

The answers to these questions will help you to decide on the best, most comfortable body pillow for your needs.

Types of body pillows

Body pillows come in different sizes, shapes and types of fill. Body pillows can be straight or shaped like the letters C, J, or U.

This design can be beneficial during pregnancy. The C-shaped body pillow supports the back, hips, knees, neck, and head and replaces the need for multiple bed pillows during advanced pregnancy.

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The benefits are similar to those of a C shaped pillow. Side sleepers sometimes prefer a J shape for head-to-toe support. The curved end supports the head and neck while the long section tucks between the knees for spine alignment.

This most commonly used body pillow shape comes in various sizes and fills for personalized functioning. Certain rectangular body pillows can also be customized (having access to the inner filling, for adjusting the level of material) for a person with more specific support needs.

Body pillow fills

What's inside your pillow can determine how firm, warm, comfortable, and pliant it is.

These fills are among the warmest. Down, the more expensive of the two is the soft undercoat from geese or ducks, while feathers are the outer growth and contain quills, which can poke through the pillow cover.

This is an option if you are allergic to down. Down alternatives are usually polyester or poly-fill and are less expensive than down. Poly-fill will bank your heat, so best for those who like a warm pillow.

Memory foam is made with polyurethane. The heat from your body activates the foam so it conforms to your shape. Memory foam is not breathable however, and can cause you to overheat and perspire. The chemical odour from polyurethane can be unpleasant and a problem for those with particular health concerns.

Creating natural latex from an organic rubber tree is one of the most natural and sustainable manufacturing processes on the planet.

Some of the most popular uses for organic rubber latex are in natural latex filled body pillows. Products made from this durable and supportive material are odour free and long-lasting.

Latex filled body pillows are customizable for tailored support.

Kapok is a cotton-like substance that grows from the ceiba tree, which can be found in Mexico's tropical climates to West Africa. Kapok seed hair fibre is obtained from the fruit of the kapok tree or the kapok tree itself.

Kapok makes a luxuriously soft plant-based alternative to down. It's ideal for vegans and those looking particularly for a cuddle body pillow.

Premium Eco Wool™ is a blend of several different types of wool varying from fine to coarse. Wool is the most ideal filler for body pillows. Warm in winter and cool in summer, Eco Wool™ wicks away moisture as you sleep keeping you temperature regulated and dry throughout the night. Eco Wool™ is a natural fibre that is supportive, durable, long-lasting and chemical free.

Do you need an organic body pillow?

Organic body pillows could be considered more of a healthy, eco-friendly lifestyle choice than a need. Organic body pillows are made with simple, natural, sustainably harvested ingredients. Good for the planet and good for your health. Organic materials ensure your body doesn't have to work as hard to regulate its temperature throughout the night.

If spending your sleep time cuddled up with natural organic materials means snuggling breathable, natural fibres and materials, your choice may well be the organic body pillow.

How to use a body pillow

-For side sleepers
-If you are recovering from an injury
-For back sleepers
-If you require back support
when dealing with upper body issues

The best way to use a body pillow depends on your preferred sleep position. Sleeping on your back or side is best; try to avoid sleeping on your stomach, especially if you use a head pillow.

If you sleep on your side

Most people are side-sleepers, at least for part of the night.

Sleeping on your left side is thought to have the most benefits to your overall health. In this position, your organs are freer to get rid of toxins while you sleep. But either side can offer benefits in reducing sleep apnea and providing chronic lower back pain relief.

Side sleepers' knees often roll forward during sleep pulling their back, hips, and shoulders out of alignment and causing strain on the back muscles.

To prevent the roll forward, lie on your side with knees slightly bent. Position your body pillow under your chin to below your knees. Wrap your arms around the upper part of the body pillow and place the lower section between your knees. The body pillow will keep your pelvis, shoulders, and back in alignment as you sleep.

If you are recovering from an injury

A favourite position for those recovering from injury or with chronic body issues, uses two body pillows. One is placed along your back, the other at the front, providing dynamic support on both sides, keeping you from rolling onto either your back or stomach. This position also ensures a pillow is always available when you roll over, so you can try your favourite position in either direction.

If you have upper body issues

For extra shoulder support, twist your body pillow so that the top half is parallel to your chest. This position allows your arms and shoulders to rest higher, which is beneficial for broad shoulders, upper body injuries, or chronic arm and shoulder issues. It also works well for relieving pinching between your shoulder blades and kinks in your neck.

If you sleep on your back

Lie on your back with your head on a pillow and place your body pillow under your knees. This position takes the pressure off your lower back while keeping your spine at ease. This also helps to keep the neck in the most open and neutral position, ideal for breathing and helping lessen snoring.

If you are a side sleeper and need support along your back

Lie on your preferred side with a head pillow beneath your head. Position your body pillow so it is tucked in along the length of your back and lean slightly back into the pillow. This arrangement allows all muscles along your spine to relax while opening up your chest and sternum. For an excellent relaxation exercise, try this position in the morning before getting out of bed. Also great for expectant mothers.

The bottom line? A body pillow will help you achieve the comfortable, restorative sleep your body needs.

Good sleep eases discomfort and anxiety, increases performance and productivity, and improves your mood. By getting enough quality rest, you can also improve your memory, boost your immune system, and even maintain a healthy weight. Let a sleep specialist help you choose the body pillow that is right for you and start enjoying some of the most restful nights you’ve ever known.