A good night’s rest is paramount to our ability to function properly during the day, a time our bodies take to rest, reset and heal. But this becomes difficult if we’re restless sleepers, twisting and turning and shuffling against the bedsheets to find a position we’re comfortable with every couple of hours. Even fitful sleepers may find they’ve woken up with a crick in their neck thanks to a weird sleeping position, and/or snoozing on the wrong sort of mattress or pillows. If problems like this persist, they can culminate and either cause or exacerbate issues like chronic back, neck, shoulder or hip pains, poor posture, and multiple visits to a chiropractor.
Body pillows are a brilliantly simple solution to our woes. Not just great for intrinsic sleepy-time snugglers, body pillows are increasingly popular remedies recommended by those recovering from conditions like fibromyalgia, sleep apnea or a sciatica flare-up, as well as doctors who understand the need for a full night’s restful sleep to alleviate negative health symptoms.
So how do body pillows help?
Aligning our bodies
Some of us are natural side-sleepers – we more or less find it impossible to sleep in any other position. In fact, sleeping on one’s side, be it in a fetal position or with your arms stretched out, is the most common and preferred sleeping position of the majority.
The problem with sleeping on your side unsupported, though, is that you end up putting the strain of your body weight on your hips and shoulders, and this may lead to you waking up with stiff or sore joints, or shuffling around in your sleep until you’re on your stomach in search of a more supportive or comfortable position. Lying on your tummy messes with your spine’s natural alignment, leading to the likelihood of lower back pain, neck sprains and even numb arms with the circulation cut off if you happen to have them tucked in underneath you.
Body pillows are great for helping us maintain a healthy alignment as we sleep. You can choose a plain, elongated pillow or a U-shaped option to hug your entire body, but a good body pillow lets you align your neck and spine while giving the rest of your joints the right support to let your whole body relax enough to start dozing off. You can use a body pillow to elevate your neck to the right height, holding it between your knees to support the top leg, not only keeping the strain off your neck and shoulders and keeping your spine aligned but also leaving you comfy enough to reduce the chances of you twisting into an unhealthy posture or winding up on your tummy.
Keeping your airways open
Snoring can become a problem for those of us who sleep on our backs – our tongues roll back in our mouths, constricting our air passages, and we end up making a ton of noise which, while it may not bother us when we’re asleep, is likely not pleasant for anyone we share the room with. Meanwhile, sleeping on one’s back is often associated with sleep apnea, a condition where an individual finds themselves short of breath or not breathing, starting awake in the middle of the night gasping for air. While sleeping on one’s back allows our spine more contact with the mattress for the adequate support and keeps it aligned, doctors often recommend sleeping on our sides to tackle sleep apnea or reduce the likelihood of snoring, since this sleeping position doesn’t constrict our air passages as sleeping on our backs does. As mentioned in the previous section, while side-sleeping can pose its own set of health problems, a body pillow is a great solution to counter a lot of them.
Pain recovery and reduction
Body pillows aren’t just a preventive measure – they’re great for helping cure certain ailments too. Whether you prefer one propped against your back as you sleep on your sides, tucked between your knees to support your top leg and take the strain off your hips, or slipped under your knees to take the stress off your lumbar spine as you sleep on your back, a body pillow is commonly recommended as a means to seek relief from conditions like fibromyalgia and sciatic pain. Whichever sleeping posture you choose, the body pillow’s function is to give your body the support it needs to relax, so all your joints, muscles and nerves are soothed and rested as you sleep, also giving them chance to heal. The support takes away the strain and discomfort of lying down with a condition like back pain, so you’re also able to drift off more easily rather than suffering through a long, uncomfortable night wracked with flare-ups of pain.
Body pillows are also widely recommended for use during pregnancy. Sleeping on your left side is believed to improve blood circulation and is healthy for both mother and baby, while sleeping on your back tends to put pressure on your spine. Body pillows are great for giving pregnant moms the right support to doze off with minimal discomfort, particularly during the third trimester – with the changes and strains the body undergoes during these months, good, consistent nights of sleep are critical for both the mother and the baby’s wellbeing. In fact, many body pillows are broadly labelled as maternity or pregnancy pillows, because of the immense benefits they give expecting mothers – often U-shaped, with neck, shoulder, back, tummy and knee support, these pillows cradle or hold the body and mold to its contours, allowing full body relaxation and rest.
There’s a reason kids can doze off with their teddy bears hugged close no matter how hyperactive they were two seconds ago. Hugging has been shown to have positive, soothing effects, lowering heart rates and calming the mind down. While cuddling with a person or a pet might sometimes not be conducive – especially when you’re sharing the bed with a finicky sleeper or the trapped body heat only serves to leave you overheated – a nice old body pillow can replicate the same sensation of holding and being held. You get to pick the right material and fill type for your comfort, ideally something breathable and soft, and even the least cuddle-prone of us can wind down for the night to get some rest.