While sleeping on your back with your legs slightly propped up may be the best position for your spine, it can lead to snoring and other respiratory issues like sleep apnea, says Dr. Janet Kennedy, a clinical psychologist based in Manhattan specializing in sleep disorders. Sleeping on your side is better, though it can do a number on your back; thankfully, body pillows can help. On your side, the middle of your spine can collapse into the mattress, and a body pillow placed between your knees allows you to square your hips properly so that your legs are lined up on top of each other.
“Using a body pillow can fix a lot of the problems associated with sleeping on your side,” says Kennedy, “so that you can maintain better alignment, have less stiffness, more flexibility, and potentially less pain in the morning.” To help you choose the right body pillow for your needs, Kennedy and Bill Fish, co-founder of sleep health and sleep product review site Tuck and a certified sleep science coach, shared their favorites.
“If you’re going for the kind of support that will help with alignment, then having a firmer level of support with a body pillow is really important,” says Kennedy. While a foam option could be great for those who experience more pain than the average sleeper, Kennedy cautions against off-gassing — when products give off a chemical-y smell: “A low-quality foam can be stinky, and that’s not conducive to pleasant sleeping and is also potentially bad for you, particularly if you have asthma or allergies.” If you’re concerned about off-gassing, Kennedy recommends trying a natural latex body pillow. She also prefers pillows stuffed with pieces of foam or latex, as opposed to ones made of solid pieces of either, as the former allow for more movement during sleep.
For those looking for a body pillow made from memory foam, Fish recommends Tempur-Pedic’s pillow: “Tempur-Pedic brought memory foam to the public consciousness, and they do not disappoint with this pillow. It is medium-firm, but the solid memory foam construction is what sets it apart. The pillow is covered in a breathable polyester-knit cover that can be removed and washed.”
Here’s another body pillow recommended by Fish (it’s also a People’s Choice pick), this time made from eco-friendly Biogreen and CertiPUR-US-certified shredded foam that’s hypoallergenic and dust-mite resistant. Thanks to its breathable micro-vented cover composed of bamboo, polyester, and lycra, the Snuggle-Pedic pillow will also keep you cool through the night.
The ideal sleep position for pregnant women is on their sides, once they reach 20 weeks. But for someone who is not typically a side sleeper, this adjustment can be difficult. “A body pillow can be a really helpful tool and a reminder to stay on your side,” according to Kennedy. “If you’re properly supported, your muscles can relax and you don’t have to hold your body in this weird, unnatural position. A body pillow allows you to center your body around it in defiance of gravity.” Fish agrees: “Carrying around that extra weight can’t be fun, but a nice body pillow could give you a little bit of relief when you’re trying to get some rest.” He recommends the Malouf Z Gelled Microfiber pregnancy pillow: “The Malouf stuffs gel-infused microfibers into a cotton-percale cover, which helps with sleeping cool.”
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