what does sleeping with a pillow between your legs do?
Sleep Positions

What Is The Purpose of Sleeping With A Pillow Between Your Legs?

(Last Updated On: November 18, 2022)

Sleeping with a pillow between your legs – ideally the knees – ensures your posture remains balanced overnight. This reduces pressure on your joints and prevents the spine or hips from growing misaligned.

The best position for sleeping with a pillow between the knees is lying on your side. Many sleep experts consider this the optimum position for sleep, and placing a pillow between your legs can help you train your body to retain this posture overnight.

If you can sleep with a pillow between your legs, ensure you choose the right one. You’ll need a firm but comfortable pillow that offers an ideal shape for your preferred sleeping position and does not make your legs too hot overnight.

The rewards of sleeping with a pillow between the legs may not be apparent overnight, but they’ll make themselves known over time. Before too long, you should notice greater mobility in your joints and legs in the morning and considerably less strain on your spine.

Does Putting a Pillow Between Your Legs Help You Sleep?

If you’re prone to musculoskeletal discomfort in your daily life, you’ll likely struggle to sleep well at night. Pain is one of the main causes of insomnia in adults.

Issues with the back, neck, and hips can be managed by spending thousands of dollars on smart mattresses and appointments with chiropractors. However, simply placing a pillow between your knees when sleeping can also have a significant positive impact.

What Does Sleeping with a Pillow Between Your Legs Do?

We’ve established that it’s a good idea to use a pillow this way, but why does sleeping with a pillow between knees help? There are multiple benefits to adopting this posture when sleeping:

Reduces Back Pain

Back pain is a concern for many people across the world. In some instances, this discomfort can be attributed to a particular trigger, like pulling a muscle while lifting something heavy. In others, it is a near-constant problem with no diagnosis.

According to the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, back pain should never be ignored or considered a transient concern. Back pain and spinal issues can become problematic, even with basic self-care, if left unremedied.

Sleeping position can also contribute heavily to back pain. If you have not identified the cause of your back problems, consider sleeping with a pillow between your legs.

Spinal Alignment

If you don’t adopt an appropriate sleeping position, your run the risk of spinal misalignment. This concern is every bit as concerning as it sounds. Spinal misalignment sees your backbone fall out of line with the neck and hips, causing significant pain.

Regularly using a suboptimal mattress, such as attempting to sleep on an air mattress permanently, is a cause of spinal misalignment. Thankfully, it can be managed by placing a pillow between the legs.

If your sleep with a pillow between your knees, your body is likelier to retain a straight posture overnight. According to the British Medical Journal, superior posture can reduce the risk of spinal misalignment.

Sciatic Nerve

The sciatic nerve is commonly impacted by poor posture while sleeping. This nerve begins in the lower back and travels to the bottom of each leg. Chronic pain can occur if pressure is placed on the sciatic nerve through misalignment.

This pain is known as sciatica, which is diagnosed as an inflammation of the nerve. Sciatica can be overcome after around six weeks, but the discomfort will be intense whenever the nerve is touched.

Just as sleeping with a pillow between the legs improves posture and, by extension, spinal alignment, it keeps pressure off this sciatic nerve. Sleeping with a pillow between your knees helps you avoid sciatica, or if you have been diagnosed with the concern, manage it.

does putting a pillow between your legs help you sleep?

Slipped Discs

The human spine comprises multiple vertebrae, each protected by soft discs. These discs absorb the impact of movement, especially when we bend and curve our spine, preventing the bones in your back from rubbing against each other.

Poor posture or physical injury can lead to one of these discs slipping out of place (also known as a herniated disc). If your spine has a disc out of position, you’ll struggle with constant discomfort as your back lacks protection during movement. It can take up to six weeks for the pain associated with a slipped disc to subside.

Sleeping is particularly difficult when you have a slipped disc, as any pressure placed on the back will cause shooting pains throughout the spine. Placing a pillow between the knees makes your spine less likely to twist and rotate while you sleep.

Prevents Twisting of the Hips

Hip pain is a common problem for many people, and discomfort around the hip socket is often considered a sign of arthritis, Arthroscopy: The Journal of Arthroscopic and Related Surgery explains how there are countless potential explanations.

If you’re yet to discuss your hip pain with a medical professional, but it’s preventing you from sleeping, consider placing a pillow between your legs, especially if you prefer to sleep on your side.

When we adopt a side sleeping position, the hips are directly stacked atop the other, which can place pressure on the top hip. While a high-quality mattress can protect the bottom hip, the upper joint is pulled by pressure applied by the knees.

This can lead to twisting of the hips, which in turn creates soreness in the morning – or a general sense of discomfort that keeps you awake at night. The top hip is less likely to be dragged out of position by placing a pillow between the knees as the weight is more evenly distributed.

Enhances Blood Circulation

Poor overnight circulation can drastically impact how you feel in the morning. If your blood hasn’t circulated sufficiently while you sleep, you’ll likely wake up with pins and needles in your feet, swelling in the legs and ankles, and limited mobility.

Circulation always takes a hit while sleeping because the circulatory system relies on movement. To keep blood flowing around your body overnight, lift your legs by placing a pillow between or under your knees.

This position will be most effective if you prefer to adopt the supine sleeping position of lying prone on your back. It can still be assumed by placing a pillow between your knees and lying on the side, though.

Reduces Muscle Cramps

PLoS One explains how muscular cramps in the lower legs impact as many as 6% of all Americans overnight. These cramps can make falling or remaining asleep increasingly tricky, as the discomfort will disturb your rest.

One way to manage leg cramps at night is by eating a banana before bedtime. In addition, sleep with a pillow between your knees, as this retains a natural alignment and position for your legs, reducing the inflammation that leads to cramps.

Encourages Side Sleeping

While everybody has a preferred sleep position they find most comfortable; many experts recommend sleeping on the side where possible. The advantages of sleeping on your side include the following:

  • Reduction of acid reflux and enhanced digestion, especially if you sleep on your left side.
  • Lower impact of sleep apnea and potential eradication of snoring.
  • Less pressure on the internal organs, such as the heart.
  • Relief for the back, spine, and neck.

Falling asleep on your side is only part of the process. To enjoy the full benefits of this position, you need to avoid tossing and turning in your sleep, and a pillow between the knees can be beneficial.

By placing a pillow between your legs, your body will remain in harmonious comfort. This will reduce the likelihood of rolling over involuntarily, and staying still for eight hours in bed results in greater feelings of restfulness than constant movement and fidgeting.

How to Sleep with a Pillow Between Your Legs

You must choose the perfect pillow to gain the benefits of placing it between your knees while sleeping. Factors to consider include:

  • Shape. If you sleep on your back, use a cylindrical pillow. If you prefer to sleep on your side, get an hourglass pillow, as they’re perfectly shaped for placement between the legs.
  • Firmness. A pillow that is too flat will offer little benefit – choose a plump, firm pillow.
  • Comfort. Don’t sacrifice softness for this firmness. Ensure the pillow doesn’t hurt your knees or legs.
  • Material. Memory foam pillows will mold themselves to your knee imprint, while down pillows will retain shape. Decide which will benefit you most.
  • Advanced Technology. Consider if you need a smart pillow. If you like to remain cool while sleeping, a smart pillow that won’t grow too hot while under the covers.

Once you have the ideal pillow for your needs, adopt your preferred sleeping position and place the pillow between your bent knees. Straighten your back and hips, and as soon as you feel comfortable, allow yourself to drift into sleep.

Sleeping with a pillow is not for everybody, but if you experience back or joint pain, it could make a big difference to your health.