I thought about calling this series “This Old Bodymind” to evoke “This Old House”, but I don’t want to reinforce the notion that you have to be old to be disabled. So, I’m trying on “This Chronic Bodymind”.
This first installment of “This Chronic Bodymind” is about an essential part of my coping system: pillows. I don’t know how I endured before assembling my trio of body pillow, pregnancy pillow, and head pillow.
- Separate, Isolate, Bolster, Squeeze
- My Current Coping Trio
- Body Pillows
- Head Pillows
- Pregnancy Pillows
Separate, Isolate, Bolster, Squeeze
I’m a side-sleeper with chronic pain and chronic muscle spasms who prefers fetal most of the time but also likes yearner. Some pillow rules-of-thumb I’ve developed in my quest for relief and sleep are:
It starts with the tuck. I tuck one arm of a U-shaped pregnancy pillow in along my back. I tuck the other arm in along my front. No matter which side of my body I’m currently sleeping on, I have a pillow arm tucked front and back. I’m pressure spooned both ways.
With the pregnancy pillow in a bolstering squeeze, I wrap my top arm and leg around a body pillow in a fetal hug that separates my knees and ankles and bolsters my top arm and leg. The top of the body pillow tucks below my chin, bolstering my head and separating it from my easily cramped and locked jaw. My down arm, when lying in yearner, is between the arm of the pregnancy pillow and the body pillow: separated, isolated, bolstered, and squeezed.
The pregnancy pillow has a built-in head pillow. On the downward slope of that pillow I put a thin (for a side-sleeper) standard-sized head pillow. My down arm, when lying in fetal, rests at a 45-ish degree angle on top of the pregnancy pillow and tucks beneath the head pillow. My down arm has to be propped at just the right angle to avoid pain. The total thickness of pregnancy pillow plus head pillow must be within the range my neck can tolerate, so the head pillow has to be somewhat thin while also providing enough loft to separate my jaw from my shoulder and down arm. By using adjustable loft and moldable head pillows and situating them a bit below the built-in head of the pregnancy pillow, I am able to dial in separated, isolated, bolstered, and squeezed relief.
When so ensconced, I come the closest I get to a reprieve from gravity. It’s wonderful. The gravitudinous mass of the earth never stops sucking at my bones, but the delta of relief afforded by my pillows as I sink into bed can nearly par the cool settling of morphine.
My Current Coping Trio
What pillows am I separating, isolating, bolstering, and squeezing with right now? What did I sleep with last night?
- Snuggle-Pedic body pillow, US$60
- Sleep Number PlushComfort Pillow Ultimate head pillow, US$80
- Moonlight Comfort-U Total Body Pregnancy Support Pillow, US$100
The Snuggle-Pedic body pillow has the perfect fill for me. It’s a satisfying squeeze that isn’t too heavy or hard to bend and mold. Wirecutter recommends the Snuggle-Pedic for those who need more support and The Company Store body pillow for those who need less. The Company Store body pillow is very nice and easy to wrangle, but it was under-filled for my huggy bear needs.
Tuck’s review of best body pillows says this about the Snuggle-Pedic:
Side sleepers who use a body pillow often like to hug or snuggle with it. The Snuggle-Pedic Bamboo Body Pillow lends itself well to those sleepers, due to its highly moldable design.
If you’re a fetal hugger, the Snuggle-Pedic is satisfying. Our house has five Snuggle-Pedics so that I always have an accommodating squeeze nearby. I take one with me whenever we go on car trips, both to endure the car ride and to endure the hotel. I don’t travel by air for many reasons, but one of the biggest is that I can’t take a big, plush snuggly with me. Without my body pillow, life is pain.
I’ve tried a lot of head pillows over the years, including several Wirecutter and Tuck recommendations. Now that I’m combining a head pillow with a pregnancy pillow, I go for head pillows that can be adjusted to just the right loft to complement the pregnancy pillow. Having two pillows stacked is not generally necessary or a good idea, but having a channel between the two pillows for my down arm is crucial to avoiding elbow, shoulder, and jaw pain. Adjustable pillows allow me to set the height of the pillow stack to a neck compatible position whole affording sufficient jaw support. Being out of range provokes pain in either.
Most pillows we’ve tried come in soft, medium, or firm densities, but the PlushComfort Ultimate includes all three options in one pillow: It offers three sealed, removable layers of fill to help you get the best fit for your body shape. Most of our testers (even some back- and side-sleepers, who generally prefer shredded foam) found a comfortable height and enjoyed the cushioned support of the PlushComfort Ultimate.
You can also unzip the Easy Breather’s cover and scoop out as much shredded-foam filling as necessary to get your ideal loft; it can be a messy process, but it does let you achieve a precise fit.
For their adjustability and compatibility with pregnancy pillows, the “Sleep Number PlushComfort Pillow Ultimate” and “Nest Easy Breather” have become my regular rotation.
With the PlushComfort, I remove one of the three inserts to get the loft I need. With the Easy Breather, I scoop out the fill until I get it just right.
I have another Easy Breather left fully filled for use as a bolster when I set up in bed. It’s also quite huggy.
The pillow has a versatile U-shape that can be used in a variety of positions. Side sleepers may prefer to tuck themselves in the space between its arms to feel supported on all sides, while those with joint pain can use the arms as added support underneath the knees or lower back.
I’ve tried several U-shaped pregnancy pillows and found my style of sleep to be compatible with all of them. Here are three I like at different price points.
- Bluestone Pregnancy Pillow, Full Body Maternity Pillow with Contoured U-Shape by Bluestone, Back Support: Home & Kitchen, US$40
- Moonlight Comfort-U Total Body Pregnancy Support Pillow, US$100
- Yana: The Premium Body Pillow Made for 360* Comfort, US$200
Tuck says of the Moonlight Comfort-U:
The Comfort-U from Moonlight Slumber is a polyester microfiber body pillow that measures 60″ in length, making it suitable for sleepers of most heights. It can be curved between the legs and around to the back, which is ideal for pregnant woman and other sleepers who prefer extra pillow support in these areas. The Comfort-U makes a comfy headrest for reading or watching TV in bed, too.
When I’m side-sleeping, the pregnancy pillow bolsters and squeezes me on each side and supports my down arm. When I’m resting on my back, the arms of the pregnancy pillow support my arms along my sides and also tuck under my knees. When everything is arranged just right, I almost feel a repeal of gravity. I float.
My body + pregnancy + head pillow trio totals US$240. Some of the best money I’ve ever spent.