If you wake up with a sore back and hips, there is a simple solution. The Mayo Clinic recommends the use of a pillow to reduce back pain for side sleepers. By adding a “spacer” between the knees, the back and hips are naturally realigned to the proper position. A knee pillow is a natural choice because of its size and comfort.
But don’t just grab an extra bed pillow, it will just keep sliding around all night, become condensed and even result in more pain. Tossing and turning in the night to find your homemade knee pillow won’t help you get better sleep. The best solution is a specialized knee pillow designed to comfortably remain in place and provide the proper support throughout the entire night.
In a Hurry? Check out the editor’s choice for best knee pillow: Comfilife Orthopedic Knee Pillow
Why Use a Knee Pillow?
There are many benefits to sleeping on your side with a high-quality knee pillow, including:
- Reduced Snoring: Sleeping on your side helps to open your airways for better breathing during the night.
- Less Pain: Sleeping with a properly placed knee pillow relieves stress on your lower back, hips, knees and ankles by keeping your spine in the proper alignment.
- Increased Brain Power: You need the proper amount of sleep to function at your best. Finding a comfortable position allows you to sleep soundly without tossing and turning. Studies also reveal that sleeping on your side may increase the efficiency of your glymphatic system for improved brain functioning.
- Strong Heart: Sleeping on your left side helps promote healthy blood flow to your heart. Side sleeping with a knee pillow can promote proper circulation during the night.
- Healthy Pregnancy: During pregnancy, a woman should sleep on her left side to maintain a healthy blood flow to mom’s heart and to the baby. Using a knee pillow keeps you comfortably on your side and reduces the strain of pregnancy on the back and hips.(read our full buyer’s guide to a pregnancy pillow).
- Doctor Recommended: Doctors recommend side sleeping with a knee pillow for increased circulation and to relieve pressure after back or hip surgery. With recovery time after surgery often resulting in more time in bed, protecting the back and joints from damage is especially important.
Types of Knee Pillows
The compact size of a specialized knee pillow is a large advantage over using a full body pillow or a traditional bed pillow as a substitute. You aren’t filling your bed with a large, invasive object, much to the disapproval of your sleeping partner. Although sleeping pillows come in a variety of shapes and sizes, most are discreet and fit within three categories:
- Hourglass Knee Pillow – With a distinctly hourglass shape, this form of knee pillow easily contours to your body and stays in place between your knees. The size and shape allow you to place the pillow exactly where you need for the best comfort.
- Strap-On Knee Pillows – Longer than most hourglass versions, the strap-on knee pillow is designed to stay in place during the night. A strap attaches to your leg, keeping the pillow in place. You can place the knee pillow in various position along your leg to find the best sleeping position. The longer shape gives more support between your legs during the night but may make night movement a bit more difficult.
- Bolster/Wedge – Bolster or wedge leg pillows are ideal for those who switch between side sleeping and back sleeping. Although the bolster is a round half-moon shape and the wedge is triangular, both shapes perform the same function. This style of leg pillow can be placed between the knees for side sleeping or under the knees for back sleeping.
Best Knee Pillows for Side Sleepers
ComfiLife Orthopedic Knee Pillow
This hourglass knee pillow is made from premium high-density memory foam to shape to your body and provide all-night comfort. With an ergonomically design, the ComfiLife knee pillow provides relief from sciatica, back pain, hip stiffness, knee pain and joint discomfort by keeping your spine properly aligned. The reduction of lower back pressure results in a full night’s sleep without tossing and turning.
- Maximum support and comfort for side sleepers
- Memory foam will not go flat throughout the night
- Contour fits nicely between your knees or thighs
- Breathable cover is machine washable
- Can shift during the night
- Memory foam is temperature sensitive and may be harder or softer depending on room temperature
Cushy Form Premium Therapeutic Knee Pillow
With a traditional hourglass knee pillow shape, the Cushy Form Premium Therapeutic Knee Pillow is designed for comfort. This memory foam knee pillow is compact, yet sized correctly to fit the majority of side sleepers. A convenient carrying case keeps this pillow with you when you travel.
- Comfortable support at the upper knee to reduce pain and pressure throughout the night
- Designed to fit all sizes of legs
- High-quality memory foam holds up well over time
- Breathable, zippered cover is removable for easy washing
- Convenient travel bag with handle keeps pillow clean when not in use
- Can shift during the night
- Temperature sensitive memory foam may be harder or softer depending on room temperature
Everlasting Comfort 100% Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow
This addition of a strap to this comfortable hourglass knee pillow eliminates waking up to search for your knee pillow during the night. You simply strap the pillow to one leg and rest easy knowing it will remain in place. The removable and adjustable strap secures easily with a hook and loop closure.
- Stays in place during the night
- 100% memory foam support
- Removable, adjustable strap gives a customized fit
- Breathable cover is removable for easy machine washing
- Temperature sensitive memory foam may soften during the night
- May not correctly fit larger legs
Cushy Form Half-Moon Bolster Knee Pillow
For the sleeper who can’t decide which position is best, the Cushy Form Half-Moon Bolster Knee Pillow provides the best of both worlds. When on your back, this knee pillow can be tucked under your knees as a leg elevator. Side sleepers can easily insert the bolster between their legs for a comfortable side sleeping knee pillow. At 20 ½ inches in length, it is large enough to be flexible, yet small enough to be easily maneuvered during the night.
- Flexible use perfect for sleepers who change positions during the night
- Reduces pressure on the lower back in both back and side sleeping positions
- Dual-layer memory foam quickly adjusts to changes in sleeping position
- 100% cotton cover is soft, breathable and machine washable
- Larger than a traditional hourglass knee pillow
- Can be difficult to maneuver under covers
Cushy Cloud Orthopedic Memory Foam Knee Pillow
Made from 100% medical-grade memory foam, the Cushy Cloud Knee Pillow provides the perfect amount of support for side sleepers. With a slightly larger design, the Cushy Cloud provides firm support for larger sleepers. The supportive memory foam slightly conforms to your legs to provide soft support without feeling like you have a block between your legs. The soft, fluffy velboa cover feels luxurious, but it is still removable and machine washable.
- Can reduce back and joint pain quickly by providing proper support
- 100% medical-grade memory foam provides quality support night after night
- Remains cool during the night
- Easily removable cover is machine washable
- May be too large for small-framed sleepers
- Too stiff for some users
Tips to Choosing the Right Knee Pillow
The best thing about having so many quality options is the ability to choose a high-quality knee pillow that perfectly fits your sleeping needs. Consider the following when choosing the best knee pillow for support and comfort:
Memory foam provides both support and comfort. As the foam warms, it shapes perfectly to your legs. Both hypoallergenic and durable, a quality memory foam knee pillow will perform well for several years.
No one wants to sleep with a hard wedge between their knees. Look for medium support to provide a mix of both support and comfort. Most high-quality memory foam knee pillows with temperature sensitivities will provide support while softening just the right amount for comfort.
The perfect size depends on your body. Most experts recommend a knee pillow that offers 4 to 6 inches of separation. Small-framed users should shop for knee pillows on the smaller size. Larger body types require more support and should use a larger, firmer knee pillow during the night.
Sound sleepers that rarely toss and turn don’t need to strap on a knee pillow. The contoured shape of an hourglass knee pillow will generally remain in place during the night. However, sleepers who move and adjust during the night may benefit from a pillow that straps onto the leg. With one simple strap, you reduce the hassle of searching for your knee pillow.
Those who adjust position from side to back will get more use from a bolster/wedge style knee pillow. The flexibility of this style of leg pillow provides comfort in any position.
Memory foam is known for sleeping hot. The density of the foam can trap heat and create a sweaty situation. The key to avoiding a hot sleeping experience is all in the cover. Breathable, soft covers help reduce the ability of memory foam to hold heat during the night. You should choose a knee pillow with a high-quality, removable cover for easy cleaning, durability and cool performance.
Back, hip, knee and leg pain can not only make sleep difficult, but it can also affect the quality of your daytime hours. Knee pillows provide simple and cost effective relieve to both restless nights and joint pain. In fact, they give you more than just pain relief. Choosing a high-quality knee pillow will help realign your entire body for better sleep, better support and better health.