Should You Sleep with a Pillow Between Your Legs?


It is pretty well established that sleeping with a pillow between your knees, when you are on your side, will assist with securing a good posture and protect your lower back.

Why should you sleep with a pillow between your legs? You sleep with a pillow between your legs to help reduce the stress on your hips and lower back, while also protecting the alignment of your spine.

Opinions are generally divided on whether you should be sleeping on your side at all. However, the harsh reality is that a significant number of people prefer this sleeping posture. If you find that you just cannot help yourself, then it would probably be prudent to stick a pillow between your knees when doing so.

In addition – although it normally is the natural reaction anyway – you should pull your knees slightly up towards your chest when sleeping on your side. Once you have placed a pillow between your knees in this posture, it is also advised that a pillow or small towel be placed under your waist, as an additional support structure for your spine.


Sleep with Pillow Between Legs for Sciatica

Sciatica is a condition which we do not wish upon anybody. It is essentially a severe pain that is directly associated with pressure on the sciatic nerve. The pain normally starts with the lower back and radiates right through the hips and buttocks before traveling through both legs.

The one positive detail about sciatica is that the source of the pain is normally just one side of the body. That usually gives you an option to sleep on the other side of your body. The condition can be treated relatively quickly (within a few weeks) but it can never be too soon under these circumstances.

Those who wake up from the pain in the calves or the feet are actually normally the lucky ones.

Spare a thought for the many who will never actually get to sleep because of the sheer agony that comes with the territory when you have the condition.

Alas, there are options available for the pain during that recovery period and chief among them is having a pillow between the legs when you sleep, normally on the side of your body that is not affected.

Another documented option is that of elevating both of your legs while lying on your back and placing two pillows under your knees. The experts say the heels and the buttocks must remain in contact with the bed when you do this. Importantly though, you relieve the pressure being applied to the sciatic nerve.

The other option is to become a soldier and just sleep on the floor, if and when the mattress just becomes too unbearable. The jury is out on whether the benefits outweigh the cons when you pursue this option but if you are seeking urgent relief this might turn out to be the only other viable trick available to you.

When you do decide to ditch the bed/mattress, sleeping on your side remains an option when you are on the yoga mat or floor too. One pillow normally works but sometimes you might feel that you actually need two pillows between the legs. There is no harm in that either.

Sleep with Pillow Between Knees for Pregnant Women

The American Pregnancy Association reveals that many (if not most) pregnant women struggle to find some form of comfort before sleeping and even when asleep. It is a difficult nine months for women, which can be compounded by sleep deprivation.

As we have noted so many times before on these blog pages, sleep deprivation can only be detrimental to a person’s health – in both the short and long term.

The other harsh reality is that for many women, regular sleep positions simply aren’t going to cut it during pregnancy and some alterations ultimately need to be made to the regimen. Among other things, women who are pregnant tend to experience back pain, heartburn, shortness of breath and general discomfort from the increased size of the abdomen which comes with the territory.

There is a commonly held view that sleeping on the side is probably the best option for a woman who is pregnant. We actually suspect the overwhelming majority of women will agree on this.

Some suggest that it is normally best to sleep on your left side, for the benefit of the unborn baby.

Sometimes keeping a pillow between the knees is not enough for pregnant women though. An additional pillow under the abdomen will often help with a little more stability and comfort.

We are all too aware of the discomfort that is always associated with heartburn and that is often worse for pregnant women. The experts even suggest that propping up the upper body with an endless (slight exaggeration) number of pillows is also a useful ploy.

Sleeping on Your Back with a Pillow Between Legs

Most people sleep on their sides and placing a pillow between the legs becomes a by-product of that sleeping preference. In all honesty, the whole business could be avoided if you opted to adopt a different sleeping posture.

However, not everybody has that choice available to them. Among those who do not have choices are people currently negotiating hip replacement issues, especially those who have actually completed the surgery already.

Most people recovering from hip replacement surgery are likely to only be comfortable while sleeping on their backs. However, even under those circumstances, there will be a series of issues that pertain to comfortability and stability. The latter is probably a touch more important.

Experts at the University of Utah advise that those people sleep with a pillow between their knees.

For those who do sleep on the opposite side of the new hip, which cannot be discounted, a similar suggestion has been made. You can sleep on your side if you must (and can) but when you do, make sure you have a pillow between your knees. You will be thankful later.

Among the biggest fears for doctors or surgeons who have just completed a hip replacement on a patient is that the patient will succumb to the temptation to cross the legs or ankles when lying down or sleeping. {My article about avoiding sleep problems after surgery can be found here…}

It is a circumstance that ought to be avoided at all costs. The best way to avoid that is to keep a pillow between the legs most of the time. We actually suggest all of the time.

Sleep with Pillow Between Legs for People with Arthritis

The American College of Rheumatology deals primarily with matters like this and a group of researchers from that institution made some interesting findings on that score about a decade ago. Well, interesting might be a strong word but these are matters that fully healthy folk tend to take for granted.

Of the 123 participants that they included in their study, about 81 percent encountered some form of night pain either when they were or weren’t asleep. It stands to reason that all of those people had their sleep disrupted to some degree or the other.

The participants in question we’re all dealing with some form of hip or knee osteoarthritis. By some form of it, we are suggesting that the severity of the disease ranged from mild to extremely painful.

The researchers also found that a significant portion of those participants was able to predict that there would be some form of night pain when they fell asleep. In a significant number of those cases, there was a meaningful case of sleep disturbance reported.

The cases reported clearly reveal that the pain was so severe, patients were woken from their sleep. Given what we already know about the importance of sleep for our overall health, the management of this chronic condition becomes quite critical.

In all of those cases, the patients in question needed to adapt and adopt some form of treatment and action campaign. The key here is not so much lower back pain or even spinal alignment, even though that should always be a consideration.

However, the key concern for these folks is the small matter of protecting the joints, whether that be in the knees or in the hips. There are several options available to patients who are faced with these circumstances.

Those options include changing the bed itself, waking up, getting out of bed and walking around for a bit. Or they could explore measures to apply some semblance of temperature control for the affected area (cooler or warmer), which is responsible for keeping the patient awake.

All of those seem like perfectly reasonable options. However, in all of those circumstances, the glaring detail is that the patient has had his/her sleep efficiency severely interrupted.

The most common treatment across the board though is putting a pillow behind the hip or better still between the knees. Sometimes, there is an option to do both. The College study reveals that this was primarily the option for those who experienced moderate to severe pain in the evenings.

The pillows between the knees were – and are – not for everybody though. Patients reported that they can be a hindrance, a nuisance even. A major difficulty is knowing how to manage the pillow, because at some point that becomes a primary contributor to a patient staying awake and not the pain itself.

Or worse still, some patients reported that they experienced pain in the evenings despite having the pillows because they were no longer in position after a period of tossing and turning in the evening.

We suspect – but do not know for sure – that many of these patients had not consulted some of the more modern pillow options that are available to them on the market, which were designed with a view to mitigating some of the reported problems with those pillows. We explore those options in greater detail below.

When the pillows failed, there was then the option of medication and sedation. But it is probably important to note that the use of pillows between the knees was essential for many suffering from the condition, especially when it started to progress or deteriorate.

It is also important to remember that medication does have side effects and that dependency on that medication can actually do more harm than good in the short and long term. Stick to the pillows if you can.

Choosing the Right Knee Pillow for Sleep

Contrary to popular belief, this is actually a subtle art. Protecting the hips, lower back and spine is not a matter to be trifled with under any circumstances but especially when you are going to be out cold for the greater part of nine hours.

Look, there is no denying that this is also a largely commercial exercise. So, any advice provided by the EXPERTS should be consumed with a truckload of salt. Do not dismiss it altogether though.

The primary considerations should always be pain reduction in the lower back and spine, as that will likely facilitate a healthy night sleep. It is also about improving sleep hygiene.

You basically want a knee pillow that can be regularly cleaned, that is durable, that is affordable, that is firm and ultimately one that will last a meaningful amount of time.

Here is what some of them will say about the pillow choices you should make for your knees.

Orthopedic Knee Pillow


When it comes to matters that could have such a profound impact on your body, the look of something like a knee pillow should really be taken into consideration. However, we are going to point out that the Orthopedic Knee Pillow is rather easy on the eye. However, the practical implications are why you should really be buying it.

These knee pillows generally stay firm and in place, which assists with stability. That is to say, they generally fit comfortably between the knees and provide the kind of support and comfort that you need, which will ensure that you secure maximum sleep efficiency and avoid sleep latency.

On this site, I always try to instill the importance of quality sleep to your overall health – considering most will spend a third of their life in bed and hopefully sleeping. This pillow will contribute to that.

That is thanks in part to what is usually premium quality and durable cut of memory foam. The last thing you want, as somebody who constantly sleeps on his/her side, is a knee pillow that goes flat over a period of time.

Memory Foam Knee Pillow

Memory Foam Knee Pillow

We live in an age when the body and sleep experts do not miss a trick. The most prominent feature with this pillow is that it has a neat little leg strap that helps keep your legs in place, regardless of your movements at night. Most sleepers will toss and turn at some point during the night.

In addition to that, there is also the distinct possibility that the strap could serve as somewhat of an irritation. If you do not like it, you can just remove it – without having to phone some useless call center agent.

Among its more appealing features though is the size. The package is small but effective, primarily because you can also travel with it when the situation demands it. As is the case with most of these knee pillows, the memory foam knee pillow also helps side sleepers improve circulation in the legs at night.

“C” Shaped Maternity Support Pillow


There is no messing around with a pregnant woman and her sleep. (I would know – two summer pregnancies)

There is nothing more important than support during pregnancy for the best sleep and over the years support pillows have come into their own. This “C” shaped maternity pillow (click here to see it on is the one my daughter-in-law used during her summer pregnancy with my grandson.

The removable cover keeps it fresh and clean, the pillow itself can be washed in the machine, supports in all the right places and can be used way beyond pregnancy and early infancy. I guarantee you will be using this pillow when your kids are at college 🙂

Final Thoughts

Being a side sleeper I have used a “cuddle” pillow all my life. I actually cannot sleep without some sort of support. I even travel with it (not my head pillow) just in case there is not an extra pliable pillow available.

As outlined above it can only benefit you sleep to have the support of a pillow between yours to aline your body.

Try sleeping with a pillow for extra support, as with any sleep issues it may take a little getting used to it but you will be thankful that you persevered.

As always here’s to better sleep!

Related Article: I wrote an article about sleep positions, a great read, see it here.

By Michelle D.

Meet Michelle, founder of Tip Top Sleep, a website dedicated to helping you achieve the best sleep possible. With over 50 years of combined experience in the realm of sleep, Michelle and her team provide easy-to-follow tips and strategies to help you feel better, function better, and live better through optimal sleep. Let us help you prioritize your sleep and discover the power of a good night's rest.