Key Takeaways
  • Sleeping with a knee pillow can help promote good spinal alignment, particularly for side sleepers. Back sleepers can also benefit from sleeping with a pillow underneath the knees. In both cases, the shape and placement of the pillow can help relieve pressure and lead to a more comfortable sleep.

Knee pillows are designed to increase a sleeper’s comfort in bed. A side sleeper typically places a knee pillow between their knees, while a back sleeper may place the pillow under their knees. Either way, the pillow placement can help relieve pressure on the sleeper’s joints by keeping the spine, hips, and pelvis in proper alignment. This is especially important for side sleepers and pregnant people who sleep on their side. 

Using a knee pillow to elevate the legs can also help reduce swelling and knee pain.

Some sleepers use an ordinary pillow between or beneath their knees to improve comfort. However, a pillow designed specifically for use between the knees or legs can provide additional benefits based on its shape and firmness level. 

We’ll discuss why you might want to sleep with a pillow between your knees, who is most likely to benefit from a knee pillow, and how to choose the best knee pillow for you.

Why Sleep With a Pillow Between Your Knees?

The use of a pillow between your knees can improve overall comfort in bed. In particular, these pillows can help relieve pressure on the knees themselves. They can also help keep the spine, hips, and pelvis in alignment, which is particularly useful for those who experience back pain.  Side sleepers and pregnant people generally benefit the most from the use of a knee pillow, which can help them feel supported and comfortable while sleeping. 

Spinal Alignment and Sleep Posture

Knee pillows can help sleepers rest while maintaining good spinal alignment. Some research suggests that spinal pain can be reduced by sleeping in a symmetrical posture. This may help improve symptoms for those who experience chronic back pain or temporary back and joint pain associated with pregnancy.

Hip and Pelvic Alignment

Because they are smaller than a regular pillow and specifically designed to fit between the legs or knees, knee pillows can prevent the hips or pelvis from rotating during the night. Maintaining  symmetrical spinal alignment during sleep can help relieve pressure on the back and may reduce the symptoms of certain kinds of acute and chronic back pain.

Knee Pain

Those who are already prone to knee pain may experience an increase in symptoms if the knees rest on one another. This can be particularly problematic for side sleepers, who may be prone to spinal misalignment because of their sleep position. A knee pillow helps reduce pressure on the knees by distributing the weight of one leg more evenly on the other, rather than directing that pressure to the knees.

Types of Sleepers Who Can Benefit From Knee Pillows

Knee pillows can be a great tool to improve comfort during sleep by relieving pressure on the knees and other joints. They can also help you maintain good posture throughout the night. In particular, side sleepers, pregnant people, and those who experience back or hip pain stand to benefit from their use.

Side Sleepers

Sleeping position can have a big impact on your comfort level while sleeping. For example, side sleepers may experience hip rotation or spinal misalignment because of the way their legs rest on top of each other. A knee pillow placed between the legs can reduce hip movement while also holding the spine in a straight position. Side sleeping is often recommended for certain stages of pregnancy and for people with back pain, and using a knee pillow can help these sleepers stay comfortable at night.  

Pregnant People

Some research suggests that sleeping on your back during pregnancy can lead to an increased likelihood of side effects such as nausea, chest pain, and numbness. Because of this, pregnant people might prefer to sleep on their side. Using a knee pillow can help make this sleep position more comfortable

People With Back or Hip Pain

Sleeping with a knee pillow that has the right firmness level can help keep your body from twisting out of alignment during the night. When you sleep with your spine straight, you are less likely to rotate your hips and pelvis and put too much pressure on your back tissues and joints. Those experiencing back and hip pain may find that using a knee pillow provides some relief for their symptoms. This is particularly true for those sleeping with lower back pain.

How to Choose a Knee Pillow

While some people use an ordinary pillow for the task, a wide array of specially designed pillows exist specifically for use between the knees or legs. These pillows come in a variety of firmnesses and shapes that contour to the legs and knees.


Most knee pillows have some sort of contouring or cut-out that allows the knees and legs to sit comfortably on each side of the pillow. These contoured designs can help keep the legs stable and the spine properly aligned, which can relieve pressure and prevent pain.


Knee pillows come in a variety of firmness levels. However, firmness is somewhat subjective, so it may be helpful to try out a pillow or read some reviews before making a purchase to decide if a particular pillow is a good fit.

Heat Retention

Those who sleep hot will want to check manufacturer information and reviews for information about a knee pillow’s heat retention and breathability. Because they are often made from memory foam, knee pillows can trap leg heat. Heat retention can be counteracted by choosing a pillow with a breathable cover or one made from memory foam infused with cooling gel. Pillows that use natural filling may also sleep cooler.

Size and Weight

Those who wish to sleep with a standard pillow between the knees might find that folding the pillow in half will help give it the loft needed to keep the knees well separated. However, it may be easier to find the perfect fit by choosing a pillow specifically designed to go between the knees.These knee pillows are sold in various sizes to fit a wide range of body types. 

It’s important to note that a heavier pillow will more easily stay in place, but a very large one may cause discomfort for those with smaller body sizes.


A knee pillow’s cover is an important consideration, as it will be in contact with a sleeper’s skin throughout the night. Those who sleep hot may prefer the breathability of a natural fiber cover. If you have sensitive skin, you may want to consider a knee pillow with a hypoallergenic cover or one that uses organic dyes. Many covers are also machine-washable for easy cleaning.


Most knee pillows are priced somewhere between $20 and $60. The price-point is primarily determined by the pillow’s size, the materials used, and which brand is selling it.

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