What is a Bolster Pillow?
"Bolster pillow" refers to a pillow that is long and cylindrical in shape. It's also known as "hotdog pillow", "tube pillow", "long pillow", or "po-tsim" in Chinese (literally hug pillow). It can be placed in a number of different positions to provide optimal comfort and support for your back, neck and legs. Particularly for side sleepers, a bolster pillow is a great way to improve sleep quality and can be an essential part of any sleep routine with due to its perfect balance of comfort and support. It's also great for pregnant women, who are advised to sleep on their sides as well.
Health Benefits of Bolster Pillows
1 | Improves your posture
Sleeping with a bolster pillow significantly improves your alignment and supports healthy posture. For side sleepers, placing the pillow between your knees and hugging it with your arms reduces the “twist” that your spine is otherwise experiencing. The pillow helps keep your spine, hips, and neck aligned, relieving tension for joints and surrounding muscles. This enhances comfort, eases back pain, improves circulation, and encourages healthy posture into the next day.
2 | Relieves tension on joints
Sleeping on your side essentially puts the entirety of your body weight on your shoulders, hips and knees. By morning, the stress and pressure on the joints and muscles around these regions have built up, causing much discomfort. A bolster pillow can help by supporting your arms and legs, essentially soothing your body by reducing the stress on those sharp pain points.
3 | Provides emotional comfort
Feeling blue? Embracing a soft object, even an inanimate one like a bolster, can be extremely comforting as it mimics a real hug. It releases the “cuddle hormone”, formally known as Oxytocin, which creates feelings of calmness and relaxation, essentially embodying that warm feeling when embracing a loved one.
On a more psychological note, Stephanie Silberman, a Florida-based licensed clinical psychologist, board-certified in sleep treatment, points out: "People are very routine-oriented. If they do things in a typical way and they grab a pillow every night, it's very comforting to them." A pillow is an object that can be "an environmental cue" that reminds the brain it's bedtime and should start to settle down.
Silberman also adds that pillow-hugging can provide a sense of safety and security, which will assist the anxiety sufferer—who has difficulty staying present and recognizing the true nature of their environment—in relaxing. This also has its roots to our childhood, wherein touching or holding a stuffed toy or pillow helps us feel secure as it reminds us of the sensation of being soothed even when an adult is away.
Bonus | Can be used as a decorative element
A bolster pillow can also add style to your bedroom setup. Interior designers often add a bolster to the bed to pull everything together and make it look more dignified. A pair or two of pillows plus the long bolster makes an odd number of pieces which is more pleasing to the eye.
What to Consider When Choosing a Bolster Pillow
Now that you know the benefits of bolster pillows, the three most important factors to consider when buying one are: material, firmness, and size.
1 | Material
Since your face and skin is in contact with the bolster for many hours a day, it's best to choose soft bolsters and bolster cases which are organic and screened for textile safety (such as OEKO-TEX® Standard). Bamboo Lyocell is a good option as its manufactured without harmful chemicals, feels buttery soft, and offers superior breathability and comfort.
2 | Firmness
The pillow should be a balance of comfort and support. Too soft—it defeats the purpose of the pillow. Too hard—it can be uncomfortable to embrace.
3 | Size
In the Philippines, there are generally two sizes available in the market. The standard size is suitable for most people's heights, while the large size may be more suitable for taller persons.
- Standard: 22" circumference (7" diameter) x 34" to 36" long
- Large/Long: 22" circumference (7" diameter) x 44" long