Body pillow makers not caught napping
THE market for body pillows - large, sometimes huggable pillows designed for people seeking a better night's rest - is growing, and the shapes of the pillows continue to evolve.
Such body pillows, called "dakimakura" (huggable pillow) in Japanese, are especially popular among people who sleep on their sides.
Pregnant women are also cuddling up to the trend, as sleeping with a large belly can be uncomfortable.
Wrapping one's limbs around these large pillows helps to distribute the person's body weight more evenly, so their bodies are able to relax, say experts.
The pillows have been growing in size, and more are designed to support both the body and head, according to Tomoyuki Kawamoto, president of the Chiba Prefecture-based Makura, which designs and sells pillows.
Among the many variations available is a pillow in the shape of a soybean pod to better fit the form of the body. Another is designed for people who sleep on either side.
"Body pillows began gaining popularity among women around 2006," Mr Kawamoto said. "Since then, their designs have become more and more diverse, and their market has been expanding too."
Mr Kawamoto used to sell mobile phones but started studying pillows when he became dissatisfied with one he bought. In 2004, he set up Makura, which now deals in 800 types of ordinary pillows and 300 types of body pillows, mainly online.
He said body pillows priced at 3,000 yen to 12,000 yen (S$37 to S$148) sell well.
One of the designs is a streamlined pod-shaped body pillow, which can support the user's head.
The section for supporting the head is comfortably thick, and the pillow's body is curved in a way that allows the user to hug it easily.
The shape and size distribute the body weight more effectively by supporting the head, Mr Kawamoto said. "It's stuffed with very fine beads and is comfortable to hug," he added.
Newer designs, like the U-shaped body pillow, has even helped solve problems that came with older designs.
This type of pillow works regardless of whether users sleep on their right or left side. While an L-shaped type has been on the market for some time, the user's head often slips off the pillow. This does not happen with the U-shaped design.
Body pillows are popular among pregnant women as well as those who find it difficult to fall asleep on their back.
After giving birth, many women find multi-position pillows useful as they are designed for use as a cushion when they are breastfeeding.
Users can wrap the pillow around their lower torso to support their babies, so their arms do not get tired while breastfeeding.
"Its surface is made of organic cotton cloth and its texture is gentle to the baby's skin," Mr Kawamoto said.
Many other pillows attract buyers with their humorous and playful designs.
Some look like giant bananas while others resemble stuffed dolls and fluffy sheep.
"Check the size carefully and choose one suited to your body frame to get the best comfort," advised Mr Kawamoto.
THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK