What To Look For in a Backrest Pillow

Woman working at a desk

What to Look For in a Backrest Pillow

A backrest pillow, also known as a husband pillow or reading pillow is one of the best purchases you can make if you sit up in bed reading or watching TV but have to constantly adjust your pillow or rest your back against a hard headboard. Using a backrest pillow can help you avoid developing back problems and provide everlasting comfort. These pillows also help you sit up to sleep if you’re ever sick or on bed rest and don’t want to lie flat.

What is a Backrest Pillow?

A backrest pillow is a special type of pillow that supports you while you sit upright in bed. It’s like sitting up in a chair, but with the comfort of laying in bed. They are also known as husband or reading pillows. These pillows are very thick and contoured/structured. A backrest pillow has arms attached to support its upright position and your posture. You can compare the shape of it to a chair, minus the cushion on the bottom. It will usually have a polyester or foam filling, and some will have handles on top for easy portability.  A backrest pillow can be purchased online or in-store and is typically offered in many different colors, fabrics, designs, and sizes.

Why a Backrest Pillow?

You might opt to purchase a backrest pillow to sit on top of your bedding for multiple reasons including comfort, convenience, and health. First and foremost, a backrest pillow can help prevent long-term spinal problems and back pain. When you sit incorrectly for long periods of time without any back support, it can lead to back pain. Sitting up in bed propped against a headboard or a regular pillow doesn’t provide enough support to help lesson this possibility. As a result, pain and discomfort from bad posture can occur. Using a husband pillow will help you sit up straighter and with correct posture. It’s also a great option for those already suffering from back pain.

Work, Study, and Leisure

Additionally, if you are a student or work from home, you may find yourself sitting in bed with your laptop and notebooks for online class, work, or homework. A backrest pillow will keep you sitting upright so you can feel comfortable working from your bed just like you would at a desk. Without one, you may not realize you’re hunching over to look at your laptop or write in notebooks, which can cause posture issues and back strain in the long run. If you have a television across from your bed, a backrest pillow makes it super easy to watch a movie or TV series in a comfortable upright position. And if you prefer reading to watching TV, the comfy armrests of the backrest pillow are a great place to rest your elbows while holding your book.

Bed Rest

Bed rest can be recommended by a medical professional when someone needs to stay calm and stress-free to fight off an illness or as an attempt to control dangerous vitals like high blood pressure. The most common instance where someone may be put on bed rest is during pregnancy. This may occur in a hospital so the patient can be properly monitored or at home for less serious cases. Those with high blood pressure or a high-risk pregnancy are often put on strict bed rest to ease the stresses of daily life while also ensuring their activity level is low. Being on bed rest can be mentally exhausting, and sometimes sitting up in bed is all you want to do. Luckily, a backrest pillow is also called a bed rest pillow– and for good reason. A bed rest pillow can make it extremely easy to sit up in bed while on bed rest without causing any strain or stress to your body like sitting up with a normal pillow may.

Illness or Allergies

Some illnesses or allergies may cause sinus blockage or dizziness when lying flat. A backrest pillow can help alleviate many symptoms associated with these health problems by providing a supportive backrest in an elevated position. Sleeping in an upright position while you are suffering from an illness like a sinus infection or vertigo can be highly beneficial to your recovery.  Laying on a backrest pillow is a great way to keep your airways open and prevent any dizziness or vertigo triggered by flat positions. If a doctor ever recommends that you keep an upright sleeping position, this pillow can help keep you in an upright position all night without sliding down.

Backrest Pillow Alternatives

The closest alternative to a reading pillow would be an adjustable bed— these beds can be adjusted with buttons or a remote control to lift up your head or other parts of your body so you can sit upright. However, an adjustable mattress can cost thousands of dollars. Why spend all that money on an adjustable bed when you can simply purchase a backrest pillow that essentially provides the same exact thing? A reading pillow can range anywhere from fifteen dollars to over a hundred dollars, depending on material used and durability.

Backrest Pillow Materials

One of the most important things to look for in a husband pillow is the materials it’s made with. This can determine the price, comfort, and durability of the pillow. Some common materials used to make reading pillows include gel inserts, polyfill, memory foam, and shredded foam. Do you want your pillow to be softer for comfort, or firmer for better support? A memory foam pillow will provide better support for your spine as it is a firmer material and so will gel. Other foam materials may be softer, but less structured. Note what benefits you are looking for from your backrest pillow to ensure you make the best purchase for your needs.

Shredded foam is a type of filling made from ripped foam sheets. You can find this type of filling in pet beds, pillows, and bean bags. While it is affordable, it might flatten over time and constant use so you will need to adjust your pillow every so often to redistribute the filling. The foam will also compress and break down over time after repeated long term use.

Memory foam is a more expensive option. Memory foam is made from a polymer called polyurethane. You can find memory foam in mattresses, pillows, couches, and seats. Memory foam molds slowly from pressure. It creates a ‘print’ to perfectly fit your unique sitting position when pressure is applied. Then, it slowly resurfaces back to its original state when pressure is removed. It is a sturdier option and perfect for those with back pain.

Backrest Pillow Covers

The outer fabric of your reading pillow is what you will be resting on, and what will encase the filling. There are many different types of fabrics used to make the covers. For example, twill is a strong woven fabric which will hide stains well. and is typically used in furniture coverings, jeans, and bags.  

Velour is a softer fabric that’s similar to velveteen. Velour is usually made with cotton but can contain synthetic materials like polyester. Velour used to be a popular material for clothing, but is now more commonly found in bedding and upholstery. This material looks and feels very luxurious and has a gleamy shine.

It’s important to know what type of backrest pillow cover material you are looking for because many backrest pillows feature a removable cover that can be washed on its own in case of stain or re-filled. Invest in something you like– you can usually get more filling but can’t get a second cover without buying a new pillow!

Types of Backrest Pillows

You should also figure out which shape will best meet your needs before making your purchase. There are different types of backrest pillows, the two most prominent being classic and wedge pillows. Both provide back support for a comfortable upright sitting position.

Wedge Pillow

A wedge pillow lives up to its name– it is shaped like a triangular wedge with an incline. This versatile pillow can be put up in different ways so you can lie down and sit up with it. To sit up, put the widest part of the wedge pillow on the bottom, the thinnest part at the top, and rest the flat side against the headboard. Then you can lean back comfortably in bed while sitting up supported. To sleep with a wedge pillow, put the thinnest part facing away from the headboard. A wedge-shaped pillow is a great option for people with sleep apnea because it keeps your head elevated making it easier to breathe while you sleep.

Wedge Pillows We Love

  1. Bed Wedge Pillow and Triangle Wedge with Elevated Incline

    by DMI 

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    03/06/2024 08:15 pm GMT
  2. Folding Memory Foam Incline Cushion System for Legs and Back Support Pillow

    by AllSett Health

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  3. Bed Wedge Pillow with Memory Foam Top | Stylish Chic Jacquard Cover

    by Kӧlbs 

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Classic Backrest Pillow

A classic reading pillow is the most common shape. This type of husband pillow looks like the top of a chair. It’s meant to be used in one position, while you sit upright. It’s designed to resemble a chair with armrests for extra support. The structure is firm so it can sit up on its own, and all you need to do is set it down and relax into it. If you are reading, the armrests provide a comfortable place to rest your elbows while holding your book. Some classic backrest pillows also have handles so you can easily bring it to different beds or with you when you travel. This style of backrest pillow is the most popular and provides the most support.

Classic Backrest Pillows We Love

  1. XXL Tan Backrest with Arms

    by Husband Pillow 

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  2. Reading Pillow Bed Wedge Large Adult Backrest Lounge Cushion

    by ComfortCloud

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    03/08/2024 12:44 am GMT

Lumbar Pillow

A lumbar support pillow is slightly different in that it is specifically made to target lower back pain and support. It can be used in a chair as well as in bed. Lumbar pillows are typically short and wide. They are placed at the bottom of your back so that you can rest your lower back against the cushion. They can also be used for the head and neck and under the legs. Unlike classic and wedge pillows, they do not have any armrests or inclines. Benefits of lumbar pillows include increased concentration, easier digestion, decreased lower back pain, better circulation, better breathing, and improved sleep and posture.

Lumbar Pillow We Love

  1. Lumbar Support Pillow for Office Chair Back

    by Everlasting Comfort 

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    03/06/2024 07:42 pm GMT
  2. Lumbar Support Pillow for Office Chair

    by QUTOOL

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    03/08/2024 08:19 am GMT
  3. Ergonomic Lumbar Support Pillow for Chair


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    03/06/2024 07:35 pm GMT
Reading Pillow with Shredded Memory Foam

by Milliard 

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03/09/2024 07:29 am GMT

Best Backrest Pillow: Milliard Reading Pillow

The Milliard reading pillow, available on Amazon, is the best pillow out there in terms of price and durability. It features a handle, is offered in multiple colors, has a luxurious shredded memory foam filling, features a classic shape, and also has an accessible foam insert area.  This is a great feature because it allows you to add or remove filling to better suit your needs.  It also allows you to replace the filling once it’s flattened instead of buying a new pillow altogether. The pillow cover is also machine washable. The outside cover is made of velour and features a zipper for convenient removal in case of any spills. The pillow sells for $29.99 on Amazon. It’s price, convenience, and quality all put this pillow at the top of the backrest pillow tier and make it a good purchase for a first-timer who isn’t sure which company is trustworthy.

How to Care for Your Backrest Pillow

It is true that husband pillows have a unique shape, and you may wonder if they are difficult to clean. You might use your reading pillow while reading in bed or watching TV. If you are eating or drinking while doing these things, stains and unwanted spills can occur. Cleaning your backrest pillow should be fairly simple, just check the product details for proper guidelines.

You should use a mild detergent when cleaning your pillow and avoid any harsh cleaning products whenever possible, and do not use bleach. If you are using your backrest pillow most days, you should aim to wash your pillow at least once a month. Not washing it will lead to a buildup of oil and dirt that can be bad for your skin and lead to acne.

If you are trying to remove a stain, use a gentle fabric stain remover and damp cloth. Then, air dry the pillow. If you can and your pillow is small enough, it should be okay to put the entire pillow in the washing machine. You can always check the care instructions first to make sure it’s machine washable. Some backrest pillows are simply too big for a laundry machine. In this case, you’ll need to hand wash with a cloth, water, and detergent. Scrub the soap in gently but thoroughly and then rinse. Do not put it in the dryer– this can ruin the pillow. Instead, let it air dry, which may take a few days.

What about replacing your pillow? Like everything, a reading pillow will not last forever. If your pillow has fallen flat and lost its shape, it’s likely time to purchase a brand new, fluffy pillow.


When purchasing a backrest pillow, you’ll want to consider price, material, type, care, and use. First, what is a backrest pillow? A reading or husband pillow is specifically designed to keep the user in a comfortable upright position. Your neck and back are supported when you use a backrest pillow, unlike a standard pillow. They are great for those who have back pain or need to sleep in a somewhat upright position. They also work well for anyone who prefers to work or study at home in bed instead of sitting at a desk. It is also a good option for those on bed rest. The pillow provides support through its rigid structure and memory foam or shredded foam filling.

There are three main types of backrest pillows: wedge, classic, and lumbar. Wedge pillows are a simple wedge-shaped pillow that can be used to sleep on flat or can be flipped around to provide an incline to rest your back on while sitting straight. Lumbar pillows target lower back pain and posture and resemble short and slim pillows. Classic backrest pillows are the most popular and are shaped like the top half of a chair. Typically, they are made with handles, armrests, and sometimes a removable cover.

Backrest pillow filling and material is something to consider before making your purchase. Memory foam is more expensive, more rigid, and more durable than regular filling as it doesn’t flatten over time. Shredded foam is much cheaper and lighter, but it doesn’t have the same ‘sink-in’ feeling of memory foam. Shredded foam may also flatten over time after repeated use. The cover of a backrest pillow also has a wide range of materials to choose from. Two common ones include twill and velour. Velour is similar to velveteen and has a shiny, luxurious feel, while twill is a very durable weave found in denim, chino, and furniture covers in general.

Lastly, pay attention to the care instructions for your backrest pillow. Some may not fit in the washing machine and should be washed only by hand with a mild detergent and damp towel. Others can be machine washed, and some have a removable cover that can also be thrown in the washing machine alone. Always air dry your backrest pillow, which may take a few days.

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