For those on the look out for an improved sleeping experience, you’ve likely come across the famous Japanese buckwheat pillow on your journey across the internet. Often called a Sobakawa in Japanese, the pillow is infilled with buckwheat hulls, or the hulls that hold the buckwheat seeds.
If you know anything about these hulls, you’ll know that they’re quite springy and responsive when compared to other types of hulls, and that makes them an ideal material for pillows.
Much like both latex and cotton infill, the buckwheat pillows are a good bet for those looking for a supportive and responsive pillow that works for both back and side sleepers. These pillows don’t sag or dip through the night, and that means your head is kept supported and your spinal alignment stays in check.
There are a few rather unique benefits that come from sleeping with buckwheat pillows too, and we’ll take a look at these in this article.
That said, let’s have a look a the benefits of sleeping with a buckwheat pillow and why you should consider one.
Sleepify’s Quick Disclaimer
To kick off our article, we want to go over a few things.
As you’ll know, when it comes to sleeping materials, bedding, mattresses and pillows, not everything is created equally. That said, when you’re on the lookout for a buckwheat pillow, it’s always good to either try it in store and feel the softness and responsiveness, and if you’re not able to do this — at least read the reviews online.
It’s important to do a bunch of research when it comes to your spinal health and sleeping experience, and so, we suggest by looking at as many stores and online retailers as possible for your buckwheat pillow.
One of our leading choices for a buckwheat pillow is a Zen Chi model, down to the fact that it’s one of the highest reviewed out there, and has a few features. You’re able to remove infill segments to control your pillow’s thickness and firmness and that’s great for those who like to switch between firm, medium and ultra-firm pillows.
In all, remember to be vigilant and do your research when it comes to buying a buckwheat pillow.
So, What is Buckwheat Exactly
To start, let’s have a short look at what buckwheat is and why it’s found its way from our plates to our pillows.
Coming out of Asia, the buckwheat grain is a seed-like variant that is typically eaten by people, as well as animals. As it’s technically a fruit, it does have a husk which is rather flexible and stronger than almost all other fruit husks out there.
That said, this strength is how the buckwheat husk or hull became so heavily used in so many more ways than just for consumption.
One of those ways is in mattress and pillows. In the past, mattresses and pillows throughout Asia were designed with buckwheat internals down to their ideal feel for sleeping as well as the low cost. Although the method isn’t as popular today, it’s still relatively common in niche sleep circles.
When it comes to understanding how the buckwheat is integrated into the pillow, the process is quite simple;
The seeds are pulled from their hulls, and the hull is then washed and ensured for durability and then it’s stuffed into a fabric casing which then makes its way into a pillow or a mattress.
Commonly, the fabric casings are also an organic or naturally occurring material, though cotton, silk, polyester and other fabrics are being used today.
It’s good to note, however, that the hulls can be replaced in these fabrics, and the fabrics can also be replaced, so whichever falters first can easily be swapped out.
And there you have it, a little about buckwheat and why it’s a winner for sleep!
A Look at the Benefits of Buckwheat for Sleeping
When it comes down to the benefits of buckwheat, it’s good to keep in mind that this will depend on the person. There are a myriad of benefits, though depending on the issues you’re dealing with, some benefits might be more visible than others.
For example, one of the key benefits of buckwheat pillows are pain relief and pressure relief in the neck and shoulders. Working much like memory foam and latex, buckwheat is a lot more responsive and contouring than cotton and give the body a chance to relax into the pillows.
That said, for joint pain, this pillow material is certainly a winner in our book.
Buckwheat Improves Sleep
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One of the key benefits, right off the top, is the pillow’s ability to help you get a better night’s sleep.
In a lot of cases, these pillows will alleviate enough back and spinal alignment-related pain that you’re able to simply get to sleep and stay asleep without waking up from joint pressure or hot spots in the muscles.
When it comes to sleeping on the stomach and back, for example, you absolutely must have a pillow that’s mid-profile and firm to stop your shoulders and neck from slouching and causing pain.
Buckwheat offers enough firmness and responsiveness to keep this alignment in check, and thus gives you a pain free sleep.
For those sleepers that enjoy the side a little more, you’ll need a high-profile and firm pillow, and buckwheat offers this too. You’ll notice that on softer pillows your head dips too far down and almost links up with your shoulders — a major pain, in a literal sense.
Buckwheat pillows, on the firmer end, are able to contour to the head and neck and leave enough ‘give’ for your shoulders to remain where they are, reducing your pain level.
To end, buckwheat is the ideal material for those who need a pillow that is going to mould to their neck and head shape and support it without creating too much upward pressure. You’re better able to relax into the pillow and feel the support, rather than feel the pillow pushing back up on to you.
Helps to Stop You Snoring
One rather surprising benefit of the buckwheat pillow is its ability to help you stop snoring and waking up your partner.
As you may already know, snoring comes as a result of many factors; though one of these is poor posture. The buckwheat pillow’s contouring ability slowly allows your head and neck to fall into a natural position as you sleep, which means your airways will naturally open and reduce your risk of snoring.
To explain this more simply; your head is going to want to fall into a particular position when you’re in bed. Typically cotton and latex pillows prevent this from happening and cause you to snore. A buckwheat pillow contours to this natural position and stops you from snoring.
When it comes to muscles in the head and neck, buckwheat pillows also help out here too, by keeping them supported — and not forced into a specific shape.
You’ll know that airways follow the shape of your cervical spine, and buckwheat pillows naturally conform to this shape, which means your neck, muscles and airways are kept open.
Optimal Muscle Support
As we mentioned above, the muscles in the neck should be supported in their natural position and not forced into a specific shape. Firm pillows like latex or firm memory foam do their best to contour and support this muscle alignment, though not as well as buckwheat.
That said, if you’re recovering from a pulled or torn muscle in the neck or shoulders, you might find that a buckwheat pillow is your best bet for a pain-free sleep.
Keep in mind that it is your neck muscles after all that keep your upper spine in alignment, and if these muscles are forced out of their natural shape, your spine too will be moved into an uncomfortable and possibly painful position.
One final thing to keep in mind is that your muscles are not immune to fatigue when we’re asleep. If you’re sleeping on a pillow that isn’t designed for your sleep style, you will wakeup with pain in the muscles.
All buckwheat pillows are plush and contouring enough to prevent this fatigue and reduce your chance of pain and headaches during the night and the next morning.
Keeps You Cool and Relaxed
As we’re sure you’ll agree, there isn’t much worse than the feeling of a hot pillow that you need to continually flip to keep cool.
That said, we’re happy to say that on top of muscle support, buckwheat is also exceptionally well-ventilated. You’ll notice that as you sleep, your body heat is drawn into the pillow and immediately expelled out, keeping the surface of your pillow cool throughout the night.
To get technical, the buckwheat hulls are naturally designed in a heat-wicking triangular shape that is cupped and has a tonne of small perforations. These help to disperse heat in an extremely effective way that is akin to open-cell foam structures.
Finally, when you do sleep on these pillows, the internal structure isn’t forced close together like memory foam. That means the hulls aren’t going to hold more heat when they’re compressed, but rather continue to expel it without issue.
If you’re someone who sleeps a little warm, or hates a hot pillow, buckwheat is for you.
A Possible Migraine Reliever
Although the science hasn’t come right behind this claim, there is the possibility that buckwheat can assist in receiving migraines in a passive way.
As the material is so conforming to the head and neck, your muscles that run up the back of the skull are able to completely relax and soften. That said, a lot of the muscles that are associated with migraines are free of all strain and able to completely relax.
Online you’ll find a whole load of people touting that their buckwheat pillows have helped reduce their migraines and allowed their upper neck muscles to loosen and become more relaxed — a good way to reduce tension headaches too.
In all, by relaxing the muscle pressure points in the neck that cause migraines you’ll likely be seeing less headaches and neck pain throughout the day, thus reducing your chances of experiencing migraines.
Dust Mite Resistant and Allergy-preventing
A benefit of buckwheat pillows that directly targets cotton infill are the dust mite and anti-allergy features.
As there isn’t any crevices in here for dust mites to live, you won’t see any insects, bugs or mites attracted to these pillows — reducing your chances of sneezing or waking up with a runny nose during the night.
A second perk of being naturally hypoallergenic is the fact you’ll not see the pillows fill up with skin cells and other impurities. As a result, airflow remains optimal at all times, and you’re not going to see the pillow getting heavier, hotter or smellier over time.
To end, it’s good to note that buckwheat allergies are also very rare, so if you’re allergic to latex though still want a hypoallergenic pillow, then buckwheat should be at the top of your list.
Lasts a Lot Longer Than Cotton
When it comes to the expiry date of these pillows, they blow cotton pillows out of the water.
As you’ll know, cotton pillows have expiry dates printed on the inside of the pillow, and you’ll often see that these are just a year or two long. This is down to what we mentioned above; dust mites, skin cells, bacteria and more.
When it comes to our buckwheat pillows, you’ll be getting upwards of 10 years out of these pillows if you take good care of them, and you won’t notice too much sagging or sinkage here either. The material is so durable and reliable that it simply lasts without issue.
Where the durability may falter is in the quality of the fabric that encases the hulls, so be sure to opt for a buckwheat pillow with heavy-duty materials and zippers and you’ll be well on your way to a decades use.
One final thing to note is that buckwheat hulls can flatten out over time, though, a lot of the top buckwheat pillows do have the option to replace the hulls. You’ll just have to take out a few of the hull compartments and replace these.
That said, these pillows are long-lasting and environmentally friendly too.
Organic and Safe for Children
One perk of buckwheat pillows that’s good for peace of mind is that a vast majority of these pillows are organic and made from safely harvested buckwheat, which means there’s a reduced chance of strange chemicals and smells coming into or out of the pillow.
That said, these pillows are a good, plush and contouring alternative for children where latex or memory foam isn’t as well-suited.
It’s also interesting to know that the hulls and materials are a vegan-approved choice as well, which means if you’re looking to reduce your use of animal products in your bedding, a buckwheat pillow is a good option here too.
Effortlessly Adjustable to Suit Your Sleep Style
Our final benefit to buckwheat pillows are the adjustability you’ll find in almost all of these products.
As we’re sure you’ll agree, there’s nothing more important than getting a mattress, pillow or any other bedding perfectly suited to your sleep style. And because buckwheat allows you to adjust the pillow’s height, firmness and thickness to how you’d like to sleep, you’re able to ensure it perfectly complements your sleep style.
That in mind, if you’re a side sleeper, you could easily adjust the height and firmness of your buckwheat pillow to better suit how you like to sleep. You’ll be able to feel more comfortable and get a better night’s sleep without any trouble at all.
For the back and stomach sleepers, you could easily reduce the profile of the pillow and ensure your back is being supported with the correct alignment.
It’s good to keep in mind, however, that not all of the buckwheat pillows on the market give you the chance to adapt your firmness and profile, so make sure to check product details before you buy if this perk is important to you.
A Few of the Downsides
With all of the benefits of buckwheat out of the way, there are a few minor downsides that you’ll have to keep in mind. Although the perks far outweigh the cons here, there might be a negative to buckwheat pillows that could be a dealbreaker for you, like the noise the pillows make.
That said, have a look at a few of the cons to buckwheat pillows.
Off the top, one thing you’ll notice is that these pillows can be heavy. Very heavy.
Some of the buckwheat pillows that you’ll find with a high profile and good firmness can weigh up to 6kg which means moving them around as you sleep might be a little difficult. And you certainly don’t want to get into a pillow fight with one of these.
In all, these pillows are designed to support and stay in one place on the bed. They’re not made to be used as a resting spot for when it’s time to watch a movie, or to carry to a friends house for a sleepover.
Internals Cannot be Washed
Unlike cotton pillows which can be chucked into the washing machine whole, our buckwheat products cannot.
If you find yourself washing these pillows, they will become increasingly brittle and the hulls will slowly but surely begin to lose all their support and durability, leading to back pain and spinal alignment problems.
The cases and coverings are washable, however, which means the areas closest to your face can remain clean and germ-free.
A Little Noisy
Similarly to down pillows, there is a noise that you will have to get used to when sleeping with buckwheat pillows.
The only way we can think to describe it, is a slightly rustling and soft crunching sound as you move and lay down on the pillow. It is relatively quiet, however, though you will notice it when you first start getting used to the pillow.
One good thing to note though, is through the night, it will become a little more muted and less noticeable as the hulls will have warmed up and are a bit more malleable and less noisy.
In all though, if you’re sensitive to noise as you sleep and are awoken fairly easily, then these pillows might not be the best idea for you.
A Natural and Earthy Smell
This could either be a pro or a con to some sleepers.
The buckwheat pillow products do have a mild odour to them, though a lot of reviewers do describe this as a calming and earthy smell — rather than something that’s off-putting or toxic.
You’ll notice that some pillows do have a rather stronger smell than others, though it does eventually air-out and go away entirely after a few weeks.
There’s a Different Feel
To end, one of the bigger cons you might not be able to get used to is the feeling of the pillow itself.
As this material is nothing like cotton, latex, foam or down it does present and experience that will be foreign to you. Of course, we stand by buckwheat pillows when it comes to comfort and support, though the material can be a little strange-feeling to begin with.
You’ll need to give yourself around a week to get used to the sensation of the hulls and the responsiveness to your movement, though once you do get used to it, we’re sure you’ll fall in love with it.
It’s also good to keep in mind that you can adjust the fill if the pillow is a little too soft or firm for your liking. Have a play with the profile of the pillow and you might be able to get close to mimicking your current cotton or latex variant to soften the learning curve.
With our benefits of buckwheat pillows out of the way, we’re sure you’ll have everything you need to make a good decision on whether buckwheat is for you.
Keep in mind that there are always pros and cons when it comes to sleeping products, and at Sleepify we do our best to make sure you have everything you need to weigh these up.
In all, remember that there’s a learning curve to buckwheat pillows, though after a week or so you might find that it offers up the best, supportive sleeping experience you’ve ever had. Expect reduced neck pain, fewer headaches and migraines and a cooler sleeping surface!
And there you have it.
Everything you need to know about buckwheat pillows and whether they’re right for you.