You’ve just gotten a piercing. Before you leave the studio you promise yourself and your piercer to treat the area with saline solution twice a day, and you walk out optimistic, your hand clutching a $10 pressurized bottle of salt water. Then that night, your head hits your pillow.
The Origins of Post-Piercing Pillows
According to Tim Leigh, the managing director of Pillow With a Hole, his product was the first of its kind. Leigh developed the pillow in England in 2014 when his mother was suffering from ear pain and needed to find a way to relieve the pressure. Leigh says that when people realized his pillows could help with more than an earache — particularly post-piercing fatigue — other brands popped up. Pillow With a Hole’s targeted consumer now includes customers with ear piercings.
What Is a Piercing Pillow, Exactly?
While there are a number of designs out there, a piercing pillow typically contains a divot or hole in its center. Leigh notes that traditional pillows expose piercings (new and old) to pressure and friction that can slow down and even disrupt the healing process. Piercing pillows aim to alleviate that discomfort with an ear-sized space. Some piercing pillows are travel-friendly, and other variations are standard size. Even after a piercing heals, says Leigh, many customers are so accustomed to the comfort found from their Pillow With a Hole that they use their pillow for years.
Should I Be Wearing My Earrings To Bed In the First Place?
It’s best practice to wear earrings to bed during the healing process. Priscilla Call, a piercer at Iris Piercing Studio in Brooklyn, New York says, barring dangly designs, “most of our clients sleep in their jewelry once the piercing is healed to avoid the risk of the piercing shrinking or closing up completely.”
Which Piercings Are Most Difficult to Sleep With?
Cartilage piercings — as opposed to lobe — are said to be the most painful piercings with the longest healing time. Some cartilage piercing styles include:
Call notes, “when we sleep on our cartilage piercings we manipulate the tissue and can actually change the angle of the piercing.” If our piercing angle is not perpendicular to the tissue Cal said, “you can cut off blood flow to certain areas. It usually ends up causing irritation bumps.” They agreed that “earlobe tissue is way more malleable so sleeping on them isn’t as much of a concern.”
Can I Use Piercing Pillows Even If I Don’t Have a New Piercing?
Absolutely. As mentioned above, you don’t need to have piercings to experience ear pain at night. Even healed piercings can prove disruptive. Pillows with divots or holes allow users with healed piercings to alleviate ear pain that arises from earring movement during the night for example. One does not need a piercing at all to benefit from these kinds of pillows.
Cat Moglin, founder of Perfectly Pierced, a piercing pillow company, says she’s “received multiple orders from people who enjoy my pillows for reasons other than preventing piercing pain. My pillow helps people who sleep with headphones or ear plugs.” Samantha Minh, a piercer at Iris’ Portland, Oregon location says, “most people don’t realize how much pressure a regular pillow puts on your ears each night. So when you try a pillow that is specially designed to cradle and support the ear it’s nearly impossible to go back.”
Minh uses a pillow sold for anti-aging/anti-wrinkle purposes after searching for pillows with “ear nooks.” She saw the Coyuchi pillow with two indentations in an Instagram advertisement–while it’s marketed as a therapy for spine alignment, Minh says, “I sleep on this pillow every single night, regardless of whether I have healing ear piercings or not. I even bring it with me when I travel.” Minh recommends piercing pillows to clients, as contorting our body to find painless sleep can lead to other injuries.“ I have experienced discomfort in my shoulders and neck from using subpar pillow products, or trying to sleep in a strange position to create space for my ears.”
The Last Word From Sleepopolis
The adage “beauty is pain” might lead us to believe that comfort must be compromised in the name of aesthetics, but discomfort during sleep can impact every aspect of our lives. If you’re quite literally losing sleep due to piercing troubles, a piercing pillow might be the simple fix you need. It’s true that there will likely be an adjustment period, but in the longterm your body will thank you.
Leigh, Tim. Author interview. June 2023.
Call, Priscilla. Author interview. June 2023.
Moglin, Cat. Author interview. June 2023.
Minh, Samantha. Author interview. June 2023.