Japanese Buckwheat Pillows - The Secret to Better Sleep While many factors can influence the quality of your sleep, such as anxiety, stress, and the amount of caffeine you consume, an often-overlooked factor is the kind of pillow you use

By Rohan Goyal

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Deep, restful, healing, and recuperative sleep – it's one of the greatest blessings handed down to man from Creation! However, for some folks, getting a good night's rest is like winning a tug of war.

While many factors can influence the quality of your sleep, such as anxiety, stress, and the amount of caffeine you consume, an often-overlooked factor is the kind of pillow you use.

What a Japanese Buckwheat Pillow is and its origins

While the term buckwheat pillow may be new to some folks, these kind of pillows have actually been around for many centuries.

Sobakawa (soba stands for 'buckwheat' in Japanese) pillows are a staple in Japan and have been used since the 15th century. Buckwheat is a grain which is used mostly to manage soil health during off-season. In fact, the ancient grain dates all the way back to 2600 BCE in China. It wasn't until 300 BCE that buckwheat crops saw the light of day in Japan and were soon used quite frequently owing to their fast growth and resiliency.

The crop is incredibly durable, being able to grow easily in even harsh weather conditions. It can be harvested within a few months too. Before becoming mainstream in the 15th century as the pillow of choice in Japan, buckwheat was initially used as food, including soba noodles, helping the local folk get through difficult, famine-stricken times.

In a bid to cut down waste as much as possible and save on costs, Japanese folks would fill their fabric pillowcases with the hulls of buckwheat – people would typically throw away the hulls after buckwheat harvesting in order to get to the grain inside.

Sobakawa (buckwheat) pillows were initially used by the wealthy mostly as they were the only class of people to be able to buy luxurious fabrics like silk and cotton. These fabrics made for soft and comfortable pillowcases which were filled with buckwheat hulls. Prior to the industrial revolution, the fabrics were imported internationally and looked at as a very exclusive product rather than one available to the general public.

As we skip ahead to the 19th century, cotton became more accessible and this is when buckwheat pillows in Japan were used on a widespread basis, irrespective of someone's wealth and status. In Japan today, it is used by the masses and now in the United States too, it is become more and more common – PineTales Buckwheat Pillows, for example, and many others.

Why choose a buckwheat pillow over a traditional one?

With so many modern materials available for pillows, why would anyone resort to buckwheat pillows? That's a good question, and one we hope to answer in a fully transparent manner:

In Japan, where buckwheat pillows originated, the local folks believe that sobakawa helps in achieving "Zukan-Sokunestu". That loosely translates to "cool head, hot feet". This concept borrows directly from Traditional Chinese Medicine, revolving around the belief that if your feet are warmer than your head, then that will facilitate in optimal blood circulation, thus, keeping your mind clear and helping you sleep better.

Japan today is among the top five wealthiest countries in the world and believe it or not, a lot of that is due to the fact that they don't slack on their quality of sleep! The way a buckwheat pillow is designed allows for optimal breathability, keeping your head cool as you sleep soundly throughout the night.

How buckwheat pillows help to improve sleep

While traditional pillows tend to retain body heat, making your pillow feel hot and uncomfortable, especially during summers, a buckwheat pillow will never prevent warm air from escaping the pillow's fill. With no heat buildup, your head remains cool throughout the night, with no unnecessary flipping in the middle of the night just to sleep on the cool side of the pillow.

Buckwheat pillows can be 'adjusted' to match the shape of your head and your preferred sleeping posture. While most buckwheat pillows tend to come overfilled, it's done for a good reason: remove the hulls as you desire to nestle into the ideal sleeping position! For example, if you enjoy sleeping on your side, you can adjust the hulls in your buckwheat pillow for optimal neck and head support.

Similarly, if you sleep on your back, you can adjust your buckwheat pillow to ensure that your head is perfectly aligned with the rest of your spine.

With traditional pillows where you have feathers or other synthetic materials, buckwheat pillows will always offer extra support – the hulls are naturally harder than synthetics and have the ability to adapt to the shape of your head, back, and shoulders.

Since the buckwheat husks are shell-like, they do not absorb heat, so your pillow will never run hot in the middle of the night.

Buckwheat is also the go-to choice of pillows in Japan (and now quickly in the U.S. as well) as they are hypoallergenic by design, helping to prevent allergies.

Buckwheat pillows have a fresh and mild scent to them, although it's so faint that you might pass it off as having no scent at all! However, it's just faint enough to help you slip into a deep slumber without overpowering your senses.


Simply put, buckwheat pillows have "worked" for more than 600 years now. Over 70 million people in Japan use it and while many people here in the U.S. stubbornly search for the latest tech innovation in sleep, others are quick to capitalise on the benefits of buckwheat pillows.

From snoring and sinus, to back pains, neck discomfort, migraine-related issues, and more, buckwheat pillows are hiding right under our noses in plain sight, and may be the answer to getting a good night's rest.

Sleep is a powerful antidote – it can help us recover from the stresses, demands, challenges, and setbacks of the day. It can better prime us for tomorrow, make us happier, more productive, and more fulfilled.

If you're still trying to crack the sleep code, then, perhaps, it's high time you took a buckwheat pillow for a test drive.

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