I Tried The Viral "Vagus Support Cocoon" Sleep Hack

It involves lots of pillows.

What is the vagus support cocoon on TikTok? A sleep experts explains.
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When I spy a sleep hack on TikTok I go ahead and try it — then ask questions later. Recently I’ve been seeing chatter about the “vagus support cocoon” technique, which involves surrounding yourself with pillows in a strategic way to help you rest and relax. It looked extra cozy, which was enough for me, but experts say there’s also something to it.

The viral video that popped up on my FYP — posted June 6 by @itsmaggieperkins — shows the creator making a “cocoon” with a pile of five pillows. She climbs into bed, leans back against the pillows, and pulls two heavy duvets on top of her. The resulting cocoon, she says, helps regulate her vagus nerve for a night of quality sleep.

In her comments section one person said, “There’s just something so comforting [about a] pillow nest” while another wrote, “What you call a cocoon my bestie and I call a ‘pillow corral.’ Best sleep ever.” Another said, “I just remembered I used to do this as a kid. Maybe it’s what I need to do again to get some good sleep!”

Cut to me in bed with multiple pillows, two of my chunkiest blankets — even though it’s the middle of summer — and my AC on high. Here’s what it was like to give the cocoon sleep hack a try, as well as some input from a sleep expert about why this hack really does support your vagus nerve.

How To Create A Vagus Nerve Cocoon

To create an ideal cocoon for sleeping, @itsmaggieperkins layered two pillows to prop up her head, set one under each arm, and placed another under her knees to cradle her legs.

The goal is to situate the pillows in such a way that each of your limbs feels fully supported, since that’s what helps your body go into full relaxation mode. (More on that below.)

To finish the cocoon, she pulled two heavy duvets over herself to act almost like a weighted blanket. The creator suggested bumping up the air conditioning so you don’t get too hot, and also because a chilly environment is conducive to sleep.

Why Does The Cocoon Help You Sleep?

According to Dr. Shelby Harris, a licensed clinical psychologist and director of sleep health at Sleepopolis, the vagus support cocoon hack is all about getting as cozy as possible within a nest of blankets and pillows.

Most of the perks from this sleep hack stem from the fact you’ll feel cradled and supported by your pillows, which is what allows your body to relax. This, in turn, sends a message to your vagus nerve that you’re a-OK and that it’s time to sleep. A regulated vagus nerve is what you want, she says, when it comes to getting good sleep.

“The vagus nerve is a key part of the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps regulate stress and relaxation,” Harris tells Bustle, especially after a long, trying day. “It's an important part of calming the body at bedtime, helping you relax, and [it has] the potential to improve your sleep quality.”

This cocoon also encourages you to sleep on your back, which is an ideal sleep position for some, but Harris says you can adjust the pillows to cocoon yourself in other sleep positions, like on your side. “You should be comfortable and relaxed in whatever position works best for you,” she says.

To further support your vagus nerve, Harris recommends sleeping in a cool room, practicing deep breathing exercises, and trying progressive muscle relaxation. “These methods can help improve vagal tone and promote parasympathetic activity,” she says. Snoozing in a cold room will also lower your body temperature, which has been shown to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

Trying It Out

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My TikTok FYP seems to know that I’m often wide awake at 3 a.m., as it sends me sleep hacks on the regular. That’s how I came across the cocoon method, and why I knew I needed to give it a try ASAP, especially as someone who typically sleeps with only two measly pillows.

I gathered all my fluffiest cushions and an extra blanket, created a cocoon for myself, and climbed on in. With a puffy wall holding me in place, I took a few deep breaths and let myself sink into my sheets — and it honestly did feel good to have the extra support. I was officially cocooned.

The nicest part, IMO, were the arm pillows. I’m usually not a fan of sleeping on my back or side because I feel like I’m going to tip over, but these bumpers held me securely in place. The one under my knees was a nice touch, too, as it also took some pressure off my back. According to Harris, this support is what allows your vagus nerve to kick in, and once that happens your body should feel comfortable and relaxed enough to slumber.

As I lay there swaddled in pillows and blankets, it did seem like my muscles were melting and relaxing more than usual. The cocoon made my bedtime routine feel more official, too. Something about arranging a cozy sleep spot put me in the right frame of mind for snoozing, and I fell asleep fairly easily, too. With sleep, it seems it’s often the simplest hacks, like this one, that work best.

While I did wake up with a few pillows strewn across the floor, and I had shimmied back into my go-to sleep position on my stomach, I still loved being surrounded by a wall as I drifted off. I can see this cocoon hack becoming a good go-to for me as a way to wind down for bed. The next time I’m struggling to fall asleep due to stress, I plan to burrow back into my cocoon and let it work its magic.

Studies referenced:

Howland, RH. (2014.) Vagus Nerve Stimulation. Curr Behav Neurosci Rep. doi: 10.1007/s40473-014-0010-5.

Magnon, V. (2021.) Benefits from one session of deep and slow breathing on vagal tone and anxiety in young and older adults. Sci Rep. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-98736-9.

Moyen, NE. (2024.) Sleeping for One Week on a Temperature-Controlled Mattress Cover Improves Sleep and Cardiovascular Recovery. Bioengineering (Basel). doi: 10.3390/bioengineering11040352.

Tindle, J. (2022.) Neuroanatomy, Parasympathetic Nervous System. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan–. PMID: 31985934.

Wu, Y. (2022.) Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation Could Improve the Effective Rate on the Quality of Sleep in the Treatment of Primary Insomnia: A Randomized Control Trial. Brain Sci. doi: 10.3390/brainsci12101296.


Dr. Shelby Harris, licensed clinical psychologist, director of Sleep Health at Sleepopolis