An estimated 7 out of 10 people are side sleepers. If you prefer sleeping on your side, then you're probably familiar with the unpleasant toss-fluff-repeat cycle of patchy sleep throughout the night. Unlike people who sleep on their back or stomach, side sleepers need extra support. There's a bigger distance between the mattress and their heads, which is why the best side sleeper pillow comes with ample thickness to maintain the head and neck in a neutral position.
A good pillow for side sleepers fills the gap between your shoulder and ear, giving enough comfort and support to your head and neck. Side sleepers need a lofty pillow with a fairly firm feel to maintain a healthy posture and keep their spine aligned properly. Here's our roundup of the best side sleeper pillows for a cozy night's rest.
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Our best pillow for side sleepers is a medium loft option, crafted for people who prefer soft and conforming pillows-particularly hot sleepers. It's filled with shredded memory foam and kapok tree fibers. The memory foam contains copper for its ability to reduce heat retention as well as its antimicrobial properties. The pillow has a very plush feel on the surface, thanks to the exceptionally soft kapok fibers with a down-like consistency.
The Layla Kapok is 4 inches thick, hence a medium loft pillow. It's a brilliant choice for side sleepers, providing excellent head and neck support; it doesn't feel too high and doesn't sink too deeply for neutral spinal alignment. More so, it's very moldable and snuggly if you like cuddling a pillow while you sleep. The Layla Kapok is a mid-range price option, backed by a 120-night sleep trial and a 5-year warranty.
The Eli & Elm Cotton side-sleeper features a distinctive U-curve on the bottom, designed to hold the shoulders while you rest. The pillow's top has adequate support and conforms to the head and neck to help alleviate neck pain while keeping the spine aligned.
It has a medium firmness feel, thanks to the polyester fiber and latex fill. The pillow has a breathable combination of polyester and organic cotton cover. These materials help to prevent the buildup of allergens too. Plus, it's machine washable. This pillow for side sleepers also features an adjustable medium- to high-loft, achieved by adding or removing fill. You can buy an additional bag of fill to help find your most comfortable sleep position.
The Eli & Elm pillow for side sleepers comes with a 45-day return period plus a 5-year warranty.
If you're looking for a versatile pillow for side sleepers, the Amerisleep Dual Comfort Pillow is an excellent choice. It features a reversible design; one side has a medium soft feel, the other a medium-firm feel. This allows you to choose whichever side feels most comfortable at any point of the night. It also comes in two variants; a 5 and 6-inch loft.
The core of this pillow is made of Bio-Pur, a proprietary high-density memory foam that molds onto the head and neck closely. Both sides have small holes for steady airflow and ventilation, preventing the foam from retaining too much heat. Its removable and machine-washable cover is made of polyester mesh for improved breathability.
Despite the high-quality construction and innovative design, the Dual Comfort Pillow is well-priced. It also comes with a 10-year warranty on excessive sagging and structural defects.
If you can never quite put a finger on the perfect pillow height for you, the Bedgear Balance Pillow features four different heights. This adjustable pillow also comes with a size guide, making it easier for you to find the position that offers the most support. The fill is made of shredded latex with a breathable cover for some of the best cooling at night.
The Bedgear Balance Performance maintains its shape over time, consistently providing the same level of comfort and support. It's also a good option for back, stomach and multi-position sleepers. However, only the cover is washable, whereas the inner pillow should only be spot cleaned.
Unlike most shredded memory foam pillows, the Coop Home Goods Pillows is completely machine washable-both the cover and fill. It offers plenty of support and comfort while sleeping, ensuring that your head, neck and shoulders are aligned well. Furthermore, the fill is adjustable, meaning you can add or remove some until you find the ideal firmness level.
The outer cover is breathable for proper airflow and ventilation. It's also hypoallergenic, so you don't have to worry about allergen building up in your bed. The Coop Home Good Original Pillow is available in three sizes; standard, queen and king. The package also comes with a bonus fill, making it arguably the best foam pillow for side sleepers.
What to Look for in the Best Pillow for Side Sleepers
The main thing you want in the best side sleeper pillow is adequate cushioning to support your head and neck. Pillows that are either too thick or sink too deeply can affect your spinal alignment, often resulting in neck and shoulder pain. Given the demands of the side sleeping position, the following factors should help you narrow down what will work for you perfectly:
Loft, or thickness, is possibly the most essential factor to consider for side sleeping. Generally, a medium to high loft pillow can provide sufficient cushioning for a side sleeper's head and neck without sinking too low. If your preferences for thickness vary during the night, you might be better off getting a pillow with an adjustable loft.
This refers to how effectively a pillow maintains an even surface when you place your head and neck on top. Spinal alignment is particularly sensitive for side sleepers. The best pillows for side sleepers are those that don't crane your head too high or sink in too deeply. Typically, solid-foam and latex core pillows offer the best support.
3. Level of Firmness
If the pillow feels too soft, it'll probably sink too much under your head, resulting in alignment problems and even the risk of added pressure. On the other hand, it'll probably cause discomfort around the neck and shoulders if it's too firm. As such, a mid-level firm pillow is normally the best choice for a side sleeper because it provides a balance of support and contouring.
4. Pressure Relief
Many side sleepers experience extra pressure in the hips and shoulders because their mattresses do not provide enough support. Pressure points can also crop up around the neck and shoulders if the pillow doesn't align these areas with the spine. For this reason, the best side sleeper pillow should support and contour your body to alleviate all pressure points.
Some fill materials tend to compress over time, which flattens the pillow and makes it feel less comfortable. As such, you'll need to fluff your pillow regularly if you want to maintains its full shape. Fill materials such as latex and solid foam can keep their shape with less effort.
The price of the best side sleeper pillow largely depends on the material components. Polyfoam, down alternative and feather pillows are usually the cheapest ones. The pricier models are filled with memory foam, down, buckwheat hulls and latex. That being said, a high-quality pillow shouldn't set you back a fortune; you'll find all options listed on this guide quite reasonably priced.
7. Quality Materials
Pillows for side sleepers are as good as their materials. Whatever is used to produce the cover and the inner components determines plenty of the pillow's qualities, like durability, shape retention and temperature regulation. You might have a dig a little bit deeper in your wallet for higher-quality materials, but their more solid performance and longevity more than make up for the price.
The most common material for pillows include:
a). Memory Foam
Also known as viscoelastic polyurethane, memory foam is engineered to feel softer when exposed to body heat. It creates a deep snug conforming for your head and neck when you're lying on top. This helps to align the spine and alleviate pressure in several points.
A buckwheat pillow is filled with hulls-the solid outer casings of buckwheat kernels. Consequently, they provide a very firm and supportive feel. You can adjust the loft of most buckwheat pillows by adding or removing the kernels. Plus, they boost good airflow too.
From the outer plumage of geese and ducks, feather pillows are light and airy. They also have a coarser and denser feel compared to down, meaning side sleepers don't sink into the pillow deeply. Feather pillows are also very cool and quite durable.
Latex is derived from the sappy rubber tree extract. It's molded into a foam that contours to the body and feels more responsive. A latex pillow is pretty supportive and doesn't sink as deeply, making it ideal for side sleepers.
Down is obtained from the soft inner plumage of geese and ducks. It's remarkably airy and light while also promoting good insulation. Most down pillows come with feathers in their outer chambers to support side sleepers properly without sinking too much.
Polyfoam contours to the body and also has a more responsive feel. It's probably doesn't mold as deeply as memory foam, but it's certainly more adaptive than latex. However, it tends to sleep hot, but most manufacturers aerate their foam to reduce body heat absorption.
Tips for Side Sleepers
1. Get the right mattress: A good mattress for a side sleeper offers ample cushioning to the hips and shoulders to align the spine and reduce pressure in various areas. Mattresses with softer feels are more suited to side sleepers since they can conform to the body closely without sinking too much under their heavier areas.
2. Use a supportive pillow between your knees: This improves your spine alignment and minimizes pressure on your lower body. Using a body pillow or a pillow beneath your legs also offers more comfort and pressure relief. For the most comfortable pillows, consider moldable materials such as feathers, down or shredded foam.
3. Consider a mattress topper: This is a single layer of cushioning material that you place on top of a mattress to make it feel significantly firmer and softer. They normally measure up to 4 inches thick. For a side sleeper, this means closer conforming, improved spinal alignment and much less pressure.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Best Pillows for Side Sleepers
1. How firm should a pillow for side sleepers be?
Medium to medium-firm pillows are the best for side sleepers. As much as softer pillows might be more comfortable, they compress too much to offer sufficient support. Conversely, extra-firm pillows can cause tension and pain around the neck and shoulders.
If you find the recommended firmness uncomfortable or "too hard", you can opt for memory foam pillows with pressure relief. This will give you a more cushioned feel.
2. What's the ideal pillow loft for side sleepers?
A medium to high loft pillow is the best choice for side sleepers to maintain their head, neck and spine in proper alignment. This should be at least 4 inches thick, although it varies depending on your body shape and how much you sink into your mattress.