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Side sleeping is the most common sleep position, and is also generally considered the healthiest. Those who sleep in this position enjoy good spinal alignment, which can help alleviate aches and pains throughout the body. Additionally, side sleeping opens up airways and improves circulation in the sleeper’s breathing passages; as a result, it can be beneficial for sleepers with certain medical conditions triggered by back sleeping, such as acid reflux and sleep apnea.
However, comfortable side sleeping depends on a mattress and bedding system that provides adequate support to the sleeper’s body. In terms of pillow selection, many side sleepers prefer pillows that have a fuller shape and keep the neck and spine aligned. Soft, conforming materials like memory foam and buckwheat are also popular with side sleepers because they alleviate pressure points that develop in the neck and shoulders.
This guide will discuss pillow recommendations for side sleepers. First, let’s look at the top six pillows for side sleepers. Our picks are based on verified customer and owner experiences, as well as intensive product research and analysis.
Our Editor’s Pick, the Brooklinen Down Alternative Pillow, comes in three firmness options to accommodate different sleepers. The interior contains 100% shredded microfiber; a material that cushions the head and neck, offering the same plush, luxurious feel of a down pillow but will not trigger allergies.
The Brooklinen Down Alternative Pillow also sleeps fairly cool, due in part to its soft, 400 thread-count cotton shell. All Brooklinen pillows are treated with Ultra Fresh Antimicrobial. This substance is certified by the U.S. EPA, OEKO-TEX, and is BPR compliant, and helps prevent the growth of bacteria while extending the life of the pillow.
The pillow comes in Standard and King sizes. Brooklinen ships internationally and offers a 365-night sleep trial – far longer than most pillows – and is backed by a lifetime warranty.
If you’re a side sleeper looking for some bang for your buck, the Original Casper Pillow may be your best bet. This innovative down alternative pillow has a unique pillow-in-pillow design with a supportive ‘gusset’ along the side. The inner pillow is firm, providing a supportive foundation for your head, neck, and shoulders, while the outer pillow provides a plush surface that conforms to your head. The backbone of all this is the side gusset, which allows for better neck alignment and help keeps the fill evenly distributed. On the outside is a 100% cotton cover in a percale weave, ensuring soft, durable, and breathable surface.
The Casper Pillow comes in two sizes, standard and king, which feature a 5 and 6 inch lofts respectively. The relatively high loft and combination of support and conforming make this pillow a perfect match for side sleepers, although it should suit back sleepers as well. None of the materials in the pillow trap too much body heat, so it’s also a great option for those who tend to sleep hot.
Finally, the Original Casper Pillow comes with a 100 night sleep trial and a 1-year limited warranty, allowing you try it and get a refund if it doesn’t work out.
Our pick for Best Luxury Pillow for side sleepers is the Brooklyn Bedding Luxury Cooling Pillow.
The pillow features an open-cell memory foam core padded with premium circular knit cover. These components offer a balanced, ‘Firm’ feel that supports the sleeper’s head and neck for targeted pressure relief and better spinal alignment. The pillow is malleable, and should provide comfortable cushioning and contouring for most side sleepers. Though memory foam is known to trap heat, Brooklyn Bedding has opted to use an open-cell foam that regulates temperature much better than traditional memory foam.
The pillow cover can be removed and washed, but the foam insert should be spot cleaned only.
Brooklyn Bedding offers free shipping in the U.S.; the pillow is backed by a 30-night sleep trial, and a three-year warranty.
Down pillows are popular with side sleepers because the material is extra soft, allowing the pillow to contour very closely. Our pick for this category is the Brooklinen Down Pillow, a supportive pillow containing a combination of down and feathers.
Three firmness settings are available: ‘Plush,’ ‘Mid-Plush,’ and ‘Firm.’ The pillow’s composition varies by feel: the ‘Plush’ design is 100% down; the ‘Mid-Plush’ has an 80/20 feather-down ratio; and the ‘Firm’ has an 86/14 feather-down ratio. This range ensures most side sleepers can find a suitable option regardless of their firmness preferences.
The Brooklinen Down Pillow also sleeps fairly cool, thanks to its breathable cotton casing. All down and feathers used in the pillow are ethically and sustainably sourced from Hutterite farms, making it a good choice for animal-conscious shoppers.
Brooklinen offers a 365-night sleep trial and lifetime warranty for the pillow, both of which are much longer than average. Free shipping is also available.
Many side sleepers enjoy the conforming feel of memory foam pillows. The material molds to the head and neck to alleviate discomfort and prevent new pressure points from developing.
Our pick for this category is the Coop Home Goods Eden, a comfortable pillow padded with shredded, gel-infused memory foam and polyester microfibers; the cover is a combination of polyester and rayon made from bamboo.
In addition to providing consistent conforming, these materials are also very breathable, allowing the pillow to sleep cool. The Eden offers adjustable loft; owners can add or remove fill at any time to increase of decrease the volume of the pillow. This makes it ideal for sleepers with fluctuating loft preferences.
Coop Home Goods also sells extra fill in bulk for owners who need a replenishment. The company provides free shipping to all 50 states. The Eden is backed by a 100-night sleep trial and a five-year warranty.
Latex is a popular pillow material because it is supportive and resilient; it also tends to sleep cooler than memory foam. The Saatva Pillow is our pick for this category, due in part to its customizable design.
The interior contains a shredded Talalay latex core, along with a middle layer of down alternative microdenier and organic-cotton. Owners can remove the interior components to adjust the loft anywhere from 2? to 8? thick. This makes it ideal for side sleepers with varying loft preferences.
The Saatva Pillow also sleeps fairly cool; in addition to the temperature-neutral inner components, the pillow also has a breathable organic-cotton cover. And because of its durable material construction, the product has a longer-than-average expected lifespan.
Saatva offers free shipping anywhere in the contiguous U.S. The pillow is backed by a 45-night sleep trial.
Side sleeping is considered the healthiest sleep position because it opens up the airways to improve circulation. This position can also benefit sleepers with certain medical conditions, such as acid reflux and sleep apnea, and it also provides more comfort for pregnant women.
However, using the right pillow can be a deciding factor between comfort and discomfort for side sleepers. Certain pillow sizes and materials are conducive to side sleeping, while others can cause pain and pressure points to develop.
This guide will look at the mechanics of side sleeping, explore the different pillow types, and list the top-rated pillows for side sleepers according to the people who use them every night.
Generally speaking, there are three specific side sleeping positions (as illustrated below).
More than 40% of side sleepers utilize the fetal position, with their knees tucked in and their elbows bent. Other positions include the log, which involves straightening out the legs and arms, and the yearner, where the sleeper straightens out their legs and stretches out their arms.
Side-sleeping is very common, and there are some great advantages to sleeping in this position. It’s easier on the neck and back than some other sleep positions, and very comfortable. Some of the best benefits of being a side-sleeper include:
One of the reasons it’s so instinctive to sleep on your side is because of how comfortable it is, especially if you happen to have back issues or find yourself snoring. However, there are a few drawbacks to constantly sleeping on your side. Some common disadvantages that arise due to sleeping on your side are:
If your best sleep position is on your side, then you want to make sure you choose a pillow that lets you rest comfortably through the night. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure the pillow properly cradles your head and neck and offers good back support.
There are various considerations to take into account when selecting the right pillow. Read on to learn about these important factors so that you’ll be better prepared to buy a pillow that suits your sleep needs.
Size is a very important aspect when choosing your pillow. In addition to choosing a good size for sleeping on your side, you’ll want to make sure it offers a practical amount of support based on your height, bed size, etc. Below are standard pillow sizes and the related advantages of each size.
Generally speaking, pillows come in even or curved surfaces. Even-surface pillows are far more common. They may have full or flat shapes, depending on the material. The best-known example of a curved-surface pillow is a cervical memory foam pillow, which is elevated beneath the neck and recessed beneath the head. These pillows are popular with sleepers who experience chronic neck and shoulder pain.
Loft, or thickness, is important for side sleepers. Generally speaking, there are three categories of pillow loft:
Side sleepers tend to prefer medium- or high-loft pillows. The reason is simple: sleeping on one’s side creates more space between the sleeper’s head/neck and the pillow, and thicker pillows compensate for this gap. Low-loft pillows may cause the next to bend, which can lead to pain and pressure.
However, in addition to sleep position, there are several other factors that should be taken into account when choosing the right pillow loft. These include the sleeper’s weight, head size, and shoulder width, as well as the mattress firmness. The table below illustrates optimal conditions for each of the three loft categories.
|Loft||Thickness||Optimal Sleeper Weight||Optimal Head Size||Optimal Shoulder Width||Optimal Mattress Firmness|
|Low||Less than 3"||More than 230 lbs.||Small||Narrow||Soft to Medium Soft|
|Medium||3" to 5"||130 to 230 lbs.||Average||Average||Medium|
|High||More than 5"||Less than 130 lbs.||Large||Broad||Medium Firm to Firm|
It’s important to note that some pillows offer adjustable loft; the owner simply removes or adds more filling to decrease or increase the thickness. Adjustable-loft pillows may be most suitable for side sleepers whose thickness preferences tend to fluctuate.
Our analysis of different pillow materials for side sleepers is found below.
|Pillow Material||Filling Description||Pros||Cons||Side Sleeper Rating|
|Buckwheat||Roughly five to 10 lbs. of removable buckwheat hulls (outer shells)||Adjustable loft Close conforming Good support Sleeps cool||High price-point Too firm for some Noise potential Heavy||Very Good: Buckwheat pillows are suitable for side sleepers due to their above-average support and adjustable loft|
|Down||Soft inner plumage of geese and ducks found beneath the outer feathers||Adjustable loft Very soft and lightweight Sleeps cool Short break-in Long lifespan||High price-point Poor shape retention Fluffing needed Allergy and odor potential||Good: Down is soft and comfortable, but some pillows may not be supportive enough for side sleepers|
|Down Alternative||Polyester puffballs that mimic the softness and weight or authentic down||Adjustable loft Low price-point Very soft and lightweight Short break-in No allergy risk||Short lifespan Poor shape retention Fluffing needed Short lifespan||Poor: Down alternative pillows lose their shape easily and deteriorate quickly, and most side sleepers find them unsupportive|
|Feather||Outer feathers of ducks or geese (may also include some down for extra softness)||Adjustable loft Close conforming Very soft and lightweight Long lifespan||High cost Quills can poke Fluffing needed May sleep hot Odor potential||Very Good: Feather pillows may be quite soft, but adjustable loft allows side sleepers to customize the supportiveness|
|Latex||Solid latex, which is a natural substance extracted from the sap of rubber trees||Close conforming Good support Close conforming Long lifespan Sleep cool No noise||Non-adjustable loft High cost Too dense and heavy for some Odor potential||Good: Latex pillows conform closely and alleviate some pressure, but most cannot be adjusted for loft|
|Shredded or solid memory foam, or viscoelastic polyfoam, which softens when warm and retains shape when cool||Adjustable loft (shredded) Close conforming No noise||High cost Short lifespan Odor potential||Very Good: Memory foam pillows (including cervical pillows) conform closely and provide good support for most side sleepers|
|Polyester||Shredded or interlocking polyester fibers; polyester is a synthetic fabric||Low cost Good shape retention (interlocking) No allergy risk No odor potential||Short lifespan Poor shape retention (shredded) Noise potential||Fair: Interlocking polyester pillows have a fuller shape, which provides more support to side sleepers, but shredded polyester pillows flatten easily and are not recommended|
|Polyfoam||Foam made by adding water to polyurethane plastics||Lightweight Inexpensive Springy Resilient Durable||Doesn’t provide much airflow Can degrade easily||Good: A high-quality polyfoam pillow will provide great neck and back support|
In addition to the qualities listed in the table above, moldability is a pillow characteristic that is somewhat unique to side sleepers. Some pillows retain a full shape no matter how tightly a sleeper holds them, while others are moldable, or scrunchable, meaning they can be reformed to match the sleeper’s position.
Moldability comes down to personal preference. The most moldable options include shredded memory foam, feathers, down, and buckwheat, while the least moldable options are solid memory foam and latex pillows.
Lastly, let’s look at price-point — which may be the main deciding factor for many pillow shoppers. All pillow materials vary by brand and model in terms of cost, but the table below contains a general price breakdown for the eight most common pillow types.
|Pillow Material||Buckwheat||Down||Down Alternative||Feather||Latex||Memory Foam||Polyester||Polyfoam|
|Average Price Range||$50 to $75||$75 to $100||$20 to $30||$25 to $50||$40 to $60||$50 to $60||$10 to $15||$40 to $100|