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Home / Best Pillows of 2022 / Best Pillows for Side Sleepers

Best Pillows for Side Sleepers

Keith Cushner

Written by

Keith Cushner, Sleep Product Expert

Jenny Iyo

Medically Reviewed by

Jenny Iyo, Physical Therapist

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Methodology

We personally test every product featured in our reviews and guide to provide accurate, data-driven recommendations. Learn More

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We recently updated this page to include the SHEEX Original Performance Down Alternative Side Sleeper Pillow as our best cooling pick. The Saatva Latex Pillow remains our best overall pick.

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More people prefer side sleeping than any other sleep position. If you are a side sleeper, the best mattress should provide adequate cushioning and support in order to promote even spinal alignment. That said, we’ve found that it’s just as important to choose the proper pillow while sleeping in this position. Side sleepers generally need thicker pillows to fill the space beneath their head and neck. Pillows that are too thin do not provide enough cushioning, while excessively thick pillows can interfere with spinal alignment and lead to more pressure points.

Our team came up with a list of the best pillows for side sleepers. These selections are based on our own product research and hands-on testing. We evaluate pillows using a detailed methodology that takes multiple factors into account. Key performance areas during these tests include shape retention, moldability, temperature control, and conforming. Our team also takes weight, firmness options, and ease of cleaning into account.

The Best Pillows for Side Sleepers

Best Pillows for Side Sleepers Video

Watch our video below to learn more about our lab’s top picks for pillows for side sleepers.

We provide an overview about each of our picks, covering features that set each pillow apart from the competition. Further down, we’ll take a closer look at how pillows affect side sleeping and offer a few tips for choosing a pillow based on thickness, material composition, price, and other factors.

Product Details

Best Overall

Saatva Latex Pillow

Saatva Latex Pillow
Price: $165 - Queen $185 - King
Fill: Shredded 100% American Talalay latex and down alternative
Firmness: Medium Soft
Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers who prefer pillows with adjustable thickness levels
  • Hot sleepers
  • People who wake up with sore necks
Highlights:
  • Balanced support thanks to responsive latex core cushioned with down-like microdenier fibers
  • Chambered design allows owners to adjust the loft
  • Cotton cover is breathable and certified as organic
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Bottom Line

If you can’t decide between a supportive or plush pillow, the Saatva Latex offers the best of both worlds with its double-chambered design. Thanks to the adjustable loft, this model feels comfortable to almost all side sleepers.

Most side sleepers feel comfortable using high-loft pillows because added thickness ensures adequate head and neck support. However, some who favor this position prefer low- to medium-loft instead. The Saatva Latex Pillow has an adjustable design that served all side sleepers on our test team regardless of their loft leanings.

How It Performed

The pillow contoured closely without buckling or sinking during our tests, while the outer chamber contains plush microdenier fibers that felt similar to natural down. The pillow has an 8-inch profile if you use the core and outer chamber, but you can also separate the two components to create less loft if that’s what you prefer. Since latex has natural cooling properties, this model felt cool to even the hot sleepers on our team.

What It’s Made of

The core consists of shredded Talalay latex and the shell is composed of organic cotton. You may add cotton-sateen pillowcases to your order for a small surcharge. Both the cover and the microdenier chamber are fully machine-washable for easy care at home, though the latex should never be laundered or exposed to moisture. Saatva recommends washing the pillow two times per year. The expected lifespan is about 3 years.

Given the Saatva Latex Pillow’s luxurious materials and high-quality construction, its price-point is quite reasonable, and shipping is free for all customers in the contiguous U.S. Your purchase comes with a 45-night sleep trial, as well as a 1-year warranty with coverage that begins after the trial period ends.

Best Value

Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow

Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow
Price: $99 - Queen $119 - King
Fill: Plant-based down alternative fibers
Firmness: Medium
Who it's best for:
  • People who are allergic to real down
  • Hot sleepers
  • Value seekers
Highlights:
  • Lofty, breathable down alternative fill derived from plant matter
  • Cotton cover is soft and silky-smooth
  • Pillow can be washed and dried in any household machine
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

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Bottom Line

The Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow is a down alternative model with all the luxurious softness and loft of a down pillow, but without the potential allergy triggers. For a pillow with such high quality construction, the sticker price is accessible for even budget shoppers.

Finding a high-quality pillow with a reasonable price-point can be somewhat challenging. The Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow is constructed with fill and cover materials that our testers found both breathable and long-lasting. Our testing team gave the pillow high marks for durability and affordability, making it a great option for shoppers with limited budgets.

How It Performed

While the pillow was thick enough for most side and back sleepers on our team, the fill may flatten over time. Whenever this occurs, you can re-expand the shape by placing the pillow in any household dryer. The pillow felt soft and plush to our testers, thanks to the down alternative fill. The entire pillow is fully machine-washable, so cleaning is a quick and easy process. Simply wash on a cold, gentle cycle and tumble dry on low.

What It’s Made of

The fill is composed of plant-based down alternative fibers that mimicked the soft feel and loft of real down during our tests, so it’s a good choice if you’re looking for a pillow that feels like down but does not trigger allergy symptoms or use animal-based components. A cotton cover encases the fill. The fabric felt luxuriously smooth, making it well-suited to people with sensitive skin.

Queen and king sizes are available for the Plant-Based Pillow. Both sizes are competitively priced. Sweet Zzz offers free ground shipping throughout the contiguous U.S. and reasonable flat rates for Canadian customers. Each purchase is backed by a 50-night trial period and a 1-year warranty against structural defects.

Best Luxury

Cozy Earth Silk Pillow

Cozy Earth Silk Pillow
Price: $279 - Standard $329 - King
Fill: 100% long-strand mulberry silk
Firmness: Medium soft
Who it's best for:
  • Hot sleepers
  • People who prefer exceptionally soft surfaces for their head and neck
  • High-end shoppers
Highlights:
  • Fill consists of luxurious, durable mulberry silk
  • Breathable bamboo-derived viscose shell helps the pillow sleep exceptionally cool
  • Excellent shape recovery ensures good resistance to clumping and shifting
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Bottom Line

The Cozy Earth Silk Pillow is exceptionally soft but with very little sinkage. The silk fibers don’t buckle like foam or other materials in comparably soft pillows.

The Cozy Earth Silk Pillow is an excellent choice for side sleepers who want to splurge a little on their pillow purchase. The materials give the pillow a luxurious feel while keeping you cool through the night.

How It Performed

The mulberry silk fill felt exceptionally soft to our testers, and is also highly durable. The silk created a decadent cushion for the head and neck during tests, but each strand holds its shape well and you shouldn’t need to fluff the pillow too often. The pillow is designed with breathable, temperature-regulating materials, so the hot sleepers on our test team found it very comfortable.

What It’s Made of

The pillow is filled with breathable silk, allowing air to circulate freely throughout the interior. Another cooling component is the cover made of viscose derived from bamboo. This material retains the natural cooling properties of its botanical source and wicked away moisture to keep our testers comfortable. A sateen weave gave the fabric a luxuriously smooth feel, making it ideal for testers with sensitive skin.

To preserve the pillow’s structural integrity, you should only machine wash on a cold, gentle cycle and tumble dry with low heat or hang to dry. Too many laundry cycles can damage the pillow over time, so you should spot or dry clean if minor stains or smudges occur. Cozy Earth recommends using a pillowcase to maintain a clean, hygienic surface and minimize the need for machine washing.

Given the quality and expected longevity of the Silk Pillow, we found the price-point reasonable. All Cozy Earth orders come with 100-night sleep trials, giving you plenty of time to decide if the pillow is right for you. The company also backs the pillow with a 10-year warranty against shifting fill and other defects.

Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow

Most Comfortable

Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow

Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow
Price: $125
Fill: 75% Latex and 25% Polyester Fiber
Firmness: Medium, adjustable
Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers looking for pillow with an adjustable loft and firmness
  • Hot sleepers
  • Side sleepers who want support for the head and neck
Highlights:
  • Specifically designed for side sleepers
  • U-shaped design accommodates the shoulder, reducing pressure on the neck
  • Breathable organic cotton and polyester cover
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Bottom Line

The subtle U-shape of Eli & Elm’s Cotton Side-Sleeper helps reduce pressure against the shoulders, which can sometimes occur with conventional rectangular pillows. We highly recommend this pillow for side sleepers with shoulder pain.

The Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow is constructed with a distinctive U-curve on the bottom end, designed as a space for your shoulder to rest while sleeping. The top of the pillow provides plenty of support and conforming for your head and neck to help reduce neck pain and keep your spine aligned.

How It Performed

The Side-Sleeper Pillow has a medium to high loft that suited the needs of side sleepers on our testing team. You can adjust the loft by adding or removing fill, with additional bags of fill available for a small charge. Adjusting the pillow’s loft will also affect its firmness, which we found allows it to adapt to a variety of different sleepers.

What It’s Made of

The pillow is filled with a combination of 75% shredded latex and 25% polyester fiber, which resulted in a medium firm feel for our testers. The outer casing is made from a breathable blend of 37% cotton, 61% polyester, and 2% spandex. The zippered casing can be machine washed for easy care. To adjust the loft, simply unzip the cover and add or remove fill.

The Eli & Elm pillow ships free to the contiguous U.S. The pillow is backed by a 45-day return period as well as a 5-year warranty.

Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex Pillow

Best for Neck Pain

Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex Pillow

Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex Pillow
Price: $89 - Queen $99 - King
Fill: Talalay latex foam
Firmness: Medium firm
Who it's best for:
  • Hot sleepers
  • People who are prone to sore necks during sleep
  • Those who enjoy the responsive feel of latex
Highlights:
  • Talalay latex balances contouring and support
  • Two loft options
  • Cotton cover enhances breathability
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

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Bottom Line

We’ve tested a lot of pillows that improve spinal alignment, but the Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex stands out by offering close contouring without compromising support. Available in two lofts, the pillow should feel just right for most side sleepers.

If you’re a side sleeper, you’ll want to find a pillow with the right combination of loft and contouring to ensure your neck is supported without being cranked too high. The Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex Pillow provides gentle cushioning and is available in two loft options. This versatile design makes the pillow suitable for a wide range of sleepers.

How It Performed

The pillow’s design helps ensure an even balance of cradling and support to promote healthy spinal alignment for different side sleepers. The low-loft model is 4 inches thick and the high-loft model is 6 inches thick. While loft can be a matter of personal preference, side sleepers on our team tended to prefer the higher loft pillow to ensure adequate support and cushioning for the head and neck.

What It’s Made of

The pillow is composed of solid Talalay latex, which moderately contoured to the head and neck but also felt bouncy and supportive during our performance tests. The cover consists of organic cotton, a material known for its breathability and lightweight feel. Latex is naturally breathable, as well, so this pillow felt very comfortable for testers who are prone to overheating. The cover is machine-washable on a gentle cycle and low tumble dry setting, but you should just spot clean the insert.

Brooklyn Bedding offers a 30-night sleep trial with this pillow, as well as a 3-year warranty for shoppers who decide to keep the pillow. Shipping is free within the contiguous U.S.

SHEEX Original Performance Down Alternative Side Sleeper Pillow

Best Cooling

SHEEX Original Performance Down Alternative Side Sleeper Pillow

SHEEX Original Performance Down Alternative Side Sleeper Pillow
Price: $99 - Standard/Queen $109 - King
Who it's best for:
  • Hot sleepers
  • Side sleepers
  • People who enjoy fluffy pillows
Highlights:
  • Cover infused with phase change material to promote temperature neutrality
  • Down alternative fill excels at pressure relief
  • Removable cover is washable in any household machine
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on SHEEX pillows

Bottom Line

The SHEEX Original Performance Down Alternative Side Sleeper Pillow is a perfect match for anyone who enjoys fluffy pillows that reduce pressure buildup and help keep you cool at night.

The SHEEX Original Performance Down Alternative Side Sleeper Pillow has a fluffy design that comfortably cradles your head while still offering support. While close contouring can sometimes lead to heat retention in pillows, this model has cooling features to mitigate overheating.

How It Performed

The medium soft feel offers excellent pressure relief for sleepers who experience neck pain from overly firm pillows. During tests, the pillow earned especially high marks from side sleepers, who found the plush surface contoured to the head and neck to prevent pressure buildup. The cover fabric is infused with a phase change material meant to neutralize surface temperature, so hot sleepers may find this pillow more comfortable than competing models.

What It’s Made of

The pillow cover is made with a moisture-wicking polyester and spandex fabric that feels cool against the skin. The fill is composed of a down alternative fiber that mimics the fluffy loft of real down. A 2-inch gusset promotes even distribution of the fill, which helps prevent clumping and encourages stronger pressure relief.

The pillow is available in standard/queen and king sizes. You can remove and machine wash the outer cover in cold water on a gentle cycle, then tumble dry on low. The insert is machine washable in cold water on a gentle cycle and you may dry in a machine on a low setting. However, SHEEX recommends using large capacity machines for the insert.

SHEEX offers reasonable flat-rate shipping fees to addresses in the contiguous U.S. for orders up to $150. Free shipping is offered for orders over $150. You may return the pillow within 30 days of purchase. The pillow is also backed by a 1-year warranty.

Luxome LAYR Customizable Pillow

Best Neck Support

Luxome LAYR Customizable Pillow

Luxome LAYR Customizable Pillow
Price: $100 - Standard/Queen $115 - King
Fill: Down alternative, shredded gel-infused memory foam, solid gel-infused memory foam
Firmness: Adjustable
Who it's best for:
  • Hot sleepers
  • People whose firmness or loft needs change from night to night
  • Value seekers
Highlights:
  • Breathable bamboo-derived viscose helps regulate temperature
  • Three interchangeable layers with distinct feels
  • Removable fill that allows you to adjust the loft and firmness
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Luxome pillows

Bottom Line

The Luxome LAYR Customizable Pillow’s adjustable loft and firmness suits a wide variety of sleepers. The multi-layered design allows for several pillow configurations to meet your needs at an affordable price.

Luxome’s LAYR Customizable Pillow has three core layers with distinct feels at an affordable price-point. You can remove or swap each layer with others to achieve the loft and firmness level that fits your needs or preferences. Our testing team found the pillow comfortable for most sleepers, regardless of sleep position or body weight.

How It Performed

Down alternative fibers in the softest layer had a plush feel during testing, while the medium-feel layer features a blend of down alternative and shredded gel-infused memory foam. These materials offered excellent contouring to the head and neck during our pressure relief tests. The firmest layer has solid gel-infused memory foam to support the head and prevent uncomfortable sinkage. This layer is composed of a 1-inch and 2-inch insert, and you can use one or both. The gel infusions in both foams are intended to absorb and dissipate excess heat.

What It’s Made of

The outer pillow shell is made from viscose derived from bamboo, a naturally breathable material with a soft hand feel. Meanwhile, an inner pillow shell made of breathable cotton encases each layer and encourages airflow. These breathable components earned the pillow high marks during our temperature neutrality tests. These covers are also fully machine-washable for easy cleanup.

Customers can pick from standard/queen and king sizes. Luxome ships free to customers living in the contiguous U.S., and it accepts returns within 30 days of delivery. If you buy two pillows, you’ll receive a 50% discount on the second pillow.

GhostBed GhostPillow - Memory Foam

Best for Spinal Alignment

GhostBed GhostPillow - Memory Foam

GhostBed GhostPillow - Memory Foam
Price: $95
Fill: Aerated Gel Memory Foam
Firmness: Medium Firm
Who it's best for:
  • Value seekers
  • Hot sleepers who prefer foam
  • People who experience pressure points
Highlights:
  • Perforated memory foam enhances airflow
  • High loft level performs well for side sleepers
  • Competitive price-point
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

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Bottom Line

Even though foam pillows tend to run hot, GhostBed did a nice job keeping the GhostPillow cool despite its memory foam core. The cooling fabric and phase change material make this pillow cooler than many of the other foam pillows we’ve tested.

Memory foam pillows often retain body heat, which can cause sleepers to overheat. The GhostBed GhostPillow – Memory Foam uses foam with a perforated design. We found this increased airflow and controlled temperature better than traditional memory foam pillows that we’ve tested.

How It Performed

Side sleepers who want a high-quality pillow at a budget-friendly price-point will want to consider this pick. This model’s pressure-relieving memory foam and medium firm feel offered ample support and cushioning in the test lab. These are two qualities side sleepers tend to prefer in a pillow. The 6-inch loft also helps keep your head and spine properly aligned while you sleep.

What It’s Made of

The pillow’s core is composed of solid gel-infused memory foam that’s perforated for ventilation. A layer of phase change material and a cover made from proprietary Ghost Ice fabric kept the pillow’s surface cool against the skin during tests. If you prefer a plush cover, you can opt for the cotton velour side instead of the Ghost Ice fabric. Thin mesh separates the core from the cover and enhances breathability. Though the core can’t be washed, you can launder the cover in your home machine.

Shoppers can purchase the GhostPillow – Memory Foam in one standard size that’s backed by a 5-year warranty covering structural and workmanship defects. Shipping is free to shoppers in the contiguous U.S. as is a 101-night sleep trial. Those who want to return their pillow must first try it for 30 days.

Marlow Pillow

Best Adjustable Firmness

Marlow Pillow

Marlow Pillow
Price: $65 - Standard $85 - King
Fill: 80% memory foam, 20% polyester fiber
Firmness: Adjustable
Who it's best for:
  • Side and back sleepers
  • Those who are unsure of their ideal firmness and loft
  • Anyone seeking pressure relief for the neck at night
Highlights:
  • Adjustable loft and firmness
  • Solid memory foam contours evenly for a balance of contouring and support
  • 365-day return policy
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Marlow pillows

Bottom Line

The Marlow has an innovative adaptable design that is perfect for sleepers who can’t decide between a high or low loft pillow. A simple zip or unzip lets you change the loft to fit your needs.

Many pillows offer adjustable loft, but few allow you to customize firmness level. The Marlow Pillow is a memory foam model with a unique design that lets you adjust firmness with ease.

How It Performed

The adjustable design lets you pick your ideal firmness, but regardless of the firmness option, our testers found that the foam construction provides excellent contouring for the head and neck without sacrificing support. Side sleepers on our team found the cradling quite comfortable. Back sleepers typically need substantial support as well as moderate contouring, and the adjustable firmness allowed our back-sleeping testers to pick the loft that suited them best.

What It’s Made of

The pillow is filled with shredded memory foam and polyester fibers. The shell is 100% cotton, with a mesh gusset made from polyester. You can adjust the firmness and loft through a simple zippered construction. If you prefer a pillow with higher loft and a firmer feel, you may zip the side of the cover. If you wish to decrease the loft and firmness, simply unzip the side.

The Marlow comes with a generous 365-day return policy and a 2-year warranty. Shipping is free within the contiguous U.S.

Layla Kapok Pillow

Best Pressure Relief

Layla Kapok Pillow

Layla Kapok Pillow
Price: $109 - Queen $129 - King
Fill: Shredded memory foam and kapok tree fiber blend
Firmness: Medium Soft
Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers looking for a medium loft pillow
  • People who prefer a soft and conforming pillow feel
  • Hot sleepers
Highlights:
  • High-loft design encourages spinal alignment for side sleepers
  • Memory foam gently contours to the head and neck
  • Copper infusion intended to reduce heat retention
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Layla pillows

Bottom Line

We recommend the Layla Kapok for sleepers who like to snuggle pillows and also need a fair amount of firmness. The shredded foam is moldable but still provides excellent support.

How It Performed

The pillow measures 4 inches thick, which we rate as medium loft. The side sleepers on our team enjoyed the loft because it provided excellent cushioning for the head and neck without sinking too deeply or feeling too tall. For many, this results in even spinal alignment. We found the pillow was highly moldable and snuggly, making it a good option for people who prefer cuddling with a pillow while they sleep. Our testers also enjoyed using the pillow beneath the legs or between the knees.

What It’s Made of

The Layla Kapok Pillow features a fill made from shredded memory foam and fibers from the kapok tree. Our testers found the kapok fibers exceptionally soft with a down-like consistency, giving the pillow a very plush surface as the memory foam conforms to the head and neck to relieve pressure. The memory foam is infused with copper, which is meant to prevent the pillow from retaining too much body heat.

The Layla Kapok Pillow has a mid-range price-point compared to other shredded memory foam pillows we’ve tested. Shipping is free for those who live in the contiguous U.S. The pillow is backed by a 120-night sleep trial and a 5-year warranty.

Why You Can Trust Us

Our expert team includes product testers and researchers who bring years of experience to our guides and reviews. We also cover a wide range of body types and sleep positions to ensure every type of sleeper is represented. To select the best pillows for side sleepers, we heavily relied on feedback from testers who exclusively or primarily use the side position. However, we also sought input from back, stomach, and combination sleepers to make our recommendations as comprehensive as possible.

How We Evaluated These Pillows

Our hands-on testing process involves each person lying on the pillow for several minutes to evaluate support, pressure relief, and other qualities. While these particular evaluations focused on side sleeping, we asked the testers to change positions to see if the pillow felt more or less comfortable.  We also test pillows for temperature control, shape retention, odor potential, and other factors that don’t impact your sleep position. The top picks listed above reflect pillows that earned the most favorable ratings during these tests.

The Benefits of Side Sleeping

Side sleeping is the most popular sleeping position among U.S. adults. This position has a few advantages over back or stomach sleeping. For one, side sleeping can minimize snoring because it keeps your airway open; back sleepers snore more often because the tongue falls back into the throat, creating an obstruction for the airway. Side sleeping can be beneficial to people with sleep apnea and/or acid reflux for the same reason. If you’re a pregnant woman, chances are you’ll feel more comfortable on your side than you will in other sleep positions; a bolster pillow for the legs or knees can also provide comfort for pregnant sleepers.

Side sleeping can also align the spine and reduce discomfort in the shoulders, hips, and other areas where pressure points tend to develop. However, this is contingent on a mattress and pillow that offer enough support to align your head and neck, shoulders, lower back, and hips.

Keep reading to learn about special pillow considerations for side sleepers, and how to choose a pillow model based on your body type and personal preferences.

How to Choose a Pillow for Side Sleepers

The best pillow for side sleepers will provide adequate cushioning to support the head and neck. Our testing shows that pillows that either sink too deeply or feel too thick can interfere with spinal alignment, and neck and shoulder aches typically occur as a result. In determining the best pillow, you should look at several factors, including loft, firmness level, and material composition. In the next few sections, we’ll discuss how side sleepers can find a pillow that will work for them.

What to Consider When Purchasing a Pillow for Side Sleepers

In your research for a pillow that is compatible with side sleeping, you’ll no doubt come across pillow manufacturers who claim their products are suitable for all sleep positions, or that their pillows’ construction and materials offer universal comfort for all sleepers regardless of body type or personal preference. These marketing claims are misleading. Each pillow is uniquely designed to provide a distinct feel. Given the demands of different sleep positions, any pillow you select will be better suited to some sleepers and less so for others.

Rather than using marketing jargon to guide your pillow search, focus on the following attributes instead.

Key Points
  • Loft: Loft, or thickness, is arguably the most important consideration for side sleeping. Most side sleepers need medium to high loft pillows that provide enough cushioning for the head and neck without sinking too low. If your thickness preferences vary by night, you may be a good candidate for a pillow with adjustable loft levels.
  • Support: Support refers to how well the pillow maintains an even surface for your head and neck. Spinal alignment is imperative for side sleepers, so you’ll want a pillow that doesn’t sink too much or elevate your head excessively. We’ve tested a vast array of pillows and have found that models with solid foam or latex cores typically provide the best support.
  • Firmness Level: A pillow that feels too soft will probably sink too much beneath your head, leading to alignment issues and the potential for added pressure. If the pillow is too firm, then you may experience discomfort around the neck and shoulders. Pillows with mid-level firmness are usually the best choice for side sleepers because they provide a balance of contouring and support.
  • Pressure Relief: Many side sleepers feel pressure in the shoulders and hips because their mattress is not supportive enough. Likewise, pressure points may develop around the neck and shoulders if the side sleeper’s pillow does not keep these areas aligned with the spine. For this reason, side sleepers generally need a supportive pillow that also contours to the body.
  • Shape: Some fill materials compress over time, causing the pillow to flatten and feel less comfortable. You’ll need to regularly fluff these pillows in order to give them a full shape. Other materials, such as solid foam and latex, maintain their shape with less effort.
  • Price: The price of a pillow largely depends on its material components. We’ve observed that pillows made of polyfoam, down alternative, and feathers typically have the lowest price-points, while those with memory foam, latex, down, and buckwheat hulls tend to be the most expensive models. That said, you should be able to find a high-quality pillow with any fill material for $150 or less in a queen size.
  • Quality Materials: The materials used to construct a pillow’s cover and inner components can impact a wide range of qualities, including durability, temperature regulation, and shape retention. You may pay more for a pillow with higher-quality components, but you can also count on more longevity and stronger performance from many of these models.

What Pillow Materials Are Best for Side Sleepers?

Based on our hands-on tests, we’ve noticed that the best pillow fill materials for side sleepers include memory foam, latex, buckwheat hulls, and other components that offer sufficient support without feeling too firm. However, the amount of comfort a pillow offers side sleepers depends on a few other factors. The most common pillow materials are outlined below.

  • Memory Foam: Memory foam, or viscoelastic polyurethane foam, is engineered to feel softer when it comes into contact with body heat. This creates deep conforming for your head and neck when lying on a memory foam pillow, which can help to align the spine and reduce pressure in different areas.
  • Buckwheat: Buckwheat pillows are filled with hulls, the hard outer casings of buckwheat kernels. We’ve found that these pillows have a very firm and supportive feel; our testers liken them to hard bean bags. Most buckwheat pillows can be adjusted for loft by adding or removing kernels, and they promote good airflow, too.
  • Feather: Feathers are the outer plumage of ducks and geese. While light and airy, feathers have a coarser and denser feel than down. As a result, side sleepers won’t sink as deeply into the pillow. Feather pillows also sleep very cool and offer good durability compared to other pillow types.
  • Latex: Latex is a substance derived from the sappy extract of rubber trees. When molded into a foam, latex contours to the body like foam but feels much more responsive. Our side-sleeping testers typically find latex pillows more supportive since the material does not sink as deeply.
  • Down: Down is the soft inner plumage of ducks and geese. The material is exceptionally airy and light, and it also promotes insulation. To ensure adequate support for sleepers, many down pillows are reinforced with feathers in their outer chambers. This prevents side sleepers from sinking excessively.
  • Polyfoam: Polyfoam molds to the body but it also feels more responsive. You won’t feel the same deep contour as memory foam, but the material is more adaptive than latex. Our temperature neutrality tests show that polyfoam has a tendency to sleep hot, but many manufacturers ventilate or aerate their foam to minimize body heat absorption.

What Size Pillows Are Available?

The most popular pillow sizes are standard, queen, and king. However, some manufacturers offer additional sizes to accommodate sleepers with different preferences. The following table lists facts and figures for the five most common pillow sizes. For the dimensions column, please note these are average measurements that will differ from brand to brand.

Size Dimensions (Width x Length) Availability Best Suited for…
Standard 20W” x 26L” Very common Standard pillows are the most compact options. They are also the least expensive on average. You can get by with one standard pillow on a twin, twin XL, or full size mattress, but you’ll want at least two for larger mattress sizes.
Super Standard 20W” x 28L” Rare The super standard is slightly longer than the standard, so this size may be a good option if you find standards too small. However, you may have to do some digging – most major pillow manufacturers don’t offer this size.
Queen 20W” x 30L” Common A queen size pillow is 4 inches longer than the standard, providing more room for people who toss and turn or use the entire surface of their pillow.
King 20W” x 36L” Very common King size pillows offer the most length among common pillow sizes. This ensures ample room for anyone who tosses and turns, or otherwise moves around in bed. However, king size pillows tend to be the most expensive models.
Body 48W” x 20L” (or wider) Rare A body pillow is at least 4 feet wide, and should be ideal for anyone who enjoys snuggling with a pillow. Pregnant women often find body pillows comfortable when placed between their knees.
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Other Tips for Side Sleepers

In addition to selecting a supportive pillow that promotes spinal alignment, side sleepers can use the following strategies for sleeping comfortably each night.

Choose the Right Mattress: The best mattress for side sleepers will provide ample cushioning to the shoulders and hips in order to align the spine and alleviate pressure in different areas. Most side sleepers on our test team prefer mattresses with softer feels that conform closely to the body without sinking too much beneath their heavier areas.
Use a Pillow Between the Knees: A pillow between the knees can also improve spinal alignment and reduce pressure in the lower back and hips. Pillows filled with down/feathers, shredded foam, and other moldable materials tend to be most comfortable. You may also find more comfort and pressure relief by placing the pillow beneath your legs.
Invest in a Mattress Topper: A topper is a single layer of cushioning material placed on top of your mattress. Toppers can measure up to 4 inches thick, so using one can make your mattress feel significantly softer or firmer. For side sleepers, the right topper can mean closer conforming, better spinal alignment, and less pressure.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What pillow types are best for side sleepers?

    Some side sleepers prefer down or down alternative pillows, while others find that foam or other specialty pillows work better for them. Down and down alternative pillows have a comfortable, classic feel, but they are not always firm enough to offer side sleepers the neck support they need for proper spinal alignment. Because of this, side sleepers who use a down pillow should ensure theirs has a high enough loft to provide support.

    Foam pillows are usually firmer and are available either as a single cut piece or filled with shredded foam for easy adjustment. Single piece foam pillows sometimes have cut-outs to accommodate and support your shoulders and neck, but you should doublecheck that these will work for your sleep position before purchasing.

  • What pillow loft works best for side sleepers?

    Our testing has found that side sleepers usually need a medium to high loft pillow in order to keep their head, neck, and spine in proper alignment. This usually means using a pillow that is at least 4 inches thick. However, pillow loft is dependent on both the shape of your body and how much you sink into your mattress.

    If you have broad shoulders, you may need a pillow that is over 6 inches. If you tend to sink deeply into your bed, you might find that even a 4-inch loft is too high. Adjustable pillows can be a good choice if you are unsure what pillow loft you need.

  • What pillow type is best for side sleepers with neck pain?

    Side sleepers with neck pain should first check that their pillow is firm enough and at the correct loft. Neck pain can result from your neck and head being misaligned with your spine throughout the night. It can also be exacerbated by an incompatible pillow.

    Memory foam pillows offer pressure relief and the right amount of compression to align your neck, while contoured foam pillows are designed to cradle the head while releasing tension from the neck and shoulders. Contoured pillows tend to be the most popular among people with neck pain, but some struggle to adjust to their unique shape.

  • How firm should a pillow be for a side sleeper?

    If you’re a side sleeper, a medium to medium firm pillow is ideal. If a pillow is too soft, side sleepers may sink so far that the pillow covers the mouth, causing discomfort. On the other hand, extra-firm pillows can lead to tension and pain through the neck and shoulders. If you find a medium or medium firm pillow uncomfortable or too “hard,” consider purchasing a memory foam pillow with pressure relief for a more cushioned feel.

Still have questions?

Our product experts have extensive experience testing just about every sleep product on the market. Send an email to [email protected] or call us at (877) 672-8966 with your questions and we’ll help you find exactly what you’re looking for.

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About Our Editorial Team

author
Keith Cushner

Sleep Product Expert

Keith is a sleep product expert with nearly a decade of experience researching, developing, and testing sleep products.

author
Jenny Iyo

Physical Therapist

DPT

Dr. Iyo is a Doctor of Physical Therapy at an orthopedic clinic in Seattle. She specializes in hands-on therapy and tailored exercise programs.