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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.

What’s the Best Pillow for Side Sleepers?

Side sleepers usually feel most comfortable on thick pillows that fully support the head and neck. We recommend the Saatva Latex Pillow because the adjustable loft can be customized to your ideal thickness, and the bouncy feel of the latex generates plenty of support.

The section below includes detailed profiles of all the pillows we’ve chosen as best for side sleepers. Our team draws from an extensive database of more than 500 individual pillow models. Prices are listed with each top pick to help you find options within your budget, though keep in mind you’ll need to buy your pillowcase separately.

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In-Depth Reviews

“The shredded latex in the Saatva Latex Pillow offers the perfect amount of support for side sleepers, while the outer layer of down alternative is wonderfully plush and soft. I sank into this pillow, but my head and neck always felt perfectly aligned. Our side-sleeping field tester reported less stiffness in their neck after using this pillow for a month.” – Mark Horiuchi, Lead Product Tester

  • Pros

    1. Balanced support thanks to responsive latex core cushioned with down-like microdenier fibers

    2. Chambered design allows owners to adjust the loft

    3. Cotton cover is breathable and certified as organic

  • Cons

    1. Too thick for combination sleepers who use the stomach position

    2. Sticker price may be too expensive for shoppers on a budget

Price Range

$165 – $185

Fill

Shredded Talalay latex and down alternative

Firmness

Medium Soft

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.

“I often have trouble finding pillows that are soft and squishy but still supportive enough to keep my head and neck aligned. The Loft Pillow from Sleep Is the Foundation strikes a perfect balance. I can adjust the loft until it feels just right, and it’s incredibly moldable.” – Lauren Fountain, Senior Editor

  • Pros

    1. Shredded memory foam adapts to your head and neck

    2. Sleepers can adjust loft and feel by adding or removing fill

    3. Moldable design is ideal for squishing and snuggling

  • Cons

    1. May require fluffing to regain full shape

    2. Strong potential for off-gassing

Price

$90

Fill

Shredded memory foam (gel-infused)

Firmness

Adjustable

The Sleep Is the Foundation Loft Pillow is filled with shredded memory foam that you can adjust and mold to your desired loft and shape. The adaptive feel and customizable design make this a great fit for side sleepers who either aren’t sure of their ideal pillow preferences or who enjoy a high degree of customization options.

How It Performed

All the side sleepers on our team enjoyed the soft to medium feel of the Loft Pillow, regardless of their body type. The pillow measures 8 inches thick when completely filled, which is considered a high loft. Thick pillows are helpful for side sleepers, since it keeps the head supported and properly aligned with the neck and spine. However, you can remove fill at any time to achieve a lower loft if this feels more comfortable. Each pillow comes with a bag of shredded fill to use as needed.

Our testers unanimously agreed that this pillow excelled at moldability. The adaptive shredded fill lets you shape the pillow with ease, whether you’re folding the pillow to boost support or snuggling it for comfort. We noted that the pillow does not regain its shape easily, so you may need to fluff it to return it to its original shape.

What It’s Made of

The Loft Pillow is filled with shredded memory foam that’s been infused with cooling gel to minimize heat retention, which is a common problem associated with this type of fill. The shredded design allows air to circulate between the foam pieces, so this pillow runs cooler than solid foam pillows.

The outer cover is composed of polyester and bamboo-derived viscose, a fabric blend that feels fairly cool. You may remove and machine wash the cover in cool water on a gentle cycle, then tumble dry on low heat. The pillow has an inner cover that is machine-washable, as well, but you’ll want to make sure to first remove the fill.

The Sleep is the Foundation Loft Pillow is available exclusively on Amazon, with free shipping available to customers in the contiguous U.S. You may return the pillow within 30 days of delivery. The pillow is further backed by a one-year warranty.

“I was skeptical at first about the u-shape of this pillow, but the space it created around my shoulder really did help keep my neck and body aligned. I require a ton of loft when I sleep on my side, so the adjustable loft was crucial for me. ” – Jeremy Klein, Senior Product Expert

  • Pros

    1. Specifically designed for side sleepers

    2. U-shaped design accommodates the shoulder, reducing pressure on the neck

    3. Breathable organic cotton and polyester cover

  • Cons

    1. Ergonomic shape not compatible with combination sleepers who use the stomach position

    2. Fill must be removed to machine wash the shell

Price

$131

Fill

75% Latex and 25% Polyester Fiber

Firmness

Medium, Adjustable

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.

“I’m a side sleeper who’s used the Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex Pillow for over three years, and I’ve found the pillow has just the right amount of support to keep my head at the proper angle without creating neck strain. It perfectly fits the space between my head and shoulder.” – Lauren Fountain, Senior Editor

  • Pros

    1. Solid latex core provides a balance of cushioning and responsiveness

    2. Ventilated design and cooling cover help minimize heat buildup to keep you cool

    3. Two loft options to accommodate different sleep positions

  • Cons

    1. Not suitable for people with latex allergies

    2. Some sleepers may find the pillow too responsive

Price Range

$89 – $99

Fill

Talalay latex

Firmness

Medium Firm

If you feel painful pressure in the neck and shoulders but don’t like the close contouring of foam, then you’re a prime candidate for a latex pillow. The Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex Pillow lightly cushions these areas without hugging too tightly, and the material has a natural bounce to maintain an even surface with minimal sinkage.

How It Performed

The latex offers natural cooling properties, so hot sleepers on our team favored this pillow. You can pick between two loft levels. The 4-inch option is a mid-range profile that is most suitable to back sleepers but could also benefit combination sleepers who switch between the side and back positions. If you sleep exclusively on your side, you should opt for the 6-inch loft. The thicker profile offers ample support by filling in the space between your neck and the bed surface. Both thickness options carry the same sticker price.

What It’s Made of

Solid Talalay latex forms the pillow’s core. The material is ventilated with small holes that allow air to circulate throughout the interior chamber to avoid bothersome heat buildup. A breathable Tencel cover encases the latex for added cooling. You may remove and machine wash the cover whenever it needs to be cleaned, but the latex should only be spot cleaned if necessary. Latex pillows can be fairly expensive but that isn’t the case with this model, which carries a below-average price tag without sacrificing quality or performance.

Standard ground shipping is free for all Brooklyn Bedding orders within the contiguous U.S. The Talalay Latex Pillow is backed by a 30-night trial period, during which you may return the pillow at no extra charge, as well as a 1-year warranty against structural defects.

“As a side sleeper and someone who overheats easily, I appreciated the Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow’s breathable, plush fill. It provided adequate support for my head without trapping heat over the course of the night.” – Lauren Fountain, Senior Editor

  • Pros

    1. Lofty, breathable down alternative fill derived from plant matter

    2. Cotton cover is soft and silky-smooth

    3. Pillow can be washed and dried in any household machine

  • Cons

    1. High-profile design may be too lofty for combination sleepers who switch between the stomach and side positions

    2. Non-adjustable design with one firmness level

Price Range

$135 – $150

Fill

Plant-based down alternative fibers

Firmness

Medium

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

Our testing found the down alternative construction and medium feel a great option for side sleepers weighing up to 230 pounds, as well as back sleepers weighing between 130 and 230 pounds. People in higher weight categories may find their heads sink too deeply, which may cause neck strain, while stomach sleepers will likely find the pillow too firm and thick.

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 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.

“We’ve come across plenty of down pillows with a luxe feel, but the Boll & Branch Down Chamber Pillow stands out from the competition. The three-chambered design really pulls off that tricky balance of fluffiness and support.” – Danny Noyed, Senior Product Editor

  • Pros

    1. Three firmness options

    2. Down and feather fill compresses deeply for strong pressure relief

    3. Long-staple cotton shell is lightweight and breathable

  • Cons

    1. Not suitable for sleepers who are allergic to down

    2. May not appeal to shoppers seeking animal-friendly sourcing

Price Range

$159 – $219

Fill

White down, down/feather blend

Firmness

Soft

Boll & Branch has a reputation for producing luxurious and comfortable bedding, and the Down Chamber Pillow is no exception. This model comes in several firmness options, all containing down or a combination of down and feathers that offer the mix of support and cushioning preferred by most side sleepers.

How It Performed

The pillow is available in a soft, medium, and firm design. All models offer the luxe cushioning that down pillows are known for, but the medium and firm options generate stronger support while the soft design is exceptionally plush and compresses deeply. Our product experts agree that the firm and medium options are a better fit for side sleepers, since this group usually needs a fair amount of loft and support to keep the head and neck in proper alignment.

A major strength of this pillow is its natural cooling properties. The shell is made with lightweight and breathable cotton, while the down and feathers retain minimal heat. Hot sleepers should find this pillow comfortable.

What It’s Made of

The Down Chamber Pillow is designed with three chambers that carefully balance contouring and support. The soft pillow contains down in all three chambers. The medium and firm models contain a combination of feather and down in the inner chambers and additional down in the outer chamber. The shell is composed of 100% long-staple cotton, which is higher quality and more durable than short-staple cotton.

You can wash this pillow in a machine using cold water on a gentle cycle. You can also tumble dry on a low setting, though it may take a few cycles to completely dry.

Boll & Branch offers free shipping to addresses in the contiguous U.S. You’ll receive a 30-day sleep trial with your pillow.

“The Luxome LAYR is one of the more unique pillows we’ve had in our test lab. This model is essentially three pillows in one, so you can adjust the loft, firmness, and overall feel. I loved that I could tinker with every aspect of this pillow to find just the right configuration for keeping my neck and spine aligned.” – Tom Ryan, Head of Product Testing

  • Pros

    1. Breathable bamboo-derived viscose helps regulate temperature

    2. Four interchangeable layers with distinct feels

    3. Removable fill that allows you to adjust the loft and firmness

  • Cons

    1. Determining the most comfortable insert combination may take several nights

    2. Those seeking a firm pillow may not find any of the inserts comfortable

Price Range

$100 – $115

Fill

Down alternative, shredded gel-infused memory foam, and solid gel-infused memory foam

Firmness

Adjustable

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.

“The Helix GlacioTex Cooling Memory Foam Pillow contours closely to alleviate pressure and soreness. We recommend the 5.25-inch pillow for side sleepers, as the higher profile helps ensure adequate cushioning between the head and shoulder.” – Logan Foley, Managing Editor

  • Pros

    1. Solid memory foam core is plush and adaptive

    2. Available in two loft levels to accommodate different sleeper preferences

    3. GlacioTex phase change cover captures and releases body heat

  • Cons

    1. Foam may emit strong off-gassing when the pillow is new

    2. Not suitable for those seeking a responsive pillow

Price Range

$123 – $136

Fill

Solid memory foam

Firmness

Medium

For all of its health benefits, side sleeping can compromise proper alignment and leave you feeling stiff in the morning. The right pillow can make a world of difference. Helix’s GlacioTex Cooling Memory Foam Pillow is available in two profiles, each intended for different sleep positions. The thicker 5.25-inch model provides ample cushioning to support the neck, cradle the head, and keep these areas aligned with the rest of your spine.

How It Performed

All side sleepers on our team awarded favorable ratings to the GlacioTex Cooling Memory Foam Pillow during hands-on tests. Our back sleepers were also impressed with the pillow — despite the higher profile, none of them experienced excessive neck strain. Stomach sleepers will probably find the 5.25-inch loft too thick. We recommend the 4.75-inch pillow if you sleep on your stomach, or if you’re a combination sleeper who sometimes uses the stomach position.

Pressure relief is a major strength of this pillow. The solid memory foam conforms closely without sinking or compressing too much, resulting in optimal neck support and little to no pressure buildup. We also found the pillow sleeps fairly cool compared to other memory foam models we’ve tested. This can mostly be attributed to the GlacioTex cover that dissipates heat and feels cool to the touch.

What It’s Made of

A single piece of memory foam makes up the pillow’s core. Copper fibers infused into the foam are intended to offset heat retention and help the pillow sleep cool. A cover made of GlacioTex phase change material encases the pillow. You may remove and machine-wash the cover, making the pillow easy to care for, but the foam should only be spot cleaned if stains occur. Standard and king sizes are available.

Competitive pricing and free shipping to all 50 states make the GlacioTex Cooling Memory Foam Pillow a solid option for budget-conscious shoppers. Helix’s sleep trial lets you test the pillow for up to 100 nights. Full refunds are issued for those who initiate a return during this time frame. If you choose to keep the pillow, you’ll also receive a one-year warranty against material defects.

“I’ve never been someone who likes a firm, lofty pillow, but since I’m on my side most of the night I do need something substantial to support my neck. Brooklinen’s Down Pillow has that typical sink-your-head-in feel of down and feathers, and it comes in firmer options if you need the extra support.” – Brad Nehring, Product Expert

  • Pros

    1. Down clusters offer exceptional softness and cushioning for the head and neck

    2. Three density options to suit different sleep positions

    3. All orders include a year-long sleep trial

  • Cons

    1. Pillow may trigger symptoms for people who are allergic to down

    2. Too large and thick for many household washing machines

Price Range

$109 – $149

Fill

Canadian white down clusters or down/feather blend

Firmness

Plush, Mid-Plush, Firm

For many side sleepers, down pillows tend to sink excessively, and this lack of support often leads to neck pain. With the Brooklinen Down Pillow, you can choose from three designs based on density and firmness. Our testing shows the firm option should provide adequate loft for side sleeping. If you’re a combination sleeper who switches between your side and back or stomach positions, the plush or mid-plush pillows might be more comfortable.

How It Performed

Our team tested each of the Brooklinen Down Pillow’s designs. The firm pillow was most popular among our side sleepers, who appreciated the thick profile, dense feel, and limited sinkage to keep their heads aloft. The back sleepers on our team preferred the mid-plush pillow, and our stomach sleepers felt most comfortable on the plush pillow.

Like other down pillows, the Brooklinen model is highly moldable and snuggly. Overheating wasn’t a major issue during our tests due largely to the breathable cotton sateen shell, and initial odor was minimal. We’ve also given the pillow high marks for durability. The double-stitched edges should prevent rips and tears that allow fill to escape, resulting in a longer-than-average expected lifespan.

What It’s Made of

Down clusters make up the pillow’s fill. The design we recommend for side sleepers feels fairly firm, as the fill density is high. As their names imply, plush and mid-plush designs feel softer due to their lower densities. All pillows are encased in soft, breathable cotton sateen shells. Double-stitching along the perimeter is intended to protect the shell from wear and tear.

In addition to its affordable sticker price, the Brooklinen Down Pillow qualifies for free ground shipping anywhere in the contiguous U.S. Customers who purchase two or four pillows save 10% and 15% on their order, respectively. Brooklinen’s 365-night trial period is one of the longest in the online bedding industry. After your trial expires, you’ll receive an additional year of manufacturer’s warranty coverage.

“The Layla Kapok has an adaptive foam feel, but the kapok fibers and shredded design of the foam retain less heat than other foam pillows. Our field tester has slept on this pillow for 4 years and reports no heat issues, even though he’s a hot sleeper. He gives the pillow high marks for feeling light and airy every night.” – Jackson Lindeke, Director of Product Experience

  • Pros

    1. High-loft design encourages spinal alignment for side sleepers

    2. Memory foam gently contours to the head and neck

    3. Copper infusion intended to reduce heat retention

  • Cons

    1. Plush, adaptive feel may be too soft for some

    2. Foam might emit off-gassing odor at first

Price Range

$109 – $129

Fill

Shredded memory foam and kapok tree fiber blend

Firmness

Medium Soft

Many foam pillows we test trap too much heat for many of our hot sleepers, but the Layla Kapok Pillow is a notable exception. Cooling infusions, airflow through the shredded foam and kapok fiber fill, and a breathable cover kept the pillow cool throughout testing.

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.

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.

Expert Tested. Sleeper Approved.

Over the past eight years, our Seattle-based Test Lab has performed hands-on tests on more than 4,000 sleep products — and more than 500 of them are pillows. 

As product experts, we stay up to date on the latest news in sleep science and product trends. We use this knowledge to fuel our data-backed recommendations. Many of our testers have worked directly with sleep product manufacturers. On occasion, a sleep health expert might stop by to tweak a performance rating.

When we test a pillow, we collect data across nine major performance categories and combine these results with real-world feedback. We use tools and tech to monitor qualities like conforming, temperature control, and heat retention. In order to ensure our findings are inclusive of all sleepers, our team consists of people with varying body types and sleep positions.

Pillows aren’t one-size-fits-all. The perfect pillow for you is going to depend on general points like your body weight and sleeping position, as well as unique points like if you have neck or shoulder pain, if you sleep hot at night, or if you just like the feel of latex over memory foam. Our goal at the Test Lab is to help take the guesswork out of your pillow-buying process.

So How Did We Choose the Best Pillows for Side Sleepers?

For this list, we ran each pillow through the same series of hands-on tests to measure temperature regulation, shape retention, moldability, and other performance criteria. Most pillows we’ve chosen for side sleepers are thick, lofty, and supportive — these qualities are key for even alignment and decreased pressure along the spine. Size and firmness selection, price, and ease of cleaning also influenced our final list.

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.

“Side sleepers tend to need a high-loft pillow for support and to fill the space beneath the head and neck to promote proper spinal alignment. Keep your head and neck in alignment at around 30 degrees with the help of a good pillow so your airway stays open during the night, allowing air to flow from your nose to your lungs without obstruction.”

Sarah Silverman, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist and holistic sleep wellness consultant who treats patients in New York and Florida.

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.

  • 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.

SizeDimensions (Width x Length)AvailabilityBest Suited for…
Standard20W” x 26L”Very commonStandard 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 Standard20W” x 28L”RareThe 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.
Queen20W” x 30L”CommonA 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.
King20W” x 36L”Very commonKing 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.
Body48W” x 20L” (or wider)RareA 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.

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 About Pillows for Side Sleepers

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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