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Daniel Noyed

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More people prefer side sleeping than any other sleep position. When you lie on a mattress that provides adequate cushioning and support, sleeping on one side can promote even spinal alignment. This helps to reduce pressure points all over the body, including sensitive areas such as the shoulders and hips.

That said, the pillow you choose may make you feel less comfortable 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 cause added pressure points to develop.

Our best pillow for side sleeper picks are listed below. These seven selections are based on experiences from verified owners and customers, along with our own product research and testing. 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.

The Best Pillows for Side Sleepers

Product Details

Layla Kapok Pillow

Layla Kapok Pillow
Fill:
Shredded memory foam and kapok tree fiber blend
Firmness:
Medium Soft
Layla Kapok Pillow
Highlights:

The high-loft Layla Pillow features contouring, copper-infused memory foam that gently contours to the head and neck, promotes spinal alignment for side sleepers, and doesn’t feel too hot.

Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers looking for a medium loft pillow
  • People who prefer a soft and conforming pillow feel
  • Hot sleepers

Our best side sleeper pillow picks begin with the Layla Pillow, which is filled with shredded memory foam and fibers from the kapok tree. The memory foam is infused with copper, which has natural cooling properties and prevents the pillow from retaining too much body heat. Copper has antimicrobial properties, as well. The kapok fibers are exceptionally soft with a down-like consistency, giving the pillow a very plush surface feel as the memory foam conforms to the head and neck.

The Layla Pillow measures 4 inches thick, making it a medium loft model. Medium loft pillows can be ideal for side sleepers because they provide excellent cushioning for the head and neck without sinking too deeply or feeling too tall. For many, this results in even spinal alignment. The Layla Pillow is highly moldable and snuggly, as well, making it a good option for people who prefer cuddling with a pillow while they sleep. The pillow can also serve as a comfortable bolster for side sleepers beneath the legs or between the knees.

At $99 in a queen size, the Layla Pillow has a mid-range price-point compared to other shredded memory foam pillows. Shipping is free for those who live in the contiguous U.S. If you reside in Alaska or Hawaii, you’ll only pay a $20 fee for your delivery. The pillow is backed by a 120-night sleep trial and a five-year warranty.

Brooklinen Down Pillow

Brooklinen Down Pillow
Fill:
Canadian white down with feather core
Firmness:
Mid-Plush
Brooklinen Down Pillow
Highlights:

Offering the luxurious softness and breathability of premium down without too much sink, the Brooklinen Down Pillow is available to side sleepers in three loft options and comes with a one-year trial.

Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers looking for a high loft pillow
  • People who prefer the plush, airy feel of a down/feather pillow
  • Hot sleepers

Down – which refers to the soft inner plumage of geese and ducks – is a popular pillow material due to its naturally soft and airy texture. Unfortunately, many down pillows sink quite deeply and do not offer enough support for side sleepers. Our next pick, the Brooklinen Down Pillow, is a notable exception. This pillow is available in three firmness levels. The mid-level and firm feels have a chambered design with softer down at the surface and denser feathers making up the core. This ensures more overall support without sacrificing the plush feel of natural down.

The Brooklinen Down Pillow has a higher loft. The down and feathers will compress a bit, but the pillow should provide enough cushioning for most side sleepers. The down and feathers also sleep exceptionally cool, and the cover is made from smooth cotton sateen. You won’t need to worry about this pillow absorbing and trapping body heat like those made of foam. The fill materials have also earned the pillow certification from the Down Association of Canada (where it is produced), giving you extra peace of mind as a consumer.

Down pillows can be very pricey, but the Brooklinen model is fairly affordable at less than $120 in any size. Please note the plush pillows are a bit more expensive than the other two firmness levels. Brooklinen offers a 365-night sleep trial and a lifetime warranty for the pillow, both of which are exceptionally long.

Saatva Pillow

Saatva Pillow
Fill:
Shredded 100% American Talalay latex and Down Alternative
Firmness:
Medium Soft
Saatva Pillow
Highlights:

The adjustable Saatva Pillow is designed with an inner core of supportive shredded latex padded with an outer layer of soft micro-denier fibers. You can add or remove different components to change the loft and feel.

Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers looking for a pillow with adjustable loft
  • People who prefer the responsive and contouring feel of shredded latex
  • Hot sleepers

Our next pick, the Saatva Pillow, is another model that provides adjustable loft. The pillow is constructed with an inner core of shredded Talalay latex, which offers the same gentle contour as memory foam but also feels a bit more responsive and won’t trap as much body heat. The outer layer is padded with soft micro-denier fibers to give the pillow excellent cushioning. The pillow’s medium soft feel can be attributed to this fiber component. You can remove either the inner or outer layers from the pillow’s interior to adjust the loft between 2 and 8 inches. Adjusting these layers may improve the feel and supportiveness of the pillow, depending on your personal preferences.

The Saatva Pillow’s cover is made from breathable organic cotton. This material combines with the latex fill and steady airflow between the layers to help the pillow sleep very cool. The cover also has 2-inch gussets on each side to help the pillow maintain a full shape. For this reason, you shouldn’t need to fluff or shake the Saatva Pillow very often. The cover and outer layer are machine washable, as well.

The Saatva Pillow is more expensive than our other top picks, but its price-point is comparable to other models with latex fill. You can also bundle your purchases with Saatva’s premium Lofton pillowcases. All customers receive free shipping with their order, along with a 45-night sleep trial with full refunds on returns.

Bear Pillow

Bear Pillow
Fill:
Single, aerated piece of ‘Loft-X’ polyfoam
Firmness:
Medium
Bear Pillow
Highlights:

The Bear Pillow provides excellent breathability and temperature control thanks to its ventilated polyfoam core and a cover made from cooling Celliant fabric. The pillow also requires minimal fluffing to maintain a full, comfortable shape.

Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers looking for a pillow with high loft
  • People who prefer the contouring feel of adaptive polyfoam
  • Hot sleepers

Single-piece foam pillows can be optimal for side sleepers because they cushion and conform to the head and neck, but typically provide stronger support than shredded foam or other fill materials. However, there is a common complaint: the foam absorbs and traps body heat to the point of sleeping uncomfortably warm. The Bear Pillow, our next pick, offers much better temperature control than many of its similarly constructed counterparts. The foam is aerated to maximize airflow. The cover is also made from blended fabric that is cool to the touch, and each end is equipped with mesh caps for added breathability and air circulation.

The Bear Pillow has a medium feel. The foam conforms closely and your head may sink a bit, but the pillow provides enough reinforcement to keep your spine aligned. This ensures more stability and less pressure for side sleepers. Thanks to its single-piece construction, the pillow rarely needs to be fluffed or shaken to maintain a full shape. The cover can be removed and washed in a machine to keep the pillow hygienic. Bear recommends spot-cleaning the interior foam if it becomes dirty or stained.

The Bear Pillow has a mid-range sticker price for a single-piece polyfoam pillow. Bear offers free shipping throughout the contiguous U.S., and those who live in Alaska and Hawaii pay a flat shipping rate of $100. Bear backs the pillow with a 100-night sleep trial, along with a two-year warranty. The return is at your own expense.

Coop Home Goods Eden

Coop Home Goods Eden
Fill:
Cross-cut gel-infused memory foam and microfiber
Firmness:
Medium Soft
Coop Home Goods Eden
Highlights:

The Eden from Coop Homes Goods contains shredded memory foam that adapts to the head and neck without absorbing too much body heat. Owners can add or remove the fill to adjust the loft at any time, and additional foam is available for bulk purchase.

Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers looking for a pillow with adjustable loft
  • People who like the cushioning and contouring of shredded memory foam
  • Value seekers

Our next pick is the Coop Home Goods Eden, a pillow that offers adjustable loft. The interior contains a proprietary blend of shredded, gel-infused memory foam and polyester microfibers. You can unzip the pillow and add or remove fill to adjust the pillow’s overall thickness. Coop Home Goods also sells the fill in bulk for owners who need to replenish their supply. This customizable design makes the Eden suitable for a wide range of sleepers, including most side sleepers. If you find that your preferred loft varies from night to night, you’ll be able to change your pillow’s thickness and feel very easily.

The pillow also sleeps fairly cool. This can be attributed to decent airflow throughout the pillow, since shredded foam promotes more circulation than solid foam. The pillow’s cover, made of a polyester and rayon from bamboo blend, is also quite breathable. Conveniently, the entire pillow can be washed and dried in any household machine. The fill is contained in a removable liner, which should be separated from the cover before laundering.

Priced at less than $90 in any size, the Eden is quite inexpensive compared to other pillows of this caliber. Coop Home Goods also offers bundling packages, which allow you to purchase two pillows and two mattress protectors at a discounted rate. A half-pound of fill for the Eden is available for $18.99. Coop Home Goods provides free shipping to all 50 states, along with a 100-night sleep trial and a five-year warranty for the Eden.

Eli and Elm Side-Sleeper Pillow

Eli and Elm Side-Sleeper Pillow
Fill:
75% Latex and 25% Polyester Fiber
Firmness:
Medium, adjustable
Eli and Elm Side-Sleeper Pillow
Highlights:

An adjustable combination of latex, polyester fiber, and organic cotton gives the Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow breathable, durable comfort, while its unique shape accommodates the shoulders and necks of side sleepers.

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

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

The pillow has a medium firmness feel, built from its combination of latex and polyester fiber fill. The outer casing is made from a breathable blend of organic cotton and polyester and can be machine washed for easy care. The organic cotton, latex, and polyester all help the pillow resist the buildup of common allergens as well.

The Side-Sleeper Pillow has a medium- to high-loft that is well-suited to the needs of side sleepers. The loft can be adjusted 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, allowing it to adapt to a variety of different sleepers.

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.

Fill:
Firmness:
Highlights:

The luxurious Purple Harmony Pillow features a single piece of premium, ventilated Talalay latex encased in the Purple’s proprietary grid material. This innovative design yields one of the most breathable pillows available anywhere.

Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers looking for a pillow with exceptionally high loft
  • People who prefer a balance of conforming and responsiveness
  • Hot sleepers

Our last pick is the Purple Harmony Pillow. This pillow is constructed with a core of solid Talalay latex encased in the Purple Grid, a proprietary material made of hyperelastic polymers. Normally the Purple Grid has a square shape, but this pillow’s material is molded into a hexagonal pattern to increase airflow and breathability. The Purple Grid and latex give the surface some noticeable responsiveness, but the pillow also offers a medium soft feel and conforms closely to your head and neck. This should result in even spinal alignment and less pressure throughout the body.

The Purple Harmony Pillow is available in two sizes. The standard measures 6.5 inches thick, and the tall measures 7.5 inches thick. Either size should provide enough cushioning for side sleepers, even though with broader shoulders and more space to fill between the head and neck. Its composition is very durable, as well. The single piece of latex and Purple Grid encasement both withstand wear and tear better than most foams, giving the pillow a longer-than-average expected lifespan. The cover can be removed and washed in any household machine, but the core should be spot-cleaned only.

The Purple Harmony Pillow costs $159 in any size, which is in line with average prices for pillows with latex fill. Purple offers free delivery within the contiguous U.S., and shipping rates for Alaska and Hawaii are fairly inexpensive. The pillow is backed by a 100-night sleep trial and a one-year warranty.

Pacific Coast Hotel Touch of Down

Pacific Coast Hotel Touch of Down
Mattress Type:
Firmness:
Pacific Coast Hotel Touch of Down
Highlights:
Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers who like hotel pillows
  • Those who like a fluffy pillow
  • Hot sleepers

Many people long for the plush luxury feel of hotel pillows and bedding. How does one obtain this? By buying from the source itself. The Pacific Coast Hotel Touch of Down Pillow is found in luxury hotels worldwide, and for good reason. This pillow features a pillow-in-a-pillow construction filled with fluffy down and feather.

The Touch of Down Pillow contains an inner pillow filled with Resilia feathers, which are fluffier and more resilient than most feathers. This inner pillow is surrounded by high quality down, which is known for fluffiness, warmth and durability. To ensure a hypo-allergenic pillow, both the feathers and down have been washed at least 8 times. The pillow cover is made from 230-thread count 100 percent cotton, which is soft, breathable, and resilient.

Pacific Coast offers a 30 night sleep trial for the Touch of Down, so you can try before you commit. They also offer a 3-year limited warranty.

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. 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 right 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. Pillows 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. 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?

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, how comfortable or uncomfortable a pillow feels for side sleeping 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. These pillows have a very firm and supportive feel; many 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. Side sleepers may find a latex pillow 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. 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.

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 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

How common is side sleeping?
Roughly 30 to 40 percent of adults primarily sleep on their side, making it the most common sleep position. Its popularity can be attributed to a few factors. Side sleeping helps maintain an open airway to reduce snoring episodes, as well as symptoms from conditions such as acid reflux and sleep apnea. Side sleepers also tend to feel less pressure due to the natural alignment of their spine, though they’ll need a mattress and pillow that support the body without sinking too much.

What is the most important consideration when choosing a pillow for side sleepers?
Loft and materials are two of the most important factors for choosing a pillow as a side sleeper. A thicker pillow is usually ideal because side sleepers need to cushion their neck and shoulders, and the fill should be strong enough to resist deep compression and maintain a supportive surface for the pillow.

What is the worst pillow type for side sleepers?
The general consensus among side sleepers is that down alternative pillows are the least comfortable. Down alternative – a polyester material that mimics the softness and airiness of natural down – is not very supportive, so side sleepers may sink a bit too deeply into their pillow. Most down alternative pillows have a fairly low loft, as well. They may not provide enough thickness to keep the head and neck aligned with the spine.

Where can I find a pillow for side sleepers?
Pillows that are suitable for side sleepers are available from a wide range of sellers. If you purchase a pillow directly from the manufacturer, you’ll probably qualify for a longer sleep trial, product bundling packages, and other incentives. If you purchase your pillow from a third-party retailer instead, then there’s a chance your sticker price won’t be as high. You may also choose to buy your pillow at a brick-and-mortar store, where you’ll get the opportunity to test out different models firsthand.