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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.
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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.
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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.
Best Neck Support
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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.
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Many pillows are comfortable for side sleepers, but a select few are specifically designed for people who experience aches, pains, and pressure points around the head and neck. The TEMPUR-Neck Pillow from Tempur-Pedic features an ergonomic contoured shape that supports the neck and cradles the head. By aligning with the natural curve of your body, the pillow can reduce discomfort in areas prone to pain and pressure build-up. This makes it a good fit for back sleepers, as well.
The TEMPUR-Neck Pillow is also quite durable. The interior consists of proprietary TEMPUR memory foam, a long-lasting material that resists wear and tear much better than the foams used in many competing products. The pillow also has an extra firm feel, so your head and neck won’t sink as deeply. Shape retention is above-average and the pillow never needs to be fluffed.
The breathable polyester cover can be removed and laundered in your household machines, but the foam should never be washed. Standard small, medium, and large sizes are available, along with a travel-friendly size.
Considering the TEMPUR-Neck Pillow’s high quality and expected lifespan, its sticker price is quite low. Tempur-Pedic also offers free ground shipping within the contiguous U.S. and reasonable rates for Alaska and Hawaii, as well as a five-year warranty that protects the pillow against defects.
Best Memory Foam
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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.
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Finding a comfortable down pillow can be tricky for side sleepers. Down is an exceptionally soft fill material that tends to sink under the weight of your head and neck, and side sleepers may not receive enough loft and experience added aches and pains. The Down Side Sleeper Pillow remedies this problem thanks to a 3.5-inch gusset along all four sides, which helps the pillow maintain a fuller shape and thicker loft despite its plush feel.
The fill mostly consists of premium white European down, with some feathers for extra stability. The fill power is 750, so the pillow feels quite dense and tightly packed. This ensures side sleepers with neck pain won’t feel added discomfort. The shell is composed of silky-soft cotton sateen, and thick piping reinforces the sides to prevent fill from escaping and extend the pillow’s lifespan.
When the pillow needs to be cleaned, Parachute recommends either dry cleaning or machine washing on a delicate cycle with mild liquid detergent. Standard and king sizes are available.
This model is reasonably priced compared to other pillows with authentic down and feathers, and Parachute offers free shipping to all 50 states and Army/Air Post Office locations. You may return the pillow within 60 days of your original order, even if you’ve slept on it or cleaned it, and you’ll also receive a three-year warranty.
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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.
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Most side sleepers need extra pillow loft to provide adequate cushioning for the shoulders, neck, and head, which in turn ensures better spinal alignment and less pressure. The Amerisleep Dual Comfort Pillow is a good option for side sleepers due in part to its versatility. The pillow has a reversible design with a medium soft feel on one side and a medium firm feel on another. This allows sleepers to choose the side that feels most comfortable on any given night. Additionally, customers can choose a 5-inch or 6-inch loft for their pillow depending on their preferences.
The core is composed of Bio-Pur, a proprietary high-density memory foam that conforms closely to the head and neck. Both sides of the pillow are ventilated with small holes to promote steady airflow and prevent the foam from retaining excessive heat. The cover – which can be removed and machine-washed – is made of polyester mesh for added breathability. Amerisleep offers standard/queen and king sizes for the pillow.
The Dual Comfort Pillow is reasonably priced considering its high-quality materials and innovative design, and all orders qualify for free ground shipping. Although returns are not available, Amerisleep backs the pillow with a 10-year warranty that protects against excessive sagging and other structural defects.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.|
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.
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.
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 the shoulders and neck, but side sleepers should double-check that these will work for their sleep position before purchasing.
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 minimum, 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.
People with broad shoulders may need a pillow that is over 6 inches, while people who sink deeply into their bed might find that even a 4-inch loft is too high. Adjustable pillows can be a good choice for people who are unsure what pillow loft they need.
Side sleepers with neck pain should first check that their pillow is firm enough and at the correct loft — if these are already fine, then a memory foam or contoured foam pillow may offer more relief. Neck pain can result from your neck and head not being in alignment with your spine throughout the night, or it can be unrelated to — but exacerbated by — the wrong 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.
A medium to medium-firm pillow is ideal for side sleepers. While softer pillows may seem comfortable, these compress too much to offer enough support and can lead to spinal alignment issues. Side sleepers can also sink far enough into them that the excess filling goes over the mouth, making it difficult to get comfortable.
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.
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