Everyone has his or her preferred sleep position, with the most popular options being back, side, and stomach sleeping. Of these, side sleeping is by far the most common. That’s good, because it’s also a healthy one that allows the body to settle into a neutral position during sleep.
Like all sleepers, however, side sleepers can benefit from tailoring their sleep accessories to how they sleep. Side sleeping is healthy, but it can be tough for side sleepers to maintain the alignment between their head, neck, and spine. That’s where choosing the right pillow comes in.
With the right pillow, you can find the correct loft and firmness to maintain your spinal alignment while you sleep and gain the full benefits of side sleeping. Of course, you also need to look for the usual must-haves in a pillow, like comfort and support.
In this guide, we take a look at how to choose a side sleeper pillow and the things you’ll need to take into consideration when buying one. We’ll also give you our top picks for the best pillows for side sleepers of 2023.
The Best Pillows: Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Casper Down Pillow
Casper Down Pillow
An excellent, ethically-sourced all-rounder.
Why We Picked It
The Casper Down pillow is an excellent all-rounder, featuring ethically sourced natural materials at a reasonable price point. For this, it takes our Best Overall category.
The Casper pillow has a six-inch loft, provided by a down and feather mix in a two-chambered design. The outer chamber features 80 percent white duck down and 20 percent feathers, while the inner chamber has 60 percent white duck down and 40 percent feather inner chambers. The inner panels are polyester and the outer shell is 100 percent cotton.
The ethically-sourced down and feathers keep this pillow breathable. It’s an excellent choice for side sleepers thanks to its generous loft, which can be maintained by giving the pillow a daily fluff.
The Casper Down pillow comes with a 1-year limited warranty.
Keep in Mind
Natural down and feathers aren’t the best choices for allergy sufferers or asthmatic sleepers.
In a Nutshell
- Ethically sourced down and feathers
- 1-year limited warranty
- Very soft
Best Value: Brooklyn Bedding Premium Shredded Foam Pillow
Brooklyn Bedding Premium Shredded Foam Pillow
Shredded foam comfort at a great value.
Why We Picked It
For some sleepers (side or otherwise), it’s important to know you’re getting bang for your buck. If you’re shopping on a budget, then you need a pillow that delivers for its price. The Brooklyn Bedding Premium Shredded Foam pillow wins our Best Value category by doing just that.
The Brooklyn Bedding Premium is available in Queen and King sizes, and comes encased in a moisture-wicking, antimicrobial cover. The cover is zippable, so adjusting the loft is as easy as removing the inner material. This material is a blend of memory foam and gel foam, designed to aid with temperature control.
The adjustable loft gives this pillow some real value for money. Side sleepers can adjust the loft with complete freedom, tailoring it to their precise sleep preferences. The pillow retails at a reasonable price and is made with quality materials, so it should last its expected lifespan.
Brooklyn Bedding pillows can be returned for an exchange or refund within 30 days of purchase, so you’ll have the chance to find out if you’re satisfied before you commit to the investment.
Keep in Mind
Brooklyn Bedding’s warranty doesn’t cover sleep accessories, so you’ll need to refund within the 30 days refund window if returning the pillow.
In a Nutshell
- Self-adjustable loft
- Quality materials
- 30-day refund period
Best Luxury: Tempur Pedic Tempur-Cloud Pillow
Tempur Pedic Tempur-Cloud Pillow
Luxury softness for side sleepers.
Why We Picked It
The Tempurpedic Tempur-Cloud Pillow is an extra-soft, 5-inch, low-profile memory foam pillow. The breathable luxury quilted cotton cover is removable and washable for easy maintenance.
The soft memory foam contours extremely well to the neck and shoulders, offering a cushion-soft sleeping experience. For side sleepers, it offers a soft and comfortable experience while maintaining its loft.
The Tempur-Cloud pillow is a luxury experience, offering an extremely soft, low-profile pillow made of comfortable materials. It comes with a 5-year limited warranty. Tempur-Pedic is an established and popular brand, with over 10 million people sleeping on Tempur-Pedic pillows.
Keep in Mind
Extremely soft, which may not provide enough support for some sleepers.
In a Nutshell
- Extra soft
- 5-year limited warranty
- Luxury cotton cover
Best Memory Foam Pillow: Coop Home Goods Eden
Coop Home Goods Eden
Adjustable memory foam for maximum comfort.
Why We Picked It
The Coop Home Goods Eden pillow is made of shredded, gel-infused memory foam and is available in three sizes: Queen, King, and Standard. It comes with a stretchy liner and comfortable, breathable outer case.
As a shredded foam pillow, the Eden pillow can be adjusted easily by simply removing some of the contents. For side sleepers, this means you can find the perfect loft with minimal effort. The pillow is machine-washable, hypoallergenic, and comes with a 5-year warranty.
The Eden pillow is popular with customers, holding a 4.5 star rating on Amazon with over 1,700 reviews at the time of writing. There’s a 100-night sleep trial that will let you try out your pillow and returns are free. We chose it as our best for its quality, gel-infused foam, generous sleep trial, and popularity with customers.
Keep in Mind
Some off-gassing may occur while the pillow is new, but this will dissipate with use.
In a Nutshell
- Three size options
- 100-night sleep trial
How We Chose the Best Pillows for Side Sleepers
To choose the best pillow for side sleeping, you need to weigh up the pros and cons. To select our top picks, we take a look at a few key categories that side sleepers will want to keep in mind when choosing a pillow.
Here are some of the categories we use to see how they stack up:
Support is vital for side sleepers. Although side sleeping is a healthy position with some great benefits for your body, it does have one major flaw. That flaw is in the alignment of the head, neck, and spine, which can be thrown out by a pillow that doesn’t offer the right kind of loft and support. When choosing the best pillows for side sleepers, we take a look at the support it offers to get a feel for how well it overcomes this problem and aligns the sleeper’s body through the night.
Construction and Materials
You can find out a lot about a pillow by taking a look at the materials used in its manufacture. The best pillows are made of quality materials that ensures their comfort, durability, and ability to retain their shape over the pillow’s lifespan. We take a look at the materials used in each pillow to assess their quality, including the material source where relevant.
For some sleepers, eco-friendliness will be a high priority, so these customers will also want to look for pillows using natural materials and sustainable manufacturing techniques.
Few of us are lucky enough to shop for sleep accessories with no ceiling to our budget. For sleepers on a budget, choosing a pillow means balancing quality, effectiveness, and price. We look at the pillow price to let you know what kind of value you’re getting and how it compares with some of its closest competitors.
With the proof in the pudding, it makes sense to look at customer satisfaction for sleep accessories like pillows. Manufacturers make many claims about the effectiveness and sleep experience of their pillows, but the only real test is in what the customers make of it. We look at the pillow’s popularity to give you a clearer picture of how it performs in a live sleep environment.
You can’t always be sure that your purchase will work out, particularly as sleep comfort is such an individual matter. Return policies can soften the blow of a purchase, as you’ll know you can return a pillow if it doesn’t work for you. We let you know the return policy on a pillow so you’re equipped to make a confident purchase.
What is Side Sleeping?
Side sleeping is by far the most popular sleeping position out there. Around 63 percent of adults side sleep, which makes it more popular than the runners up by a wide margin. It may be humanity’s “natural” sleep position, given that it occurs often in other primates. It also resembles the medical recovery position, which is designed to keep the airways unobstructed in unconscious patients.
The National Sleep Foundation says that side sleeping is one of the healthiest positions for sleep. With the addition of a pillow under the head and between the knees, it creates an ideal spinal and neck alignment. In a neutral posture, our spines have three natural points of curvature that helps to distribute pressure and maintain spinal alignment.
Other sleeping positions tend to distort this neutral alignment. Back sleepers force the spine to align to the flat surface of a mattress while bringing the head forward through pillow support. Stomach sleepers typically force the head back, again distorting the natural curve.
Side sleeping keeps the airways free and limits stress on any one part of the body. High-pressure areas for side sleepers usually include the shoulders and hips.
Not every side sleeper sleeps the same way. The most common variations on side sleeping include:
- Fetal: Curled up into a fetal ball. Some sleepers will scrunch themselves up more than others. This can restrict breathing, but it has a high degree of psychological comfort.
- Reaching out: Legs extended, one or both arms “reaching” out.
- Arms at side: Legs extended, arms by the sides. Also referred to as “the log.”
How to Choose a Pillow as a Side Sleeper
The choose the right pillow as a side sleeper, you need to pay attention to a few key features. We outline these features below and explain why they matter to side sleepers.
Loft is the measure of a pillow’s height when it’s flat on the bed. Pillows with higher loft elevate the neck and head more than lower pillows. Some pillows, like many shredded memory foam pillows, have an adjustable loft that can be tailored by adding or removing material.
Loft is particularly important for side sleepers. Though side sleeping is a healthy position, it can disturb the natural alignment of the head, neck, and spine, which can lead to aches and stiffness. By choosing a pillow with a medium or high loft, you can get the full benefits of the side sleeping position.
Moldability describes the ability to shape and mold the pillow, so it reflects how a pillow performs when you rest your head on it. A more moldable pillow will conform and wrap more to a source of pressure, while a less moldable one will hold a firmer shape.
Pillows come in various shapes and sizes, all with different purposes behind them. When choosing a pillow for your head, you should generally stick to the classic shapes and choose a size to suit your bed.
Firmness describes a pillow’s resistance to pressure, like the pressure from the weight of your head as you sleep. A firmer pillow will feel more resistant, maintaining its shape and feel when you rest your head on it. A softer pillow will deform and mold to the shape of the head and neck, which can create a comfortable sleeping experience at the expense of the pillow’s loft.
For side sleepers, pillows on the firmer end of the spectrum are typically preferable. This maintains the pillow’s loft, which in turn keeps the neck and head elevated and aligned with the spine during sleep.
There is a wide range of materials used in pillows, all with different properties and all affecting the sleep experience in different ways. Some are more suited to side sleeping than others, as side sleepers need good loft and support to go along with comfort. We outline some of the pros and cons of various pillow materials for side sleepers in the next section.
Pillow Materials and Side Sleeping
Sleepers have a huge range of pillow materials to choose from, each with their unique pros and cons. Common preferred materials for side sleepers include buckwheat, feather, and memory foam, but choosing the right material means weighing its pros and cons against your preferences.
In this table, we lay out the pros and cons for side sleepers of some common pillow materials.
|Memory Foam (Solid)||Great support|
Conforms over time
May be too firm
|Memory Foam (Shredded)||Often adjustable|
Has some conforming
Not as firm as memory foam
|May offer less support than solid memory foam|
Not good for allergies or asthma
Animal welfare issues
Better for asthmatic/allergic sleepers
|Not a perfect replacement for down|
May not be as comfortable/soft
Difficult to clean
Good heat regulation
|Polyfoam||May be cheaper than memory foam|
|Cotton||Breathable||Sleep experience can change significantly over time|
If you’ve found this guide useful, take a look at some of our other in-depth guides for sleepers: