Last Updated: April 2018
For side sleepers, the position is different for your head and neck area than when sleeping on your back or face down on your stomach. Because of the greater width of your body, when sleeping on your side, you?ll find that your head is naturally raised considerably higher off the mattress than when sleeping either on your back or on your tummy.
The extra distance from your head and the mattress below needs to be supported by a pillow with a greater loft/height. When using a pillow not designed expressly for side sleepers, the head will dip downwards causing a strain on tendons and muscles, and creating pressure on nerves in the neck.
Over time, if uncorrected, the wrong pillow causes health problems such as neck pain, headaches, strained neck muscles, uncomfortable tingling in the extremities, and sometimes even sciatica too.
What you need to know
It?s helpful to examine the pros and cons about pillows for side sleepers.
- Raises the head higher than with a stomach or back sleeping pillow
- Keeps better spinal alignment
- Provides cushioned support to the head & neck overnight
- Avoids the need for chiropractic body realignment to fix parts of the spine, joints, and neck being put out of alignment by a bad mattress or pillow choice
- Breathable design e.g. ventilated foam or gel memory foam avoids overheating while asleep
- Hypoallergenic to prevent instigating allergies
- Better for heavy-set people who need to avoid tummy pressure bearing down on their back
- Some pillows are washable; others only have pillow cases that are
- Multiple pillow sizes sometimes available to match mattress sizes better
- Uncomfortable raised position that?s usually too high for stomach or back sleepers
- Requires continued high loft without foam depression over time to avoid sinking too low to maintain the correct posture
- Firmer support not preferred by people who like ultra-plush comfort
- Not all pillows are machine washable which reduces their useful life
Our Best Pillows for a Side Sleeper Recommendations
Eve Pillow Review
The Eve pillow is offered as a white one with a pleasing yellow seam around the edge giving it a clean look. The appearance also matches their Eve mattress perfectly too.
The company prefers a one-size-fits-all approach, so the pillow is only available in a single size. It measures 16.5-inches by 26-inches. It weighs only 3.7 pounds.
The firmer support is provided by a special formulation of memory foam used only for Eve products. The result is a contouring pillow that provides ample support for side sleepers which exceeds that of fiber or feather pillow fillings.
The heat management is good with ventilation holes throughout the memory foam to let air move. An UltraFresh treatment has been applied to avoid a mildew, mold or bacterial buildup.
While the pillow is not washable, the outer Jersey polyester cover is. It is good quality and should avoid pilling over time. The knitted cover is hypoallergenic.
There is Eve?s 30-night trial and a solid 3-year guarantee given.
Overall, the Eve pillow while not being gel memory foam is well ventilated and high-quality. It keeps cool and fresh while providing good support levels for dedicated side sleepers.
Below is our final score of the Eve pillow based on multiple criteria that we use when testing all of our pillows.
Coop Home Goods PREMIUM Adjustable Shredded Memory Foam Pillow Review
The adjustable shredded memory foam that fills this Coop Home Goods pillow is removable to adjust loft levels as needed. The foam is also chopped up into slivers which makes it easier to quickly adjust the loft level to suit personal preferences whether sitting up to read a book or laying down for a good night?s sleep.
The inner case uses a smooth fabric that is comfortable to lie on without expressly needing a separate pillow case. The fabric includes Rayon derived from bamboo for breathability and coolness. The side unzips to let the shredded foam out when wishing to adjust the loft to personal levels. The foam conforms to US regulations like CertiPUR-US and is free from harmful metals, mercury and other unwanted materials.
The pillow comes in Standard, Queen and King size options. The Standard measures 20 x 26 inches, the Queen is 20 x 30 inches, and the King is 20 x 36 inches.
One of the benefits of this pillow is that both it and the pillow case are machine washable. For anyone who sleeps hot, this is good option. The foam refuses to flatten out after washing too. It is also resistant to bacteria and avoids irritating allergies.
Some off-gassing is noticeable when taking the product out of the packaging. Either let it breathe out for a couple of days or wash the entire pillow using Febreeze or a similar product in the washing machine to remove the foam odor.
Entirely made in the USA, there?s both a 30-day money back offer and a 5-year guarantee provided.
Overall, this shredded foam pillow has many benefits for side sleepers and hot sleepers who will like that it?s washable. The flexible loft is also an excellent feature.
Below is our final score of the Coop Home Goods PREMIUM Adjustable Shredded Memory Foam based on multiple criteria that we use when testing all of our pillows.
Sleep Innovations Cool Contour Memory Foam Pillow Review
The Sleep Innovation Cool Contour pillow is a shaped memory foam model that aims to support the head, neck and shoulder areas. The design offers therapeutic-level support for people with neck pain who require the removal of the unsupported inverted-C shape of the head and neck when lying down by fitting a foam pillow into the gap to fully support that part of the body during a full 8-hour sleep cycle. The pillow is usable both for side sleepers and back sleepers alike as it?s not too high and not too low either.
The product comes in either Standard or Queen sizes only.
The blue foam layer helps keep the pillow cooler overall. As a foam product, it doesn?t arrive with as noticeable a chemical smell as some other foam-based pillows so the off-gassing time is limited.
The foam is produced in the USA. There is a 5-year limited warranty provided on this product.
A white microfiber cover slips over the pillow to make it more comfortable to rest your head on. The cover is hypoallergenic and washable to keep it clear of bacteria and better for people who are allergy sufferers.
Overall, the Sleep Innovations contoured memory foam pillow provides a non-adjustable side sleeping experience that?s good for people who need greater contoured neck support. The gel layer keeps temperatures down and the microfiber cover is a good choice.
Below is our final score of the Sleep Innovations contoured memory foam pillow based on multiple criteria that we use when testing all of our pillows.
Malouf 100% Natural Talalay Latex Zoned Pillow Review
The Malouf pillow is made from Talalay latex that?s 100% natural with no synthetics used which reduces the chance of allergies.
The pillow is highly selectable. It has a Queen and King size choice, plus the option of high loft and firm, high loft and plush, low loft and firm, or low loft and plush. For side sleepers, they should only opt for high loft and firm though as low loft will not lift the head up sufficiently and the plush option is too soft for side sleeping.
The latex foam is zoned to change how it responds according to where the head is positioned on the pillow. The pressure relief is good and there are numerous ventilation holes to avoid heat buildup inside the latex foam. The 100% natural Talalay latex is dust mite and mildew resistant.
The velour cover provided is made from polyester and Rayon derived from Bamboo for better breathability.
Overall, this Malouf latex pillow offers firm support for dedicated side sleepers. The ventilation and allergy-resistant formulation should help sensitive people still get a good night?s rest.
Below is our final score of the Malouf pillow based on multiple criteria that we use when testing all of our pillows.
Classic Brands Conforma Cushion Firm Memory Foam Pillow Review
The Classic Brands Conforma Cushion Firm Memory Foam Pillow comes in either a Queen or King size. The memory foam is reasonably responsive to head movement and offers good pressure relief for the shoulders, neck and head areas.
The foam is medium-plush, so it doesn?t provide the firm support for neck pain sufferers. Both back and side sleepers will find the pillow works well when they?re just looking for support in a plush setting.
Dust mites, mold, bacteria and allergens are handled because the memory foam is antimicrobial to avoid their build up over time.
The cover is a velour knitted cotton one that?s machine washable. The pillow itself is not washable.
A 3-year warranty is provided with the product.
Overall, the Conforma Cushion memory foam pillow isn?t as firm as its name suggests. It?s actually medium-plush, isn?t moldable, and won?t support the neck heavily. With that said, it?s a comfortable pillow for side sleepers who don?t require too much loft or firmness or who move to different sleeping positions during the night.
Below is our final score of the Malouf pillow based on multiple criteria that we use when testing all of our pillows.
Features & Benefits
There are a few features to think about when shopping for the best pillow to provide ample support when sleeping on your side.
Types of Pillow for Side Sleepers
The material used with a pillow for side sleepers is usually firmer than with other pillows with a lower loft or height. The neck and head must be properly supported without the neck bending sideways at an awkward angle because the loft is too low.
The material used must stay firm and plump over time and not sag within a few months of use otherwise the loft will be too low and the pillow need to be replace with something better. For this reason, it?s preferable to purchase a quality product rather than go cheap on the quality because durability for pillow density (and the loft of the pillow) matter far more than with a lower profile of a pillow for back or stomach sleepers.
There are a few types of material that work well for this purpose:
- Memory foam ? The composition of memory foam is a great choice for side sleepers because the foam naturally returns to its original shape once the head is lifted back off the pillow. The foam also molds to the head and neck shape which increases support and prevents some degree of rolling around. Ventilated foam that has holes all around it is better for avoiding heat buildup. There is no fluffing of internal padding necessary to return it to the original loft level, so the sleeping experience is more consistent.
- Shredded memory foam ? The option of shredded memory foam is a good choice vs. a single block of memory foam because it manages shape better. Personal adjustment of the shredded foam is possible to adjust loft levels in areas of the pillow which are different to that of a solid foam block. Air moves around the pillow better due to the use of slivers of memory foam for a cooler experience during a long night?s sleep.
- Gel memory foam ? This foam is usually blue and comes as either a top layer of gel foam or embedded inside the foam using micro fibers through its formulation. The open-cell gel beads suck in heat and disperse it across the entire area to avoid warmth buildup beneath the head. The gel foam tends to be hypoallergenic to avoid allergy flare ups and bacterial problems. Sometimes gel memory foam is used in either a memory form or shredded memory foam products to improve its heat management.
- Latex ? The use of latex provides a firmer surface than most memory foam pillow materials (some products come with firmness options including plush). Latex is bouncier, so it doesn?t flatten down and retains its shape very well. The lack of give when laying down on the pillow provides excellent firm support for people with neck problems. Other people may find the limited indentation possible with latex to be too firmer for their comfort level. Also, for people who toss and turn in bed, switching from side sleepers to stomach or back sleepers during the night likely will find latex pillows to be overly firm for their use. In both the above examples, a plush latex pillow is worth considering. A small percentage of people also find that they?re allergic to latex.
Benefits of a Side Sleeper Pillow
When you spent several hours in a side sleeping posture during your sleep pattern, a low loft pillow that will suit stomach or back sleepers is highly likely to tweak your neck. The resulting neck pain when you get up in the morning is tough to remove unless using a more suitable pillow and getting some extra sleep to get rid of the neck pain.
With proper neck and head support for dedicated side sleepers avoids neck pain entirely. Waking in the morning feeling refreshed and ready for the day is the best situation to be in. The feeling makes a modest investment in a quality pillow best suited to side sleeping completely worth it.
Selecting the right pillow matters greatly here. If you tend to get hot overnight, then a gel memory foam pillow is going to be a good option. For dedicated side sleepers who don?t adjust their sleeping posture overnight, a latex pillow might be just right.
Side Sleepers: Getting the Pillow Position Right
There is no one right position for sleeping on your side and where the pillow should be. Sometimes more than one pillow is useful so there?s support for the head and neck, and other areas too.
- Hip & Knee Support ? This is where a pillow is situated between the legs at the knee joint. The position helps keep the hips stay in the proper position to prevent the spine being out of alignment. For people who are vulnerable to muscle or nerve pain in the hip region, the use of an extra pillow there is useful. The pillow shouldn?t be overly firm in the knee and hip location, so a memory foam one is better than a latex product in most cases.
- Stomach & Back Support ? An additional pillow either at your front or the back provides extra spinal support on either side for people who require it. The cocooning effect offers extra support all around the body and makes tossing & turning less likely. Unlike with hip & knee pillows, stomach & back support for side sleepers should be firm making latex pillows perhaps a better choice for this purpose. Quite often, pregnant women find that firm back support when sleeping on their side relieves some pressure, but a plush pillow at their front is better.
Things to know
What are the things to consider carefully when looking for the right pillow for you? The highest priority should be the level of support that a pillow provides and its loft level. Without the neck being elevated sufficiently and properly supported at that level, all bets are off.
Here are some other factors to consider:
- Who is the Pillow for? ? When the pillow is just for you, then you are free to select loft level and firmness that best suits you. However, if other people may share use of it from time to time then you?ll want to consider a medium loft and not overly firm to cover stomach and back sleepers too.
- Pregnant women & children have different needs ? Children don?t need the same loft level but do require the same firmness in their pillow. Pregnant women often prefer a fairly firm pillow but also one that is adjustable, so a shredded memory foam one is a good idea.
- Safe products ? Foam used in the United States for home use requires the CertiPUR-US certification to confirm that its safe. This type of foam is free of CFCs, lead, mercury, metals, phthalates, formaldehyde, PBDEs, TDCPP and TCEP flammable materials.
- Size ? Pillows often come in variety of sizes like Standard, Queen and King sizes. The idea is that two pillows span the entire width of the mattress not leaving any gaps for the head to fall through while sleeping. When ordering a pillow to use for extra support then a King-sized one is ideal to cover the body length better.
- Moldable or Solid form ? It?s a matter of personal taste whether you require a pillow that has adjustable loft (where part of the pillow?s filling can be removed), uses shredded foam or is designed as a solid foam block.
- Material ? The material inside the pillow determines its firmness and mold-ability. Side sleeping pillows do tend to be heavier because of the greater density required for increased firmness.
- Durability ? Pillows should be expected to last 2-5 years. Many products are resistant to bacterial buildup, mold, mildew, and allergens. However, the longer they?re used, the more likely bacteria will develop. For hot sleepers, the dampness of the pillow is likely to cause bacteria to develop sooner and shorten the lifespan of the pillow. Some pillows are washable which is a good purchase for hot sleepers to keep their pillows more hygienic.
- Guarantee ? The length of a guarantee can vary from a year up to 5 years. Quite often, the length of a guarantee closely matches the viability of the pillow under regular use.
- Brand Reputation ? The manufacturing quality and customer reviews tend to matter more than the reputation of the brand. With that said, some off-shore brands do tend to lack dependable support should something go wrong.
Q: Is side sleeping better for my health?
A: Back sleeping is better for improved blood flow. However, for heavy-set people, pregnant women and other people who prefer sleeping on their side, what works for them is best.
Q: Is firmer support better than medium support?
A: For people with neck problems, firmer support is better. For other people who switch sleeping posture during their sleep pattern, they shouldn?t want a pillow too firm.
Q: Will a low loft level suit a side sleeper?
A: Most likely, no. There needs to be sufficient gap between the mattress and the neck level which the pillow covers with its loft. Without sufficient height, the neck is forced to bend and the head goes into the pillow at an angle. The result is strained muscles and injured nerves when waking up.
Q: Is a latex pillow better than a memory foam one for side sleeping?
A: Latex is good for non-allergy sufferers who like a firmer pillow and don?t feel the need to adjust the loft from time to time. Memory foam and gel memory foam are hypoallergenic, sometimes cooler, and can be a little softer for people who need that.