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Best Pillows for Side Sleeper

Updated April 10, 2021

If you prefer sleeping on your side, you’re not alone: lateral sleeping position, as it is also called, happens to be the most popular position to sleep in. Of course, while many people favor side sleeping, this position is not without its issues. To avoid common side sleeping issues such as neck and shoulder pain, or aching arms and back, you’ll need a quality mattress and a pillow optimally designed for side sleeping.

Pillows for side sleepers are meant to offer support and comfort to people that prefer sleeping on their side and can make a significant difference in your quality of sleep. Their loft, firmness, and construction are all adapted so the pillow supports your cervical spine better, ensuring proper alignment and pain-free sleep.

You might want to read also: Best Latex Pillow for Side Sleepers

Rank Product Highlights
#1

Honeydew Scrumptious Side Sleeper Pillow

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  • Loft: 6”
  • Material: Copper-infused memory foam and UltraLuxe fiber
#2

Sealy Molded Memory Foam Pillow

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  • Loft: 5.75”
  • Material: Memory foam
#3

Coop Home Goods – Premium Adjustable Loft Pillow

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  • Loft: Adjustable
  • Material: Shredded memory foam
#4

Mkicesky Side Sleeper Contour Memory Foam Pillow

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  • Loft: 4.2”/5.3”
  • Material: Memory foam
#5

Duro-Med DMI Side Sleeper Body Pillow

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  • Loft: 4”
  • Material: Polyester
#6

POLAR SLEEP Gel Memory Foam Pillow

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  • Loft: 4.5”
  • Material: Gel-infused foam

What Kind of Pillow Does a Side Sleeper Need?

You might be thinking that any old pillow will do, but if you want to truly sleep like you’re on a cloud, you’ll need a side sleeper pillow. Specially designed to meet the needs of side sleepers, these pillows are taller, firmer, and differently shaped than classic regular pillows. The reason why the design of pillows for side sleepers differs is that when you sleep on your side, you “activate” different stress points in your body and need a different type of support to maintain natural spine curvature and a healthy sleeping posture which ensures you wake up well-rested and pain-free.

Side sleeper pillows should support the cervical spine- or, in other words, your neck region- to keep your spine aligned and to relieve pressure on the neck and shoulder region. When you’re laying on your side, your neck and shoulders, as well as hips, turn to stress points but a good pillow and mattress can prevent this. This is why a pillow for side sleepers should be tall and on the firmer side- a soft mattress would let your head sink and disrupt your natural sleep posture.

What to Look for in Pillows for Side Sleeper

While there are some general guidelines as to what pillows work for side sleepers, there is a certain degree of variety in design, so not every pillow labeled as a side sleeper pillow will be a good fit for your unique needs. To make sure that your new pillow will be both supportive and comfy to sleep on, it’s important to see if it checks all the boxes on your list.

Firmness

The firmness of a pillow is directly related to the comfort factor: no one wants to sleep on a pillow that’s hard as a rock, but you don’t want it so soft it flattens like a pancake a few minutes after you’ve put your head on it. The goal is to find that sweet spot somewhere in the middle and to find a pillow that will give your great support when you sleep on the side but still feel plush and pleasant to sleep on. For side sleepers, pillows that are ranked as a medium-firm to a firm are the ideal choice. They will retain their shape throughout the night to keep your head and neck from sinking in, but not without any give: they should contour to your body while supporting it.

Loft

The loft refers to the height of the pillow and it is closely related to the firmness, which will ensure that the height remains uniform throughout the night. Those that sleep on their side need pillows with a high loft, which is anything above 4”- the exact measure will depend on your body type as the height is what allows your spine to be properly aligned. For some, this will mean a slightly higher pillow than 4” but for most, it’s the goldilocks zone. Low loft pillows and medium loft pillows are not suited for a side sleeping position as they will have your head “drooping” and disrupt the natural curvature of the spine, leading to tension, strain, and pain in the neck and shoulder region.

Arm space

While the common factor for all side sleepers is that they sleep on their side, not all of them position their arm the same. Some prefer placing it under a pillow (which is good because it increases the loft but can put pressure on the arm), others place it overhead and some simply let their arms fall naturally to their side. While there’s some debate on which of these is the best in terms of comfort and pain relief, regardless of the arm position you favor, you should make sure to take it into account when you pick between different pillows for side sleepers. For instance, if you are used to placing your arm under the pillow, a solid foam side sleeper pillow won’t work- shredded foam is more adaptable and will be comfier to sleep on.

Material

The choice of materials is important- some materials hold up better than others when it comes to the requirements of side sleepers. Memory foam is the most common type of material used for pillows for side sleepers due to its contouring properties, slow response rate, and varying densities that can help you find the perfect firmness level for your needs. Also, it will help relieve pressure from your neck and shoulders and as it comes in different shapes- molded, shredded, single piece, layered- there are options for all sleepers. The biggest downside to memory foam, though, is that it traps heat, so if this is an issue, latex, buckwheat, and down are a good alternative for side sleepers.

Best Pillows for Side Sleepers

Honeydew Scrumptious Side Sleeper Pillow

Specs:

  • Loft: 6”
  • Material: Copper-infused memory foam and UltraLuxe fiber

Editor’s choice

Made with the finest quality materials with attention to detail, this memory foam pillow is optimized for the needs of side sleepers. The high loft and medium-firm feel are just the things to keep your head and neck elevated in the right position, without compromising on comfort. The subtly curved shape of the pillow is also particularly great for support and spinal alignment without putting pressure on your shoulder area. Filled with a proprietary blend of shredded copper-infused memory foam and ultra-fine fibers that are thinner than silk, this side sleeper pillow won’t trap heat but will still give you pressure relief and comfort regular memory foam does.

To boot, this pillow for side sleepers is fully adjustable, as well, as it features a hidden zipper that allows you to add or remove fill to manage the loft and the feel. If the pillow is too firm or too high for your liking, just remove some of the insides, and in case that you could do with more support, simply stuff it with more fill.

Pros

  • Unique curved shape
  • Copper-infused foam has thermo-regulating properties
  • Fully adjustable loft and feel
  • Good for relieving neck and shoulder pain
  • Made in the USA
  • CertiPUR-US certified

Cons

  • Off-gassing
  • Doesn’t keep as cool for some people

Who Should Buy This Pillow?

Supportive, comfortable, and versatile, this cleverly designed pillow for side sleepers will exceed your expectations. The proprietary fill made from special fibers and shredded copper-infused foam ensures that you get both pressure relief and a cool surface to sleep on.

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Sealy Molded Memory Foam Pillow

Specs:

  • Loft: 5.75”
  • Material: Memory foam

Runner up

For some sleepers, it’s the classic, tried-and-true choice that always does the trick, and if that’s the case with you- this molded memory foam pillow is just the thing for you. Made from a single piece of a premium quality conforming memory foam that will perfectly contour to your body, this side sleeper pillow is firm and with a high loft- just what you need to get support for your cervical spine and ensure that you wake up without stiffness and pain in your neck and shoulder region. The body-cradling foam will relieve pressure from key stress points for side sleepers but it is on the firmer side- no need to worry about sinking or flatness.

The cover for this pillow is removable and machine washable, so you can ensure that the hygiene is up to standards even if the pillow itself isn’t washable. Available in a standard size, this versatile molded memory foam pillow will meet the needs of most sleepers.

Pros

  • High-quality memory foam
  • Adapts to your body
  • Relieves pressure
  • Machine washable removable pillow cover
  • Designed and assembled in the USA

Cons

  • Initial chemical smell
  • Can be too firm for some people

Who Should Buy This Pillow?

You don’t always need a fancy design to improve your quality of sleep: this classic molded memory foam pillow will perfectly adapt to your body and make sure you sleep like a baby. The adaptive contour foam will relieve pressure and give you cervical support essential for any side sleeper.

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Coop Home Goods – Premium Adjustable Loft Pillow

Specs:

  • Loft: Adjustable
  • Material: Shredded memory foam

Customer’s choice

Despite the benefits of molded foam pillows and contour pillows, many side sleepers prefer shredded foam as a fill- and rightly so, as this makes them remarkably adjustable. This shredded memory foam pillow is an excellent example of how tailored support and comfort can transform your sleep experience for the better: just add or remove fill to control how firm the pillow feels or how high its loft is. The pillow comes with a bonus ½ lb bag of fill so you can both add more stuffing for more firmness or just remove some of it if the pillow is too thick.

The fill is made from the highest quality memory foam that passed all the safety tests and boasts a machine washable cover made with proprietary Lulltra fabric, which is derived from sustainable bamboo and polyester for exceptional breathability and hypoallergenic properties.

Pros

  • Adjustable loft and firmness
  • Comes with an extra bag of fill
  • Adapts to your needs and body shape
  • Bamboo washable cover
  • CertiPUR-US certified
  • GREENGUARD Gold certified

Cons

  • Initial chemical smell

Who Should Buy This Pillow?

In case you’re unsure what type of pillow works best for your needs, this fully adjustable memory foam pillow is the answer to your problems: you can fully control the feel and the height of the pillow by adding or removing the stuffing. It comes with a bonus bag of fill, too, for those that prefer firm and super high loft pillows.

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Mkicesky Side Sleeper Contour Memory Foam Pillow

Specs:

  • Loft: 4.2”/5.3”
  • Material: Memory foam

Best pillow for side sleepers with neck pain

Many side sleepers suffer from chronic neck pain and it’s mostly because of an inadequate pillow. Designed to give orthopedic support and unparalleled comfort, this special cervical contour pillow for side sleepers has a patented shape that works to relieve back and neck pain both. The arched shape ensures that your cervical spine is supported and cradled to align properly, whereas the hollow center reduces the pressure on the head- all combined, it helps eliminate the strain, tension, and pain.

Made with slow-response memory foam, this pillow is both firms and keeps its shape well. The unique shape of this pillow is also great for side sleepers that snore as it will prevent airway obstruction that causes this apnea symptom.

Pros

  • Arched design cradles your neck
  • Hollow center support the head
  • Slow-response memory foam
  • Relieves pain and pressure
  • Two heights on different sides
  • CertiPUR-US certified

Cons

  • Takes a while to get used to

Who Should Buy This Pillow?

For side sleepers that wake up with pins and needles in their neck and shoulders, this cervical contour pillow will be the right choice. The patented shape and slow-response foam make sure that you get pressure relief and spinal support required for pain-free sleep.

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Duro-Med DMI Side Sleeper Body Pillow

Specs:

  • Loft: 4”
  • Material: Polyester

Best pillow for side sleeper with an armhole

For those that are struggling with arm numbness as a result of their preferred sleeping position, look no more: this unusual pillow is made particularly for side sleepers that want to reduce pressure on their arm. The asymmetrical U-shaped pillow will support your head, neck, shoulders, and body, all the while giving you space to place your arm comfortably while laying on your side. The huggable design allows you to place the hand under or around the pillow without discomfort or pressure.

Another unique feature of this pillow is its cooling ear cup divot which eliminates the friction and reduces the pressure of your sleeping position on the ear- which is, believe it or not, a common issue for many side sleepers.

Pros

  • Huggable design
  • Relieves pressure on shoulders, neck, head, and body
  • Cooling ear cup divot
  • Doesn’t put pressure on your arm
  • Hypoallergenic

Cons

  • Runs small

Who Should Buy This Pillow?

Sleeping comfortably can be a challenge when you sleep on your side, but this huggable body pillow ensures that you always feel like you’re on cloud nine. Supportive, cleverly shaped, and meant to relieve pressure, this is the one to go for when you need some extra help to stay comfy during the night.

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POLAR SLEEP Gel Memory Foam Pillow

Specs:

  • Loft: 4.5”
  • Material: Gel-infused foam

Best side sleeper pillow for hot sleepers

Since a lot of pillows for side sleeper positions are made from memory foam, hot sleepers that sleep on their side often have to compromise between comfort and support. Luckily, that doesn’t always have to be the case: cooling gel memory foam manages to capture all the benefits of memory foam without its heat-trapping properties. This particular pillow is both gel-infused for temperature regulation and perforated to encourage air circulation, which only contributes to its coolness.

As an added perk for hot sleepers, this pillow also has a two-sided cover which has a special extra cooling side that is made from 50% ice fiber and 50% polyester fiber, so you can rest assured that you won’t be sweating, even in hotter months of the year.

Pros

  • Ventilated foam for improved breathability
  • Gel-infused for coolness
  • Medium-firm for optimal feel
  • Supportive and pressure-relieving
  • Two-sided cooling pillowcase
  • CertiPUR-US certified

Cons

  • Could feel to a firm to some sleepers

Who Should Buy This Pillow?

If you always flip your pillow in hopes the other side feels cooler (and it never seems to do), this cooling side sleeper pillow will be a great choice for you. Made with ventilated, gel-infused foam, it is breathable, cooling, and pleasant to sleep on.

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Bottom Line

Your sleeping position will influence a lot of choices- from the mattress to the pillow, everything should be picked to suit the way you sleep. For side sleepers, their mattress should be softer to contour their body whereas the pillow is on the opposite side of the spectrum- it needs to be firm and tall to support your head and neck and help you retain natural spine curvature.

Pillows for side sleeper preferences come in different shapes, materials, and budget ranges to suit anyone’s tastes: whether it’s the desire for a cooling pillow to put your head on or help with managing your neck and shoulder pain, you’ll have no problem finding a perfect match for your needs.