The 13 Best Pillows for Side Sleepers, According to Experts
Finally, side sleepers can sleep more restfully and wake up pain-free.
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Do you tend to fall asleep staring at your wall, window, or partner, as opposed to the ceiling or pillow? If so, you’re in good company: Most people spend the night on their sides. In fact, up to 75 percent of people are side sleepers, according to Gbolahan Okubadejo, MD, a board-certified spinal and orthopedic surgeon. While you obviously know what type of sleeper you are, you might not know that to have a truly restful sleep, you need to find the right pillow. Here’s where it gets tricky: There are different “best pillows” for every type of sleeper. What are the best pillows for side sleepers? You’re about to find out.
We’ve rounded up the best options for your particular sleep style, whether you’re in the market for an organic pillow, a down pillow, a budget-friendly pillow, or whatever else. They’ll help you drift off to dreamland faster—and wake up with fewer aches and pains. Trust us when we say it’s life-changing! For an even better night of sleep, also take a look at our tips on how to buy the best mattress for you, as well as our picks for the best weighted blankets, the best silk pillowcases, and other top-rated sleep products.
What you need to know before you buy
Before we get into the specifics of choosing the right pillow, there are a few things you should know: The side position has many benefits to your health, so even if you’re not a side sleeper by nature, you may want to try getting more comfortable with this position. “Side sleeping has been known to reduce breathing irregularities in people with sleep apnea, aid in digestion, circulation, and back pain, and possibly even help clear brain waste,” says sleep expert Tara Youngblood. Side sleeping can also reduce snoring. “Many back sleepers, especially if their pillows are too high, end up snoring through the night,” explains Dr. Okubadejo. “Sleeping on your side helps alleviate some of that.”
To obtain all the benefits of sleeping on your side, like reducing muscle and joint pain, Dr. Okubadejo says you need to have the right alignment, which is where having the proper pillow becomes important. Side sleepers can disturb their shoulder placement since that is the part of the body they lean on all night. The right pillow at a mid-height can fill the space to cushion the head.
The pillow’s stuffing is a crucial factor, as well. “Look for materials that are semi-firm, such as kapok and shredded memory foam,” suggests Logan Foley, managing editor of SleepFoundation.org. Latex and polyester mixes can also work well. Another great option, Foley says, is an adjustable loft, which means the pillow comes with extra filling you can add. Of course, what you rest your head on each night can be a personal choice, and the following picks will help you find the best pillow for you.
Best all-around pillow: Coop Home Goods Premium Adjustable Loft Pillow
With more than 31,000 five-star reviews on Amazon and a recommendation from Dr. Okubadejo as a great, affordable, and adjustable option, this Coop Home Goods pillow is one of the best pillows for side sleepers you can buy. But there’s one thing you need to know first: You need to stuff it yourself. While that might seem a little weird, the beauty of it is that you get to customize the loft to your liking. Many reviewers said they had to play around, adding more and taking out some until they found their perfect Goldilocks just-right height. But when they did, they slept soundly and comfortably. This hypoallergenic pillow is also CertiPUR-US and Greenguard certified, so you can rest easy knowing it doesn’t contain harmful chemicals and that it’s both vegan and cruelty-free. If this is important to you, you’ll also want to check out the best non-toxic mattresses on the market.
Best down pillow: Brooklinen Down Pillow Mid Plush
“If you sleep on your side, you have a lot more room between your shoulder and the mattress than a back or stomach sleeper does,” Foley shares. She continues that a medium to high loft pillow can help fill the void at the neck and create a cushion for the head. The three different options of comfort level set apart this Brooklinen pillow, but the brand suggests going with the firm style if you sleep on your side. Reviewers rave that “this pillow maintains comfortable support through the night,” and one says, “I haven’t slept so well in months!” By the way, if you’re someone who likes to go to sleep with their earphones plugged in, this ear pillow is just what you need.
Best pillow for neck pain: TEMPUR-Neck Pillow
This pick is another suggestion from Dr. Okubadejo, which makes sense because it will provide you with the proper alignment and support. Following the natural curve of your body, the contoured shape (which is available in three sizes) ensures your head will rest in the best possible position all night. It might be hard to believe, but if you lay your head on this pillow at night, you’ll wake up without your usual aches and pains.
Best memory foam pillow: WonderSleep Dream Rite Shredded Hypoallergenic Memory Foam Pillow
Memory foam styles are among the best pillows for side sleepers. Like a warm hug, this WonderSleep pillow has just the right density and recovers with every move, which means no more head sinking. It’s also made of premium fabric that will dissipate the heat your head produces while you sleep. So toss out your old pillow, along with the rest of these bedroom items that probably need replacing, and finally get a comfortable, truly restful night of sleep.
Best for sleepers who run hot: chiliPILLOW Basic with Infused Charcoal
A few years back, charcoal started to become a popular ingredient popping up in special water, high-end shampoos and face masks, and even pillows. The addition of the element here helps to lower the temperature of your pillow, plus ventilation holes additionally promote airflow. That dynamic duo will also help with odor and moisture control. Users call this a “game-changer,” and all in all, it’s a very chill pillow.
Best down alternative pillow: Casper Original Pillow
The mattress company that people love also makes incredibly comfortable pillows. Casper’s down and foam options are excellent, but it’s their tried-and-true original that gets comments like, “I feel like I am sleeping on a cloud.” Built as a pillow-in-pillow design, the inner model is supportive, while the outside is soft and fluffy. Even better, the polyester microfiber doesn’t clump, so you’ll get an even spread of stuffing. This is also a great choice if you flip from your side to your stomach throughout the night since it will support both positions. When it’s time for a cleaning, here’s how to wash your pillow the right way.
Best kapok pillow: Layla Kapok Pillow
While kapok is a popular option for stomach sleepers, pillows stuffed with this silky fiber are also an excellent option for side sleepers. Foley recommends this Layla pillow, in particular. It’s luxurious, soft, and supportive, and it conforms to your body. This pillow will make your bed 10 times cozier and make you feel like you’re sleeping in a fancy hotel.
Best hybrid pillow: Leesa Hybrid Pillow
With a quilted pillow top on one side and a cooling gel layer on the other, this hybrid pillow gives you both a down and memory foam feel. It’s also adjustable: Simply unzip the side and remove the polyester pillow insert between the down and cooling layers. It will become thinner and a great option for when you flip to your stomach in the middle of the night. In fact, there are so many options with this plump pillow, it works for every type of sleeper.
Best latex pillow: PlushBeds Shredded Natural Latex Pillow
Latex pillows are one of the best stuffing options for side sleepers since latex is breathable, recovers quickly, and won’t shift and clump, shares Dr. Okubadejo. Allergy sufferers will also love this malleable option because it’s hypoallergenic and mold- and mildew-resistant. And everyone will love that it’s squishable and comfortable since the stuffing doesn’t change throughout the night. It’s also excellent for sitting up in bed to watch TV or read, according to reviewers.
Best organic pillow: Naturepedic Organic Cotton Pillow
Non-toxic, sustainable, and made from 100 percent organic cotton, and sustainable, this 300-thread-count pillow contains all the buzzwords people who shop eco-friendly products love to hear. Reviewers speak to the quality as being superb, and many note that they purchased it for their kids. With no harmful chemicals, you don’t have to worry about that gross smell either.
Best budget-friendly pillow: Wamsutta 26″ L x 18″ W Extra-Firm Side Sleeper Pillow
Flat pillows do a poor job of holding the head up, hence neck pain. “Side sleepers should look for a thicker/firmer pillow to keep their head in alignment with their spine while in a side-lying position,” says Youngblood. For those who aren’t looking for a big investment, maybe you just splurged on a new mattress this is a suitable option for under $30. Reviewers noted this is really firm, so expect a thick, solid pillow.
Best splurge: Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow
While not every splurge is worth it, this one definitely is. Just by its appearance, with the cutout that creates its distinctive U shape, you can see that this a unique pillow. Specifically engineered to elevate the neck and head, this style also has a removable latex and polyester filling, which allows the user to control the level of softness. While both Foley and Dr. Okubadejo recommend this Eli & Elm pillow, it’s the comments posted on the site for this cult favorite that will make you spend $130 on this pillow. In them, customers rave that this pillow improved their sleep and reduced neck and shoulder pain in ways they never imagined was even possible.
Best pregnancy pillow: Boppy Side Sleeper Pregnancy Support Pillow
“For pregnant women, side sleeping can help take the pressure off their bladder and reduce back pain,” says Foley. This Boppy support pillow is versatile and will aid back sleepers in feeling more comfortable on their side. It also can sit in between your legs as you sleep, which Foley adds can also help maintain the alignment of your spine. While there are giant C-shaped options on the market for a pregnant mother to hug, this smaller option is less of a commitment.
Next, read this review of the Pillow Cube—and why we’d recommend it for side sleepers.
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