Best Pillow For Side Sleepers

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A whopping 41 percent of Americans sleep in the fetal position – on their side with their torsos hunched and knees bent – according to the National Sleep Foundation. And another 15 percent sleep on their sides with their torsos and legs straight.

The good news is that experts say that sleeping on your side can have some health benefits, from blocking heartburn and reducing the chances of snoring. Not to mention it’s better on your neck than other positions, according to a report from Prevention.

With so many people favoring this sleep position over others, it should come as no surprise that there are plenty of pillows dedicated to side sleepers out there. I’ve highlighted my top picks below ones that should cover a variety of sleep preferences and will make recommendations on what to look for if you’re in the market for a pillow suited for side sleeping.

Top Picks For Side Sleeping Pillows

  • Leesa
  • Coop Home Goods
  • Beyond Down Gel Fiber Pillow

Why Leesa?


Leesa’s pillow is relatively new but I think it’s well-suited for side sleepers because of its unique Avena foam filling (see more on that HERE). This foam feels similar to latex foam in that it has good responsiveness and support – but your head won’t sink in too deeply and it won’t risk falling flat at night.

Sometimes pillows with solid foam fillings can have trouble breathing, causing people to sleep hot. The foam in the Leesa pillow is ventilated which promotes airflow, and the soft knit fabric helps it to stay cool as well.

Pillow Details:

  • Filling: 100% Avena Foam (ventilated)
  • Cover: 70% Polyester, 17% Viscose, 13% Nylon
  • Comes in King and Standard size
  • Removable cover that is washable and dryer friendly
  • Designed for all styles of sleeper and all body types
  • Price: $75 for Standard size, $95 for King size
  • Made in the USA
  • 100-night trial period
  • Included in Leesa’s One-Ten Program, one pillow will be donated for every ten sold

Check out the complete Leesa pillow review, here.

Why Coop Home Goods?


There are many adjustable shredded memory foam pillows on the market. What makes Coop Home Goods pillow so nice for side sleepers are the larger chunks of memory foam within the pillow.

These larger foam pieces help give the pillow an overall loft and supportive feel. Since it is adjustable, there is a zipper that allows you access to the filling where you can add/remove as much of it as you like. This will allow each person to find their ideal neutral head, neck and spinal alignment.

To keep the pillow lofted and firm, you will need to put it in the dryer and fluff it on occassion.

Pillow Details:

  • Filling: Shredded Memory Foam Mix for comfort & shape-ability, will not go flat
  • Cover is 60% Polyester, 40% Bamboo-Derived Rayon – designed to keep you cool through the night
  • Made in USA
  • Standard cut size: 20″x 26″ | Queen cut size: 20″ x 30″ King cut size: 20″ x 36″
  • 5 Year Limited Warranty
  • Machine Washable
  • Hypoallergenic and Dust Mite Resistant
  • Comes in Standard, Queen and King sizes

Read the full Coop Home Goods pillow review, here.

Why Beyond Down Gel Fiber?


The Beyond Down Gel Fiber pillow is filled with gel coated polyester fibers that mimic the feeling of down. Softer filings like these can sometimes be tricky for side sleepers, who tend to need some loft and support for the head and neck.

What makes the Beyond Down pillow such a nice fit is that it’s got a large 4.5” gusset and overstuffed feel so your head sinks into the pillow but it’s still enough support to get proper alignment and to stay comfortable all night.

The plus side of using a down alternative pillow is that it’s hypoallergenic, easy to machine wash and dry and tends to be more cost-effective (in general).

Pillow Details:

  • Filling: gel fiber that mimics goose down (100% polyester fiber)
  • Cover: 300 thread count, 100% cotton 
  • 4.5-inch gusset, with double needle corded edges
  • Designed for side sleepers but can be comfortable for all sleep positions
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Made in the USA and imported
  • Comes in Standard, Queen and King
  • Care: machine wash and dryer friendly

Click here to see the entire Beyond Down Gel Fiber pillow review.

What Side Sleepers Should Look For

Picking a pillow that will boost the quality of your sleep is not that different from looking for the right mattress – it’s all about finding something that will promote neutral neck and spine alignment. When your body is properly supported in this way, you will avoid waking up with stiffness and joint and neck pain.

The main thing to look for when picking a pillow for side sleeping is something that supports your head and neck but keeps it in neutral alignment with your spine.

“Side sleepers need a thicker pillow than back and stomach sleepers to fill the 4- to a 6-inch gap in between their shoulder and the mattress,” says Dr. Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist who specializes in sleep disorders, in an interview with Prevention. He says your spine should form a straight line from your nose to your sternum.

solar22/Shutterstock

If it’s hard to tell if your neck is neutrally aligned when you’re using your pillow, have someone take a photo of you from the front. From there it should be clear whether your head is at an angle upward, downward or in a straight line (as is ideal).

Keep in mind that some pillows have fillings that will flatten or change shape during the night. It could be worth finding ones that offer return policies or trial periods so you can test it out for a few nights before deciding which is a good fit.

Overall

It’s possible to find the perfect pillow for you if you take the time to do a little research and self-assessment. Think about what sleep positions you find yourself in at night, what materials and fillings you like in your pillow and what your current pillow is doing for your quality of sleep.

If you are a side sleeper, focus on finding a pillow that supports your head and neck so that there’s a straight line from your nose to your sternum – an indication of a neutral neck and spinal alignment.

Test out different pillows with good return policies until you wake up feeling comfortable and happy – good sleep is in your future!

Featured image: wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

 

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Katie Golde

Katie manages the day to day operations of the Mattress Clarity news site and reviews sleep products in addition to writing and editing sleep news. She hails from Austin, where she lives with her growing family. She has a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University and has a background in health and science content. Her work can be found in print and online publications like Discover Magazine, USA Today and The Huffington Post.

5 thoughts on “Best Pillow For Side Sleepers”

  1. Years ago I slept on me Feather pillow and I liked it. However I made the mistake of washing it after watching Dr. Oz episode about how gross pillows are. Well it stunk to high heaven after washing it so I had to throw it in the trash. I decided to go with the coop pillow since I’m a side sleeper. However that one stunk straight out of packaging for a good week after I got it. Any suggestions for a non-smelly eco-friendly pillow for a side sleeper? Thank you for your time and input!

    • Hi Serena! So more likely than not, the smell you got when you used the Coop pillow was something called “off-gassing” which is essentially a release of gas from the memory foam pieces inside the pillow. This is common and if you open up the pillow and/or are able to leave it outside or in a well-ventilated area for a day or so it should go ahead pretty quickly. Sounds like it was bad enough to make you not want to use it, though. It may be hard to get that same loft and firmness without using a memory foam pillow but what you might want to consider is an overstuffed down alternative – I really liked the Brooklinen mid-plush down alternative (review here: https://www.mattressclarity.com/pillow-reviews/brooklinen-mid-plush-down-alternative/) and you might also like pillows filled with eco-friendly Kapok Fibers that also have a down-alternative like feel. These should hold up better in the washer and dryer. One other more affordable option might be the Beyond Down Gel Fiber pillow for side sleepers (review here: https://www.mattressclarity.com/pillow-reviews/beyond-down/)

  2. I’ve given pillow comfort quite a bit of thought. I sleep both on my back and side. When sleeping on my back I prefer a feather pillow (down/feather combination) because I can form the feather pillow to the Contours of my neck to head ratio. The back of the head, it seems, should be nearly flat, while the neck needs extra support – this can be accomplished by grabbing both ends of the pillow closest to your neck and pulling (jamming) a large Mass of the pillow towards the shoulders so that a large portion of the feather pillow will support the curvature of the neck. This is great when you are on your back, but an issue happens when you turn onto your side where your head needs Lift in order to raise the head enough so that you keep your spine in alignment. This is when a feather pillow is not the best since it allows your head to sink down and cause a down curve of your spine in your neck region. Another issue I have when sleeping on my side is the pressure on my ear becomes painful. After some thought trying to figure out how to solve this personal problem, I I figured that some kind of donut-shaped foam pillow that I could place on top of the feather pillow so that I could place my ear in the middle where it would be relieved of the pressure from my head might solve my problem. The solution was one of those horseshoe-shaped foam pillows that are often used for traveling. By by placing the u-shaped formed pillow on top of the feather pillow when I turn to my side I am able to protect my ear from head pressure and at the same time slightly raised my head helping to position a straight spine- it worked. I cannot be the only one who has issues with their ear hurting from the pressure of their head when side sleeping. This may all seeing very odd, but the reality of someone who sleeps both on his back and on his side creates issues for both positions and each one requires a different approach. I slept on my stomach most of my life till I was about 35 or 40 years old at which point I began having neck pains from my head being turned sideways throughout the night. So I learned how to enjoy sleeping on my back, which turns out to be the best overall sleep position since it allows for the most correct spine alignment – however, I think it is necessary to use a feather type pillow that you can adjust to give neck support while allowing the back of the head to lay close to flat, with only slight pressure relief from the down in the pillow. This may all sound very complicated and tiring, but these techniques have worked for me. Overtime, I have also realized the importance and general comfort of using pillows for my legs and armsin different ways depending on whether I’m sleeping on my back or side; when on my back I like to have a supportive synthetic (foam) type pillow under my upper leg to take the pressure of my legs off of my buttocks, which I noticed would hurt after a long night of sleep due to the fact that it protrudes the farthest when sleeping on your back, such that the weight of your legs transfers to this part of my body – but it works, LOL. When sleeping on my side I move the foam pillow to between my legs, for obvious Comfort reasons, and grab a full Bodied feather pillow to rest the dangling upper arm, again for obvious comfort reasons. I enjoyed your explanations and research on the mattresses available – I am pretty sure that one of these would be a good match for me, but not sure which one. I am a lightweight at 138 pounds, so support should not be too difficult. I bet the explanation of my sleep methods at this weight must seem a little extreme to you, but again as I mentioned above, I have given this quite a bit of thought when I realized I could not sleep on my stomach any longer and found the issues I mentioned above to be problematic, however I do believe I have been able to solve them the best I am able, and it has worked out pretty well, but I am interested in your thoughts, so please let me know what you think…. Thank you!

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