Best Pillow For Side Sleepers

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

That may be good news, because experts say sleeping on one’s side can have some health benefits, including preventing heartburn and reducing the chances of snoring. It may also be better for our necks compared to other positions, according to a report from Prevention.

Perhaps it’s because so many people favor this sleep position over others, but it should come as no surprise that there are plenty of pillows dedicated to side sleepers. I’ve selected the top five best pillows for side sleepers; these pillows should cover a wide variety of sleep preferences. I’ll also make some recommendations for what to look for in particular when purchasing a new pillow made just for side sleepers!

Shredded Memory Foam
Coop Home Goods Original
Coop Home Goods Original
Coop Home Goods Original

The Coop Home Goods Original pillow is adjustable, which means sleepers can add or remove as many large chunks of memory foam as they prefer.

Doesn't expire

Luxurious Down
Brooklinen Down in Mid-Plush
Brooklinen Down in Mid-Plush
Brooklinen Down in Mid-Plush

The Brooklinen Down pillow in Mid-Plush has a luxurious but supportive feather core and a crisp cotton cover reminiscent of a hotel pillow.

Doesn't expire

Innovative Curved Design
Eli & Elm Organic Cotton Side-sleeper
Eli & Elm Organic Cotton Side-sleeper
Eli & Elm Organic Cotton Side-sleeper

The Eli & Elm Organic Cotton Side-sleeper pillow is designed with a shoulder-friendly curvature and offers great support with its latex foam and polyester fiber combination.

Doesn't expire

Eco-Friendly
Avocado
Avocado
Avocado

The Avocado pillow is a non-toxic and natural pillow filled with a combination of Kapok fibers and natural shredded latex.

Doesn't expire

Simple to Adjust
Purple Plush
Purple Plush
Purple Plush

The Purple Plush pillow is super affordable and adjustable - it features a smooth cover and core filled with Smart Fluff that gives it a down alternative-like feel. 

Doesn't expire

Pillow Details

We’ve laid out everything there is to know about each pillow, including who we think it’s a good fit for. Check it out below!

Shredded Foam Filling

Coop Home Goods Original

There are many adjustable, shredded memory foam pillows on the market, but what makes the Coop Home Goods pillow stand out for side sleepers in particular are the larger chunks of memory foam within the pillow that bolster it to greater levels of support.

These larger foam pieces help give the pillow a significant loft and nearly overstuffed feel. A zipper on the side allows access to the filling so it can be personalized, allowing each person to find their ideal neutral head, neck, and spinal alignment.

To keep the pillow lofted and firm, it needs to make a trip to the dryer and fluffed on occasion – expect to pay around $60 for a Queen size.

Pillow Details:

  • Filling: shredded memory foam mix for comfort and shape-ability, will not go flat
  • The cover is 60% polyester, 40%  bamboo-derived rayon – designed to keep sleepers cool through the night
  • Standard size: 20″ x 26″ | Queen size: 20″ x 30″ | King size: 20″ x 36″
  • Made in the USA
  • 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.

Luxurious Down Fill

Brooklinen Down in Mid-Plush

Brooklinen’s Down pillow in Mid-Plush – the pillow also comes in Plush and Firm options – is unlike a typical down pillow when it comes to supporting the head and neck. While it retains its soft and cozy feel, it doesn’t fall flat as much as a typical down pillow might. That’s because it has a dual-core structure with an extra supportive inner layer of feathers and a super comfy outer layer of down clusters.

It’s also hypoallergenic and antimicrobial (according to the brand) and has a 60-night trial period. I’d recommend the firm option for heavier side sleepers who need even more support as their heads weigh the pillow down.

The pillow truly screams luxury with its 400 thread count cover – it’s also about $70,  which makes it an affordable option for a down pillow; returns and exchanges can be made within the first year of owning the pillow.

Pillow Details:

  • Firm feather core chamber with soft down surround
  • 400 thread count, 100% cotton shell
  • OEKO-TEX® certified to be free of harmful chemicals
  • Hypoallergenic with antimicrobial treatment
  • 60-night trial
  • Comes in Standard (20″ × 26″) and King sizes (20″ × 36″)
  • Made in Canada
  • Care (from Brooklinen): “We recommend washing our pillows as seldom as possible so as to not disturb the texture and fluffiness of the down fibers. If a product is stained, we recommend spot washing it with Woolite or Oxyclean around the stained area. Should a pillow need to be washed, we recommend washing on a low and gentle cycle and tumble dry on low.”
  • Price: $69 for Standard, $89 for King
  • Canada Goose Down Certified
  • Comes in: Plush, Mid-Plush (my review), and Firm

Read the full Brooklinen Mid-Plush Down review.

Innovative Curved Design

Eli & Elm Organic Cotton Side-sleeper

The unique design and supportive fill of this pillow are two features that helped earn its name as my pick for the best pillow for side sleepers. This curvature allows for proper head and neck alignment while side sleeping without having one’s shoulder pressing on the pillow, smushing it down or feeling extra pressure.

The cover is a super-soft, 100% organic cotton cover that is hypoallergenic, antimicrobial, mildew-proof, and dust-mite-resistant. The filling is made up of engineered latex (75%) and polyester fibers (25%). It’s adjustable so sleeper’s can customize the firmness. It comes in at $99 at full price, in just one size

Pillow Details:

  • The pillow comes in one size
  • Specially designed to support side sleepers while conforming to the precise contours of the head and neck with curved construction
  • The cover is 37% organic cotton, 2% spandex, and 61% polyester. It’s also a temperature-managing material that is designed to dissipate heat
  • The filling is made up of engineered latex (75%) and polyester fibers (25%). It’s adjustable so one can customize the firmness
  • Noodle latex foam is mixed with extremely soft, cooling gels to regulate body temperature throughout the night
  • Hypoallergenic, antimicrobial, mildew-proof, and dust-mite-resistant
  • $99 at full price
  • 45-day return policy

Read the full Eli & Elm Review

Eco-Friendly

Avocado

The Avocado pillow is an eco-friendly, sustainable and organic option for those trying to rid themselves of neck pain with a supportive pillow. It has a certified cotton outer cover and is filled with a mix of natural latex shreds and Kapok fibers. The Kapok fibers give a nice downy and pusher feel but don’t underestimate the support and bounce one gets from those shredded latex foam pieces – it’s a pretty firm pillow overall.

Sleepers can access the inner filling and adjust it to their desire but be warned the Kapok fibers can make a decent mess, so try to adjust outside or in a well-ventilated area. The pillow can be spot cleaned or machine washed and dried as well. Expect to pay about $80 for a Standard (with a 1-year warranty).

Pillow Details:

  • The outer cover is a soft, certified organic/polyester blend.
  • There is a zipper on the side because the pillow is adjustable.
  • It’s filled with a mix of 100% natural Dunlop latex shreds and 100% natural Kapok fiber (seed pod fluff from a rainforest tree).
  • As it comes, the pillow offers a medium-plush feel (maybe even medium-firm to some).
  • The pillow is vegan, allergen-free, and handmade in Los Angeles.
  • It comes in Standard, Queen, and King sizes. (Standard is $79 at full price, Queen is $89, and King is $99.)
  • Optional pillow refill bags are sold separately.
  • The pillow comes with a 100-night trial and 1-year warranty.

Learn more in our full Avocado pillow review.

Simple to Adjust

Purple Plush

I love how effective the Purple Plush is at supporting the head and neck, but I think I love it even more because of the simplicity in the adjustable design – just zip or unzip to add or remove firmness in the pillow. Side sleepers will want to consider zipping up both sides for maximum loft and support.

The filling is what Purple calls “Smart Fluff,” or interlocking, denier poly-fiber puff balls – it definitely has that down alternative feel but the design doesn’t allow it to fall flat or lose a lot of air when compressed. The smooth outer cover is a mix of synthetic lyocell and nylon fabrics.

The pillow is $49 for a Standard size, which is a great deal for an adjustable pillow that’s super easy to care for (completely machine washable), easy to adjust without any mess, and comes with a 100-night trial.

Pillow Details:

  • Currently comes in one size: 26″ x 18″ and weighs 3.6 lb
  • The cover is 60% Lyocell and 40% Nylon with a moisture-wicking treatment
  • The filling is what Purple calls “Smart Fluff,” or interlocking denier poly fiber puff balls
  • Feels like polyester fibers that won’t fall flat or lose a lot of air when one presses down
  • Adjustable in that sleepers unzip to make it softer and zip it to make it firmer. Features two zippers so one can combine or do half and half for even more precision with no mess
  • 100-night trial and 1- year warranty
  • Care: Machine wash in cold water, gentle cycle. Tumble dry low heat with a clean dryer or tennis ball

Read the complete Purple Plush pillow review

Marten’s Take

One of the suggestions we make, in an effort to guide people towards the right pillow, is to have them determine their body type and narrow it down from there. I am 5’7” and about a medium-weight, so I asked Marten, who is 6’7” and weighs 250 lbs, to offer his opinion and share his personal experience with these pillows and help determine which would be best for heavier sleepers.

best pillows for side sleepers - marten's take

Purple Plush: As Katie mentioned, the firmness and support level in this pillow is determined by the zippers on the side. I chose to zip up both sides and make it as firm as possible, and it was definitely firm enough for me as a side sleeper.

Brooklinen Down in Mid-Plush: This is a super firm pillow and, as a larger sleeper, I know that I need something with this level of firmness when I’m sleeping on my side – the firm feel of this pillow definitely delivers.

Eli & Elm Cotton Organic Side-sleeper: The “divet” or curved part of the pillow where the shoulder is going to go is one of my favorite parts about this pillow. It’s also a very supportive pillow so, when I go to sleep on my side, I’m getting good support and an overall comfortable feel.

What Side Sleepers Should Look For  – Tips & Tricks

Picking a pillow that will enhance the quality of a person’s 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 the body is properly supported in this way, individuals will avoid waking up with stiffness and joint and neck pain.One of the principal factors to look for when picking a pillow for side sleeping is something that supports the head and neck but keeps these body parts in neutral alignment with the spine.

Side sleepers need a thicker pillow than back and stomach sleepers to fill the 4″ to 6″ 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 the spine should form a straight line from the nose to the sternum.If it’s hard to tell if one’s neck is neutrally aligned when using the pillow, have someone take a photo of the front of the face so the forehead, nose, and chin are in view. From there it should be clear whether the 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 pillows that offer return policies or trial periods so sleepers can test them out for a few nights before deciding which is a good fit.

Overall

With some research and self-assessment, selecting the perfect pillow is an achievable task. Customers should think about which sleep positions they find themselves primarily waking up in, which materials and fillings feel particularly good in a pillow, and what their current pillow is doing for the quality of their sleep.

Side sleepers should focus on finding a pillow that supports the head and neck so there’s a straight line from the nose to the sternum — an indication of the neutral neck and spinal alignment. Test out different pillows with good return policies until the right match is found – good sleep is possible!

FAQs

How high should a pillow be for side sleepers?

Sleep health experts tend to agree that side sleepers need a taller and more supportive pillow than back and stomach sleepers to fill the 4″ to 6″ area of space in between their shoulder and the mattress.

What type of pillow is best for a side sleeper?

Truly any type of preferred material and filling is best for a side sleeper under the condition that it can provide enough loft (height) and support to fill that space between the head and neck and initiate proper neck and spinal alignment. Firmer or overstuffed pillows of any nature tend to be the best options.

How do you pick a side sleeper pillow?

I always suggest starting with what a sleeper prefers in terms of covers or fillings (like foam vs. down and/or cotton vs. polyester or a performance fabric). Then, look for a high profile, tall or overstuffed option within that collection of materials. The cherry on top is a pillow that offers a great risk-free trial period, too.

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Gravatar for Katie Golde

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 is a Certified Sleep Science Coach and 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.