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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
This post was last updated on November 10th, 2017 at 4:38 pm
An active writer for Mattress Clarity, Katie is passionate about topics around health and wellness (and sleep!). Her interests include trying not to fall off her spin bike, cooking with her family and reading as much as possible.