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.
That may be good news, because experts say sleeping on your side can have some health benefits, including helping to prevent heartburn and reducing the chances of snoring. It may also be better for 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. I’ve highlighted my top picks below; these pillows should cover a variety of sleep preferences. I’ll also make some recommendations for what to look for if you’re in the market for a pillow that’s suited for side sleeping.
Shredded Memory Foam
Coop Home Goods Original
The Coop Home Goods Original pillow is adjustable and you can add/remove as many large chunks of memory foam as needed. The cover is soft and machine washable and the pillow comes overstuffed for extra firmness.
Plush Down with Support
Brooklinen Down in Mid-Plush
The Brooklinen Down pillow in Mid-Plush is a down pillow has a feather core surrounded by down for a plush feel but enough support for a side sleeper.
Z by Malouf 100% Natural Talalay Latex
The Z by Malouf pillow is made up of 100% natural Talalay latex (ventilated for breathability). It's light and bouncy with quick responsiveness. It's a great foam option for those looking for a side sleeping pillow that's not memory foam.
TEMPUR-Cloud Breeze Dual Cooling
The TEMPUR-Cloud Breeze Dual Cooling pillow is a large solid piece of Tempur foam (memory foam) that's dense and medium to firm. It has a cooling gel pad on either side that makes it great for hot sleepers.
Beyond Down Gel Fiber
The Beyond Down Gel Fiber pillow from SleepBetter is a polyester microfiber pillow that comes with a wide gusset and plenty of filling to support side sleepers. It's fully machine washable and affordable as well.
Coop Home Goods – Original
There are many adjustable, shredded memory foam pillows on the market. What makes the 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 to access the filling so you can add or 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 occasion.
- Filling: shredded memory foam mix for comfort and shape-ability, will not go flat
- Cover is 60 percent polyester, 40 percent bamboo-derived rayon – designed to keep you 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.
Brooklinen Down In Mid-Plush
Brooklinen’s Down pillow in Mid-Plush (the pillow also comes in Plush and Firm) is a different kind of down pillow. While it retains its soft and cozy down feel, it doesn’t fall flat as much as a typical down pillow. That’s because it has a feather core that keeps it firm and down surrounding it for added plushness.
It’s truly the best fit for some side sleepers and those who sleep in multiple positions. It’s also hypoallergenic and antimicrobial (according to the brand) and has a 60-night trial period.
- Firm feather core chamber with soft down surround
- 400 thread count, 100 percent 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
Z 100% Talalay Latex by Malouf
The Z 100% Talalay Latex pillow is a versatile pillow for side sleepers who like the feel of latex foam. It’s available in a variety of sizes, lofts, and densities, including high loft and low loft. The pillow is naturally mildew-proof, dust mite-resistant, and hypoallergenic.
The cover is super soft against the side of your face. It’s also removable and washable. I chose the high loft and plush feel and feel like it’s a good fit for side sleepers who need some extra height.
- Pin-core design configured to cradle your head while providing your neck and shoulders with needed support
- Firm density is optimal for back and side sleepers
- 100 percent pure natural Talalay Latex; no synthetic additives
- Unique foam consistency and zoned technology provides zoned support and superior pressure relief
- Naturally mildew-proof, dust mite-resistant, and hypoallergenic
- Soft, removable, velour cover made from rayon from bamboo blend (75 percent polyester, 25 percent rayon from bamboo)
- Comes in Standard, Queen, and King sizes
- Options: high and low profiles and firm and plush densities
TEMPUR-Cloud Breeze Dual Cooling
The TEMPUR-Cloud Breeze Dual Cooling pillow is a big name for a big pillow. It’s made from a solid piece of memory foam that won’t go flat and is well suited for people with broader shoulders or heavier frames.
The cotton cover is removable, machine washable, and dryer-friendly. There are gel pads on either side of the pillow that are cool to the touch and remain cool throughout the night.
- Filling: 96 percent molded, visco-elastic polyurethane foam pad (molded memory foam), 4 percent gel pad
- TEMPUR-Breeze Gel Layer on both sides of the pillow
- Weight: 7 lb (for Queen)
- Cover: 100 percent cotton
- Netting: 100 percent polyester
- Removable and washable cover
- Designed for back, stomach, and side sleepers
- 5-year limited warranty (no returns)
- Queen: 27″ x 19″ x 6.4″
- King: 35″ x 19″ x 6.4″
See our full TEMPUR-Cloud Breeze Dual Cooling pillow review.
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. This means your head sinks into the pillow but there’s still enough support to get proper alignment and 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).
- Filling: gel fiber that mimics goose down (100 percent polyester fiber)
- Cover: 300 thread count, 100 percent cotton
- 4.5″ gusset with double needle corded edges
- Designed for side sleepers but can be comfortable for all sleep positions
- Made in the USA and imported
- Comes in Standard, Queen, and King
- Care: machine wash and dryer friendly
What Side Sleepers Should Look For In A Pillow
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 these body parts in neutral alignment with your spine.
“Side sleepers need a thicker pillow than back and stomach sleepers to fill the 4- to 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 pillows that offer return policies or trial periods so you can test them 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 which sleep positions you find yourself in at night, which materials and fillings you like in your pillow, and what your current pillow is doing for your quality of sleep.
If you’re a side sleeper, focus on finding a pillow that supports your head and neck so there’s a straight line from your nose to your sternum — an indication of 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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