Best Pillows for Side Sleepers

By Mitchell Tollsen
Last Updated On July 9th, 2021

Over 70-percent of people prefer sleeping on their sides over their backs or stomachs. Side sleeping is one of the healthiest sleep positions with a good mattress and pillow. Knowing…

Best Pillows for Side Sleepers

Over 70-percent of people prefer sleeping on their sides over their backs or stomachs. Side sleeping is one of the healthiest sleep positions with a good mattress and pillow.

Knowing your sleeping position makes finding a good pillow easy. Side sleepers generally all need thick, firm pillows to support the head and neck and align the spine.

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In this article, we go over the best pillows for side sleepers that we offer at Amerisleep! If you purchase an Amerisleep pillow, you receive free shipping and a 10-year warranty. Plus, they’re CertiPUR-US® certified and easy to care for.

Quick Guide: A 30-Second Summary

Best Overall Pillow for Side Sleepers Amerisleep Flex Pillow
Best Cooling Pillow for Side Sleepers Amerisleep Comfort Classic Pillow 
Best Dual-Sided Pillow for Side Sleepers Amerisleep Dual Comfort Pillow

Best Overall Pillow for Side Sleepers: Amerisleep Flex Pillow

One of the best pillows we offer for side sleepers is the Amerisleep Flex Pillow. Customize this lightweight pillow by molding it into any loft and firmness. We recommend shaping the adjustable pillow so it’s thick and firm for side sleeping.

The cover we use for the Flex Pillow—and all of our other pillows—is made from a plush and breathable fabric. It won’t trap heat or moisture, ensuring you don’t feel uncomfortable throughout the night.

Under the cover are hundreds of MicroFlex cushions, tiny pieces of eco-friendly foam. MicroFlex cushions allow you to shape your pillow to suit your personal preferences. Also, air escapes between the cushions, preventing you from getting hot.

The Flex Pillow is machine washable—just toss it in the washing machine on a delicate cycle. Since it’s so malleable, the pillow won’t grow lumps from being machine-washed.

Best Cooling Pillow for Side Sleepers: Amerisleep Comfort Classic Pillow

For a reliable cooling pillow, take a look at the Amerisleep Comfort Classic Pillow. The 6-inch pillow aligns your head and neck all night without getting hot. The pillow stays cool thanks to the air channels and breathable cover.

Inside the Comfort Classic Pillow is Bio-Pur®. Bio-Pur® is a unique plant-based memory foam featured in nearly all our mattresses. Compared to any traditional memory foam pillow, Bio-Pur® is lightweight, cooling, and responsive. Plus, it doesn’t go flat quickly or leave you feeling “stuck” in your pillow.

Customers say the Comfort Classic Pillow feels soft and comfortable. Even then, the pillow is still supportive and holds its shape. Unlike other pillows customers have used, our pillow doesn’t develop lumps or lose its shape.

Best Dual-Sided Pillow for Side Sleepers: Amerisleep Dual Comfort Pillow

The most unique pillow we offer here at Amerisleep is the Dual Comfort Pillow. With two firmnesses in one and tapered edges, our contour pillow suits most people.

Made from Bio-Pur® foam, the Dual Comfort Pillow has both a soft and a firm side. We recommend the soft half for back and combination sleepers and the firm half for side sleepers. Of course, you can always try both sides to see which works best for you.

While we stand by Bio-Pur®’s cooling capabilities, we take the Dual Comfort Pillow even further. We added air channels to the pillow to increase air circulation and dissipate heat.

We offer the Dual Comfort Pillows in two lofts: low-loft (5 inches) or mid-loft (6 inches). We recommend side sleepers go with the mid-loft option.

Pillow Fills for Side Sleepers

Pillow fills refer to what a pillow is made from and is one of the most crucial parts of finding a good pillow. The type of pillow you have affects features such as comfort, supportiveness, durability, and price.

Memory Foam

Memory foam is known for its immense pressure and pain-relieving capabilities. Memory foam conforms under your head and neck to soothe pain and align the spine. Memory foam pillows are particularly helpful for people with head or neck pain.

Memory foam pillows come in both shredded and solid variations. Shredded memory foam pillows contain hundreds of tiny, ripped-up pieces of foam. They’re known for being more malleable, soft, and breathable. Conversely, solid memory foam pillows feature a single slab of memory foam. These types of pillows are often firm, supportive, and maintain their shape well.

Since memory foam can get hot, we recommend looking for gel, copper, or plant-based memory foam. They dissipate heat well, keeping you cool.

Latex

Latex is a natural foam derived from the sap of rubber trees. Latex pillows are naturally springy, cooling, and durable. As one of the most supportive types of pillow fills, latex is excellent for side sleepers. Latex is still pressure-relieving, but not quite as “hug-like” as memory foam.

Latex comes in two forms: Talalay and Dunlop. Both are durable and reliable materials, but they perform slightly differently. Talalay is soft and cushiony, while Dunlop is firm and extra-supportive. Both work well for side sleeping, but heavier people may prefer Dunlop over Talalay.

Like memory foam pillows, latex pillows come in both solid and shredded foam versions. For more on the differences between the two materials, see our memory foam and latex guide.

Down

Down is a luxury pillow fill made of the underbelly feathers of ducks and geese. Down pillows are fluffy—almost cloud-like—and popular in hotel bedrooms. Despite their plush feel, down pillows are breathable and don’t trap heat.

Although down feels fluffy and lightweight, they aren’t very supportive. They go flat easily and need regular fluffing to stay lofty. As a side sleeper, it’s better to consider sturdier pillow fills such as foam or buckwheat.

Down Alternative

If down is out of your price range or you have feather allergies, down alternative may be your next best choice. Made from polyester fibers, down alternative resembles the fluffy and lightweight feel of down and feather pillows without the high cost. Plus, it’s hypoallergenic!

Down alternative pillows are popular for being affordable and offered through most major home goods retailers. Regardless, down alternative pillows aren’t the most reliable options out there.

Not only are they unsupportive, but down alternative pillows trap heat and moisture, causing lumps and overall wear. Although down alternative pillows are cheap, you’ll need to replace them often.

Buckwheat

While buckwheat pillows may sound a bit odd, they’re a good choice for side sleepers who get hot at night. This firm pillow fill contains buckwheat hulls, not the grain itself.

The great part about buckwheat is they’re supportive, breathable, and sustainable! However, they’re an uncommon pillow fill and can get pricey, starting at $50 and going upwards of $150 on average. Buckwheat isn’t the comfiest of pillows out there, either. The hulls can feel stiff under your head and, even worse, they crunch together and rustle when you move.

What to Look for in a Pillow for Side Sleepers

Your pillow’s fill isn’t the only detail to keep in mind when shopping around. As a side sleeper, it’s especially important to look at a pillow’s loft in firmness to ensure it’ll work well for you.

Loft

Pillow loft is the technical term for how thick your pillow is. Choosing the right pillow loft is one of the most crucial parts of finding the right pillow. Your head and neck are furthest from your mattress when side sleeping compared to other sleeping positions, so you need a thick pillow to keep your spine aligned.

We recommend side sleepers use high loft pillows that are 5 inches or thicker. Many adjustable pillows make it easy to fluff up the pillow for greater height.

Firmness

Pillow firmness plays just as important of a role as pillow loft to stay comfortable when side sleeping. Medium-firm, firm, and extra-firm pillows suit side sleepers because they’re sturdy. Soft pillows won’t offer the right levels of support to align the head and neck when side sleeping. Adjustable pillows are a good choice for people who want to experiment with firmness, too.

Size

While it’s not quite as important as loft or firmness, bed pillow size is still an important consideration. After all, you don’t want to roll off your pillow in the night because it’s too small. You may also want to compare the lower prices of a smaller size pillow vs. a larger pillow.

Benefits of Side Sleeping

Side sleeping is one of the best sleep positions with the right type of pillow and mattress. Side sleeping helps with breathing, back pain, and issues such as heartburn or acid reflux!

Soothes Back Pain

Many people assume back sleeping is optimal for back pain, but this isn’t necessarily true. Compared to back sleeping, side sleeping puts the least amount of stress on the back and spine.

We suggest curling up slightly versus staying straight to relieve lower back pain. Curling up creates space between your spinal discs, relieving pressure and pain.

Minimizes Snoring and Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Another reason you may want to sleep on your side is because of how much easier it is to breathe compared to other positions. Your sleeping position may cause snoring or worsening obstructive sleep apnea symptoms.

When you sleep on your back, your tongue relaxes in the back of your throat, making it difficult to breathe. When you sleep on your stomach, your face presses into your pillow, making it hard to breathe.

When side sleeping, your face isn’t compressed and your airways aren’t blocked. Side sleeping helps stop snoring and reduces harsh sleep apnea symptoms.

Aids Digestive System

Side sleeping can boost digestion due to the placement of your internal organs. It helps moves food through the digestive system to promote bowel movements. Proper digestion prevents indigestion, constipation, and other bowel issues.

Reduces Heartburn and Acid Reflux

Stomach sleepers and back sleepers are at a higher risk of experiencing heartburn and acid reflux Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source over side sleepers.

When sleeping on the back or stomach, stomach acid can travel up your body. This leads to acid reflux or heartburn. Acid reflux and heartburn symptoms are worse if you eat fatty, salty, or sugary meals at night. Dealing with either of these issues only makes it uncomfortable—if not painful—to sleep.

Side sleeping prevents heartburn and acid reflux because gravity keeps your stomach acid where it belongs.

Safe for Pregnancy

Sleeping on your side is the best position during the later stages of pregnancy. Side sleeping prevents the uterus from pressing into the lower back, which worsens typical pregnancy pains. Plus, many pregnant women deal with heartburn, acid reflux, back pain, and digestive issues, all of which side sleeping can mediate.

Some pregnant women may also want to pair their bed pillow with a body pillow.

FAQs

What’s the best pillow for a side sleeper with neck pain?

When dealing with neck pain, look for pressure-relieving pillows made from memory foam or latex. Both memory foam and latex conform under the neck to ease the pain while keeping your spine aligned.

We recommend trying out pillows such as the Amerisleep Dual Comfort Pillow or Flex Pillow to help relieve your neck pain.

How many pillows should a side sleeper use?

Contrary to popular belief, you should only ever use one pillow under your head at a time regardless of your sleeping position. If you feel the need to use multiple pillows under your head, it’s likely the pillows have gone flat or are the wrong loft for your needs. In this case, we suggest switching out your pillows.

One instance where a side sleeper would use multiple pillows is if you wanted to hug a pillow to your chest or place a pillow between your knees.

Should my shoulder be on the pillow when side sleeping?

No! Placing your shoulder onto your pillow lifts your entire body, leaving your head and neck unsupported. Your shoulders should rest directly under your pillow to ensure your head and neck are positioned properly. Otherwise, the only time you should place your shoulder onto your pillow is when using a wedge pillow.

What type of pillow is best for a side sleeper?

It’s best to sleep with a foam pillow when sleeping on your side as it provides plenty of support. Memory foam and latex are both sturdy pillow fills excellent for keeping your head and neck aligned, which is crucial to staying pain-free. While down or cotton pillows may feel fluffy and luxurious, they offer spinal support.

Where do I put my arms when sleeping on my side?

We recommend putting your arms out in front of you when sleeping on your side. Putting your arms beneath you or under your head will leave them numb, stiff, and achy. Keeping your arms out in front of you ensures that you won’t throw your spine out of alignment nor cut off blood flow to your arms.

If leaving your arms in front of you isn’t comfortable, we recommend hugging a pillow instead as this gives a place for your arms to rest.

Conclusion

Your pillow is vital to preventing neck pain and sleeping undisturbed. High-quality pillows for side sleepers fill the space between the mattress and your head, keeping your spine aligned. Even then, side sleepers should pair their pillows with a mattress for side sleepers to promote proper spinal alignment.

This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.


About the author

Mitchell Tollsen is a graduate student and a freelance writer who’s contributed to the Early Bird blog for three years. Mitchell’s always been fascinated by the science of sleep and the restorative processes our bodies undergo when at rest. The self-titled “Sleep Expert” is always looking for ways to improve his shut-eye, and throughout the years has implemented numerous lifestyle changes and tried dozens of sleep-promoting gadgets to determine the best ways to truly get better rest.

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